Sneha Raghavan assisted in drafting this blog post.
On April 25, the Philippine government launched Version 2.0 of its Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH). FAiTH records all foreign aid and assistance, in pledges, cash, and non-cash donations, given to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The portal offers detailed information, by donor. Information can be accessed online or downloaded for further analysis. As of today, FAiTH indicates that the government has received $762 million in foreign assistance, of which $248 million is cash and $514 is in-kind assistance. The total amount of cash received by the government, including from domestic sources, is $336 million.
FAiTH is consistent with the type of transparency I have been advocating for ever since I began looking at earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) killed 6,300 and injured 28,689 according to the latest estimates by the Philippine government. In the immediate aftermath of Haiyan, Owen Barder and I argued on CGD’s blog and in the Washington Post that donors must avoid the lack of transparency that has characterized earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. We said that “the next step—one that should begin with the crisis in the Philippines—is for all humanitarian organizations and aid agencies to publish details of their planned and actual spending and activities, in real time.” Our post received a high volume of reader traffic—over 58,000 unique pageviews—of which 38 percent was from the Philippines. It was clear that the Philippine people were demanding accountability from their government, as evidenced by the 153 comments on our blog post and on social media where the post received 7.3k “likes” on Facebook and 303 tweets on Twitter.
Version 2.0 of FAiTH presents unique features compared to the initial version launched in November 2013. Foreign governments providing assistance to the victims of Haiyan can easily access and update information in real time. For instance, a government can report a pledge, then update this information when cash or non-cash assistance is actually delivered , and specify whether it has given this aid directly to the Philippine government or to other organizations. Other features such as a discussion board allow for civic engagement.
FAiTH makes donors accountable for every dollar they put into post-Haiyan recovery process. It sets an excellent standard for aid transparency by holding both donors and the Philippine government accountable. It is time for large donors and non-governmental organizations to do the same in all poor countries. In particular, USAID must release all data on subcontractors so that aid flows can be properly tracked. Private contractors and large non-governmental organizations must do the same. Transparency is not an end in itself—it is a critical step towards increasing the effectiveness of foreign assistance and the use of taxpayer dollars in rich countries.