Recently, Romania became the first EU-12 country to publish data on their development cooperation activities.
As coordinators of the Romania development cooperation programme, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania (MFA) are committed to improving the transparency of their activities and better communicating their work to national and international stakeholders.
We spoke to staff from the MFA about Romania’s motivation behind publishing to the Standard, their experience of publishing, and whether they had any advice for other governments and organisations considering doing the same.
What motivated Romania to start publishing their data to the IATI Standard?
As an endorser of the Busan Outcome Statement, Romania was one of the stakeholders that agreed to make information on their development cooperation more accessible and available by the end of 2015. Further, in 2014, the Aid Transparency Index ranked Romania 39th out of 50 bilateral organisations (with a score of 10.6%), despite measures taken to improve communication of results. The unsatisfactory ranking called for decisive action and motivated us to start publishing data to the IATI Standard, and improve our performance.
What tools and processes did you use to publish to the IATI Standard?
We published data to the IATI Standard through the EU-DEVFIN database, a tool that promotes transparency in official development assistance (ODA) reporting among EU member states, and contributes to the fulfilment of Busan commitments. The MFA EU-DEVFIN data is based on Romania’s yearly ODA reporting. This tool has not only helped us to enhance the quality of our data – a precondition for transparency – but also provided us with a fairly simple method of producing the IATI data, since EU-DEVFIN can convert data into the IATI Standard format.
What were some of the challenges that you found in publishing data to the IATI Standard, and how did you overcome them?
The main challenge we encountered was coordinating all the national public institutions to use the EU-DEVFIN reporting system. To manage this efficiently, we organised training and other activities to raise awareness of the importance of the reporting process, and implemented a communication system with each public institution’s contact point. From a technical point of view, the EU-DEVFIN produces some errors when exporting IATI files. Here, the support of the IATI technical team was crucial in taking all the necessary steps for overcoming these errors and publishing our data. We are now in the process of improving EU-DEVFIN and repairing the IATI file export function, to make it smoother for future publication.
What are the potential benefits that publishing open data will bring to your work?
Publishing information on aid flows in a common, comparable format adds great value to our activities. First, by helping us to better communicate our results to the general public, since the IATI Standard enables us to publish comparable data that is easier to analyse and is more reliable. Secondly, Romania wishes to be an effective and key player in the international development arena, and publishing open data increases the visibility of our results, at national and international levels. Finally, publishing open data increases citizens’ support and trust in our work: citizens’ support allows us to further improve and consolidate Romania’s development cooperation programme, making our work more effective.
Do you have any advice for other governments or organisations considering using IATI?
Our main advice to other governments and organisations is to set IATI publication as a core objective, and plan to deliver it using existing tools, systems and technical processes. EU-DEVFIN can be useful for governments who are considering creating their own databases, as the software is open source and it is able to produce IATI formatted data.
If your organisation is interested in exploring how to publish data to the IATI Standard, using the EU-DEVFIN database or other technical tools, get in touch with the IATI Technical Team firstname.lastname@example.org.