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DAD – South-South learning on aid information and development effectiveness

Organization(s)

Synergy International Systems, Inc., United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia.

Country (ies)

Afghanistan, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, India, Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, Namibia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Yemen.

Overview

The 2009 Development Assistance Database (DAD) Community of Practice (CoP) Workshop, which took place from October 5-9 at Synergy's Global Learning Center in Yerevan, Armenia, brought together 45 government officials from 13 southern countries. The central goal of the DAD CoP Workshop was to facilitate the systematic sharing of South-South knowledge on and experiences in managing country-level aid information management systems (AIMS) so as to strengthen national capacities for aid management and coordination.

Background

The Development Assistance Database (DAD) is a Web-based database system for tracking, analyzing, reporting, and planning development activities at the country level. By providing critical, real-time information on the state and progress of aid programs and projects, DAD supports national ownership over the development agenda, informed dialogue between the government and donors, and evidence-based decision-making on the allocation of aid and national budget planning. DAD has been implemented in thirty countries in close cooperation with governments and UNDP.

DAD country systems are not only tracking Official Development Assistance (ODA). Rather, in line with the proliferation of development actors, they are tracking aid flows from a much wider array of actors, including such emerging non-traditional donors as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey. National DADs track aid flows from non-government organizations, foundations, and the private sector.

In addition, national DADs commonly track a variety of aid modalities, including project-based aid, government co-funded arrangements, budget support, trust/pooled funds, and sector-wide approaches (SWAps). In some countries, DAD even tracks the government's public investment projects. Furthermore, there is a growing demand among some emerging donors for information management systems to track development cooperation provided by them. This is an emerging trend, but one that is likely to grow in the foreseeable future, as non-traditional donors become increasingly involved in development cooperation.

The rationale for the establishment of the DAD CoP was evident and compelling. Today, there are about 20 government-run DAD systems around the world. And many of these systems have been in operation for a considerable period of time. DAD Afghanistan, for example, was established in 2002 and is to this day a central government information system. Collectively, these countries have scores of government staff using DAD to support their daily work. Over the years, these officials and practitioners have garnered tremendous institutional and technical knowledge that could easily be shared with countries that are interested in establishing an AIMS and would like to benefit from good practices and lessons learned of these forerunning countries. As a result, the first DAD CoP Workshop was organized in October 2009 with the express purpose of enhancing the shared knowledge base of current and prospective DAD practitioners from around the world through the model of South-South Cooperation (SSC).

Implementation

The participating countries fell under two broad categories: a) countries with DAD systems; and b) countries interested in establishing AIMS. The majority of participants were government personnel from Southern countries, both high-level policy-makers and programmatic and technical managers of DAD. Officials from UNDP and IATI also participated and shared key findings from the IATI sub-regional consultations.

The conference consisted of two parts: a) a three-day workshop consisting of country presentations, Q&A sessions, and discussions; and b) a two-day training program (jointly led by Synergy and country participants) on various aspects of DAD.

The country presentations examined such topics as the benefits of integrating AIMS with Public Financial Management (PFM) systems, the institutional lessons learned from implementing DAD in a natural disaster context (the Asian Tsunami), the challenges to and opportunities for implementing an AIMS in a fragile post-conflict context; and the needs of countries that are considering the establishment of AIMS.

Specifically, each country presentation highlighted a key innovative aspect of their implementation, such as the integration between CDSS (DAD) India and India's financial management information system; the linking of DAD Afghanistan with the State Budget Planning System; the evolution of DAD Sri Lanka from tracking humanitarian aid to serving as the platform for integrating the government's various information systems; Iraq's experience with tracking external assistance and the public investment projects in DAD; Cape Verde's innovative approach to developing a "whole of government" M&E system; Central African Republic's ability to quickly and effectively establish AIMS despite low technical capacities.

The last two days of the conference were fully devoted to targeted trainings led jointly by Synergy's experts and country participants. The training program was devised in consultation with participants and designed to accommodate their needs. Training sessions addressed such topics as "Advanced DAD Reporting"; "Main Principles of Data Collection, Validation, and Verification"; and "DAD Interoperability with External Databases and MIS."

Outcomes

As a result of the DAD Community of Practice Workshop, conference participants returned to their home countries empowered through the week-long peer-to-peer exchange of common challenges, lessons learned, and good practices on aid information management. The training sessions also strengthened the practical, technical skill set of government personnel, thus improving the quality of their daily work with DAD.

Furthermore, the DAD CoP helped to facilitate institutional dialogue, which resulted in substantive discussions on government aid policy, Standard Operating Procedures between government and donors, creating greater incentives for data reporting, effective coordination with donors, and other key dialogue mechanisms. These were critical discussions, as challenges to better aid data and sustainable information management systems are often more political and less technical. Q&A sessions delved in greater detail into specific approaches to information management challenges. In some instances, concrete approaches or solutions discussed in the Workshop are now being implemented. For example, the Government of India is in the process of creating a comprehensive M&E/MfDR module in CDSS India on the basis of Cape Verde's experience.

More importantly, a global network of South-South cooperation was formed that continues to grow since the DAD CoP in October 2009. On their own, workshop participants have taken full ownership of the process, and have subsequently arranged for missions to countries in the region, engaged in active and ongoing communication over phone and e-mail, and instituted other collaborative measures to further strengthen working relationships. Consider the following feedback from participants on the DAD CoP
• Mr. Sunil de Saram, Director, Department of Foreign Aid and Budget Monitoring, Ministry of Plan Implementation, Sri Lanka: "The First Global Conference of the DAD Community of Practice was a great place to share Sri Lanka's experience and learn about the experiences of other countries. It provided a forum for the international exchange of best practices and knowledge sharing among practitioners, which strengthened the capacities of all participants. The experiences gathered at the DAD CoP conference will be used to strengthen our system with the goal of making it more comprehensive and effective."
• Mr. Michael Mutonga, Deputy Director, National Planning Commission, Namibia: "The event was of great use for all of the participant countries. This should become a regular event and create a dialogue between the donors and country governments."
• Mr. Abdul Wahed Ahadi, Program & Operations Manager of UNDP's Making Budget & Aid Work Project in Afghanistan, "The conference was organized on a high level. It exceeded all my expectations. Such events should take place very often to give countries a chance to exchange experiences and develop new working relations and networks."

Aid Effectiveness

DAD is a national system fully owned by the Government. Therefore, the main purpose of the DAD CoP Workshop was to facilitate South-South cooperation to strengthen national capacities in aid management and coordination, in accordance with the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA). Through this knowledge exchange in operating DAD in various development contexts, countries demonstrated how using DAD can result in a fundamental shift in the balance of power, thereby empowering Government with a tool to promote high-level policy dialogue, and to steer donors towards alignment with national development strategies. Undoubtedly, the overall theme of national ownership was a key principle that was stressed throughout the workshop and training sessions.

Another key aspect of the South-South dialogue was sharing innovative approaches to Managing for Development Results (MfDR) and results-based monitoring & evaluation. Again, the parties presented various applications of monitoring & evaluation, including M&E of sector-based key performance indicators; localized applications of the Paris Declaration; tracking progress on the country's PRSP or national development plan; and linking projects outputs to broader outcomes and impact.

The principle of managing for results was applied at the conclusion of the workshop through detailed surveys and evaluations of every session. The surveys were invariably positive about the practical benefits and applicable knowledge gained through participation in the DAD CoP. In addition, there were a number of lessons learned, which will serve to improve future DAD CoP workshops.

Capacity Development

The DAD CoP Workshop reflected DAD's cross-regional presence, with country systems in Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Central America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Moreover, the 13 participating countries represented a wide array of development contexts, from emerging countries to fragile post-conflict states to post-disaster environments.

The South-South exchanges amongst countries with similar development challenges during the workshop often resulted in an extra motivation and greater incentives to implement solutions back home. Moreover, throughout the week many countries learned from the experience of countries in even more difficult situations than their own. For example, many countries pointed to the case of Afghanistan and remarked that if a country in such a difficult situation can implement sophisticated and innovative solutions, why can't we? These types of interactions created a highly constructive dynamic that perhaps would have been difficult to generate through a North-South exchange.

An important issue raised by some DAD CoP participants was that tracking South-South cooperation is often challenging. Yemen, for example, receives substantial aid from the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). But GCC countries are non-resident donors, which complicates the process of ensuring their buy-in and coordinating the data reporting process. Compounding this is the fact that some non-traditional donors give development aid through highly decentralized modalities, which also makes it difficult to track their aid flows.

This challenge is part of the broader political issue of country ownership over aid flows from non-traditional donors. While DAD, in its capacity as a technological solution, can (and, in most cases, does) support country ownership, the decisive factors are political and thus beyond the realm of technology. In other words, the particular political context of South-South partnership is likely to determine the extent to which DAD can be harnessed to improve country ownership.

Participants intelligently consulted and advised one another in areas such as aid management, public investment, national budget planning, results-based monitoring & evaluation, and integrating AIMS with other information systems.

Consider the following concrete examples of South-South transfer of knowledge and experience during the DAD CoP Workshop
• India: The Ministry of Finance of India presented its Coordination Decision Support System (CDSS) and is linked with the country's IFMIS system. Specifically, there is an automatic exchange of data between the two systems, which reduces transaction costs, minimizes duplication of data-entry, and reduces erroneous reporting. A number of countries were very interested in this approach and held separate discussions with Indian officials to learn from their experiences in this critical integration.

• Pakistan: The Ministry of Finance of the Government of Pakistan presented the full automation between its national aid information management system (DAD Pakistan) and the World Bank's Client Connection System. Linking AIMS with donor systems was of keen interest to all participants, and served to support IATI tenets.

• Central African Republic: UNDP Central African Republic presented how an AIMS in a post-conflict, fragile country can be established and serve to support the coordination of humanitarian aid, promote greater engagement by the donor community, and support PRSP planning and reporting. Other post-conflict countries learned from the experiences of the Government of CAR in these key areas.

• Sri Lanka: The Ministry of Plan Implementation of Sri Lanka presented the evolution of their DAD—namely, from being a system used for tracking solely tsunami assistance to becoming the integrating platform of various government information systems. The Sri Lankan experience showed the importance of establishing flexible and easily expandable AIMS which can overtime be adapted to meet evolving government needs.

Duration

October 5-9, 2009

Name of Primary Contact Person

Richard Bradley

Title of Primary Contact Person

Aid Effectiveness Advisor

City

Washington DC