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Monitoring Post-War International Aid to Georgia

Personal Reflections on the Experiences of Transparency International Georgia by Till Bruckner, Bristol (UK), 2011

This study discusses the experiences made by the author while working for Transparency International Georgia to monitor the inflow and usage of international aid funds to the Republic of Georgia between September 2008 and June 2009. The views expressed in this study are the authors personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of TI Georgia. After giving some basic background information on Georgia and the aid monitoring organization, the study provides a bottom-up view of access to information to aid through three case studies. Two additional case studies highlight that while access to information on aid is a necessary precondition for making aid accountable to recipient nation stakeholders, the availability of information alone does not necessarily guarantee enhanced accountability. The study concludes that without a multitude of motivated, capable and sufficiently funded intermediary institutions on the ground, it is extremely difficult to meaningfully translate the information on aid supplied by international donors into formats that meet local demand for information on aid.

I. BACKGROUND (page 2) II. AID INFORMATION: THREE CASE STUDIES (page 3) 1. Case Study One: The macro level 4.5 billion aid dollars for Georgia 2. Case Study Two: The meso level new settlements for IDPs 3. Case Study Three: The micro level aid agencies in conflict-affected villages III. FROM INFORMATION TO ACCOUNTABILITY (page 9) 1. Supply versus demand for information the JNA 2. Information, responsibility and accountability food aid IV. CONCLUSIONS (page 11)

The Republic of Georgia and Russia went to war in early August 2008. While the actual fighting only lasted several days and left less than a thousand people dead, the war left around 20,000 people displaced long-term and brought Georgias banking system and economy to the brink of collapse. Within days, international emergency relief began pouring into Georgia. In October 2008, at an international donor conference in Brussels, donors pledged to grant or lend USD 4.5 billion to Georgia over a period of three years. Donors have since been honouring their initial pledges with subsequent disbursals. Georgia is unusual amongst aid recipient nations for several reasons. First, the country is small and has a comparatively good transport and communications infrastructure. The area most strongly affected by the war is geographically compact and can be reached from the capital by car within less than two hours. Second, the Georgian government is both functional and democratically legitimized. Some key positions are occupied by individuals who are highly capable and dedicated to the development of their country. Furthermore, the government at the time enjoyed very strong Western support, especially from the US. Third, Georgian citizens differ from most aid beneficiaries in that they are universally literate. Even the rural poor and displaced people usually have access to television and mobile phones. Transparency International (TI) Georgia, a local NGO affiliated with but organizationally and financially independent from the global Transparency International secretariat in Berlin, launched its efforts to monitor international aid to Georgia in September 2008. TI Georgias aims were to empower a wide range of Georgian stakeholders to engage and advocate with donors and the government on aid issues by providing them with actionable information and analysis on aid flows, to promote good governance of aid resources by reviewing accountability procedures and analyzing corruption risks, to bring the concerns of aid beneficiaries to the attention of domestic and foreign decision-makers, and to directly advocate for more accountable, effective and pro-poor aid. While TI Georgias aid monitoring efforts are ongoing, this report only covers the period from September 2008 to June 2009, during which time the author was responsible for managing the organization's aid monitoring activities. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of TI Georgia.


II-1. Case Study One: The macro level 4.5 billion aid dollars for Georgia In September 2008, a joint assessment team of the World Bank, European Commission and United Nations visited Georgia. Within two weeks, they drew up the Joint Needs Assessment (JNA), a voluminous document that examined the impact of the August 2008 war and provided a plan for recovery. In the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, donors had pledged to increase the accountability of aid to the citizens and parliaments of both donor and recipient countries, and to involve a broad range of development partners when formulating development strategies. While donors did consult with the Georgian government, they did not consult with parliament, opposition parties, or local NGOs, all of whom seemed oblivious that the assessment was even under way. TI Georgia requested a copy of the JNA from the World Bank in order to learn how donors and the government planned to address the crisis. TI Georgias plan was to publicize an easy-to-understand Georgian language summary of this three billion dollar recovery plan in the run-up to a donor conference planned for October. The summary would enable key domestic stakeholders including parliamentarians, political parties, other NGOs and the media to take part in the ongoing discussions about aid allocations. TI Georgia hoped that the inclusion of a wider range of stakeholders in debates surrounding aid would bring international aid within the realm of domestic democratic processes and allow a wider range of actors including displaced people and the poor to bring their preferences and concerns to the negotiating table. The World Bank refused TI Georgias request, stating that the Georgian government had asked it to keep the JNA confidential. (Only months before, the World Bank together with other donors had signed the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action, which explicitly stated that transparency and accountability are essential elements for development results.) TI Georgia shortly afterwards obtained a leaked copy of the JNA. It was highly embarrassing for the government. According to the JNA, the banking system was on the verge of collapse, Georgia was poised to plunge into recession, around 100,000 people were projected to lose their jobs in the near future, and the government faced a severe a budgetary crisis. In apparent recognition of the fact that the separatist territories South Ossetia and Abkhazia were lost forever something it vehemently denied in public the government had reversed its long-standing policy of actively opposing any permanent resettlement of Georgias internally displaced persons (IDPs). Now, suddenly, donors and the Georgian government were planning to permanently resettle around 20,000 people displaced in August 2008, plus over 200,000 people who had been displaced since the 1990s. The JNA also envisaged widening health care coverage through direct central budget support, highlighting the extent to which the government and donors had been planning major policy initiatives without prior consultation with parliament or other stakeholders. Following lobbying by TI Georgia and consultations with the government, the World Bank released a heavily edited version of the JNA that omitted not only the banking data the release of which could have directly undermined post-war recovery (see below) - but also some other information, notably the forecast of 100,000 lost jobs. The edited JNA was only released on the day before the donor conference, which would use the JNA as its key point of reference in deciding how much support Georgia would get, and for what. This timing made it impossible for Georgian stakeholders outside the government to provide feedback and commentary on the plan for Georgias future before donors made their pledges. On the morning of October 22, 2008, donors gathered in Brussels for a conference on aid to Georgia that was hosted by the World Bank and the European Commission. The conference

was held behind closed doors, with the media, TI Georgia and other independent observers barred from observing its proceedings. At the end of the day, the donors emerged and announced their intention to provide 4.5 billion dollars in loans and grants to Georgia over a period of three years over a billion more than was actually needed according to the JNA. However, it remained unclear which donor had pledged aid for what purposes. After weeks of encouragement by TI Georgia, the World Bank released two one-page breakdowns of the aid pledges made at the conference. The first page detailed the sums pledged by over 50 donors. The names of an unknown number of small Middle Eastern donors were missing from the list even though they had pledged some aid; the bank refused to disclose their names or the sums they had promised due to the fact that these donors had explicitly asked it to keep their identities secret. Such secret aid raised concerns about possible corruption, especially as a property developer (Rakeen) closely linked to the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates had in recent years been one of Georgias single most prominent source of FDI, acquiring large-scale assets including a TV station that had formerly belonged to a political opponent of the government. The second page released by the World Bank provided a breakdown of pledges by target sector. When TI Georgia asked the World Bank to release the full data set to enable it to identify which donor had pledged to support what sector, the bank at first argued that it could not release the data as it was incomplete. After persistent enquiries, the bank finally replied that while the World Bank was fully committed to transparency in its own operations, it was not responsible for making other donors more transparent, implying that some donors might not have appreciated such a move. TI Georgia regarded a detailed donor-by-sector breakdown as crucial for making donors accountable to Georgian stakeholders. For example, if a given donor had pledged to provide funds for IDP housing, but then did not follow through on its pledge as frequently happens in the aftermath of donor conferences this might endanger the whole process of resettlement. IDP representatives and other stakeholders needed information on what donors had originally promised if they were to hold donors accountable for providing funds and hold the government accountable for using them wisely. With the intention of creating a comprehensive map of international aid to Georgia that would show exactly what each donor had pledged for which sector as a basis for future monitoring, TI Georgia decided to gather the necessary data itself by approaching donors one by one. With only one staff member with no previous aid experience available to perform this task, the organization decided to limit its research to the largest 12 donors to the country, who between them accounted for 95% of the total sum pledged. TI Georgia began its information gathering by canvassing these donors websites. Frequently, they were out of date or provided information that did not match up with data that the Georgian Ministry of Finance had begun regularly posting online at TI Georgias request. TI Georgia then called up donor offices within Georgia to collect information on their pledges and ongoing activities. While donor responses varied widely, the most common reaction was confusion. Most country offices did not have a staff member responsible for handling such enquiries, were unsure about their own organizations disclosure policies, and could not identify a point person who could authorize information releases. As a result, employees frequently took a conservative stance, assumed that aid information was confidential unless proven otherwise, and avoided releasing data. In particular, donor staff seemed reluctant to release information on planned activities that may have been included in their countries overall pledges, but had not yet been officially approved. Through donor website research and dozens of phone calls, TI Georgia did manage to get information on the pledges made by some major donors at the conference. In a subsequent

ranking of the 12 donors according to their transparency, the United States fared best. Notably, while the US alone has several dozen entities involved in providing aid to Georgia, USAIDs webpage dedicated to Georgia gives a rough overview of all aid provided by major players and links visitors to the websites of the largest other American aid players, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. In contrast, there is no single starting point for those seeking information on the three distinct organizations that are involved in disbursing German aid. Japan, which had pledged 200 million dollars, came last in the ranking. The web page dedicated to Japanese aid to Georgia did not even mention the 200 million dollars pledged. TI Georgia had sent emails to the Japanese embassy in Azerbaijan and to Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan itself, but never managed to establish contact, let alone obtain any data. TI Georgias original plan had been to collate donor data and then transform it into easy-tounderstand policy documents that would have enabled Georgian stakeholders to track and advocate on aid processes, especially regarding the USD 796 million IDP resettlement plan. In the end, after over a month of full-time research by a dedicated staff member, TI Georgia did not even achieve its original aim of developing a comprehensive who-funds-what map of the 12 largest donors in the country, let alone transform that data into a simplified format that would have permitted sectoral and issue-based advocacy. TI Georgias failure was due to three factors. The first factor (discussed above) was the lack of information on donors websites, and the lack of clarity by donor staff about their own access to information policies and procedures. The second factor was TI Georgias own lack of expertise. Both members of the aid monitoring team lacked experience and understanding of high-level donor processes, did not know where relevant information might be located, and had only a one month project horizon to learn how the system worked, compile data, and produce a report. The third and by far the most significant factor was the incredible complexity of aid. Even if donors had provided full information on their websites, if donor staff had been forthcoming about providing data, and if TI Georgia had had the benefit of an experienced team, providing a comprehensive map of aid flows into the country and then turning this raw data into a format suitable for monitoring and advocacy purposes would have been impossible. The US alone may have over 40 different entities involved in providing aid to Georgia, including USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the State Department's Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees (PRM), the Department of Defence, and the Department of Agriculture. USAID has a strong local presence in Tbilisi, MCC operates through a separate legal entity established in Georgia (called MCG), OPIC manages its portfolio from its headquarters in Washington D.C., and PRM-funded projects are overseen by a designated person based at the US embassy in Moscow. Not every donor nation has such a panoply of aid conduits Germany has just three in Georgia but considering that 38 states and 15 international institutions had pledged aid at the donor conference, even limited institutional fragmentation within donors makes keeping track of their contributions literally impossible. In addition to being fragmented between and within donor states, international aid is in a constant state of flux. Donor budget cycles differ from one donor to the next, and individual programmes may be cut, modified, or experience disbursal difficulties at any given time. For example, the World Bank calculates its loans in a unique currency (SDR); tranches of these loans are gradually drawn down during the implementation of World Bank financed projects, exposing these loans to currency fluctuations that make amounts disbursed hard to track. Due to the multitude of donors, funding conduits and implementers involved and everchanging circumstances on the ground, this fluidity of international assistance is only natural and not necessarily always a bad thing, but it makes the comprehensive tracking of aid by local NGOs a pipe dream.

II-2. Case Study Two: The meso level new settlements for IDPs In autumn 2008, travellers on Georgias main highway could observe frenzied construction in several locations by the side of the road. By December, the government of Georgia had built nearly 4,000 individual cottages in 13 different locations in order to permanently house around 14,000 people displaced by the August 2008 war. The total cost for the new settlements amounted to USD 94.5 million. It appears that the decision to build new settlements was taken by a very narrow circle of donors and senior Georgian government figures behind closed doors. Neither UNHCR nor the nominally responsible Ministry for Refugees and Accommodation had been informed about this large-scale resettlement in advance; both only learnt of the initiative once construction was well under way. TI Georgia conducted a large number of visits to the new settlements and identified several problems with the quality of cottage design and construction. The organization tried to establish who was responsible for initial construction and for subsequent maintenance. In particular, TI Georgia tried to establish which donor had funded, which government agency had overseen, and which company had constructed each individual cottage. It was hoped that this information would enable TI Georgia and individual cottage owners to advocate directly with the party (or parties) responsible for each cottage to ensure that repairs were undertaken where necessary. While TI Georgia did manage to ascertain that the new settlements had been financed by World Bank loans and European Commission grants, a review of these donors websites did not reveal who had funded which settlement, let alone who had funded individual houses within the settlements. (Apparently, some settlements had been jointly funded by both donors.) A detailed freedom of information request submitted to the Ministry of Interior which had taken public credit for construction remained unanswered. This lack of information on aid had clear negative consequences. First, as important stakeholders including UNHCR, the ministry responsible for IDPs, aid agencies, and IDP representatives remained in the dark about joint donor-government intentions in the initial stage, they were excluded from the planning process and were thus unable to provide input that might have improved aid outcomes. (However, with winter approaching, there would in any case have been very little time for prior consultation.) Second, these stakeholders were unable to formulate post-resettlement assistance programmes until IDPs had nearly moved into their new homes. Third, as the party (or parties) responsible was not clearly identifiable, IDPs, their representatives and other local stakeholders were unable to effectively target advocacy efforts aimed at securing the necessary post-construction repairs. In particular, as the construction contracts themselves had not been publicized, it was completely unclear whether responsibility for subsequent repairs had been assigned to the Georgian government, the World Bank, the European Commission, and/or private construction companies. It appears that donor information on the new settlements remains insufficient. A TI Georgia study published in April 2010 long after the authors departure, and written without the authors input states that: This report is missing a section that details who financed which new cottage settlements because it is extremely difficult to follow the path of aid funds. The World Bank and the European Commission have not done enough to explain what they funded in a way that is traceable and comparable.

II-3. Case Study Three: The micro level aid agencies in conflict-affected villages Most of the fighting between Georgian and Russian troops had been restricted to a small area situated between South Ossetias main town of Tskhinvali in the north and the Georgian-controlled town of Gori in the south. After their battlefield victory, Russian troops occupied this area, including the town of Gori itself, causing over 100,000 people to flee to regions under central government control. Russia soon withdrew from Gori while making clear that its presence within South Ossetias administrative boundaries was permanent. The rural area in between, commonly referred to as the Buffer Zone, remained under temporary Russian occupation and was largely off limits to humanitarian actors. When Russian troops withdrew in early October 2008, the inhabitants of the Buffer Zone returned to discover that hundreds of houses had been severely damaged or destroyed by the war. Many farmers faced ruin as their livestock had been stolen and they been unable to harvest their crops. Lured by the prospect of abundant donor funding and Western media coverage, dozens of international aid agencies followed closely on the returnees heels, pouring into less than 50 villages spread over an area just tens of kilometres across. Some villages containing less than a hundred families were suddenly host to several different NGOs conducting multiple assessments and implementing activities ranging from food aid distribution over repairs to damaged houses to agricultural support services. Local residents lacked even the most basic information on the aid pouring into their area. They were unable to distinguish between the different aid agencies whose cars were frequently emblazoned with logos written in an alphabet alien to them and had no idea which NGO had assumed responsibility for undertaking what work. This not only precluded them from holding NGOs accountable for their actions (or for gaps in targeting and delivery), but also posed a considerable corruption risk as frontline aid workers had a gatekeeper monopoly on all information flows between beneficiaries and NGOs country offices in the capital. Some NGOs compounded the problem by failing to widely publicize their activities within the villages, something that could easily have been done by putting up posters with project information and contact telephone numbers. At least one aid agency put up posters that did not contain its contact information at all, in direct breach of the accountability commitments made by its headquarters. In line with its mandate, TI Georgia wanted to give beneficiaries information on NGOdelivered aid in their villages to enable them to monitor project implementation on the ground and hold aid providers accountable for their activities and performance. In practice, this would have entailed developing customized posters for each of the forty-odd villages. Each poster would have detailed which NGO had committed to do exactly what work in a given location, provided NGOs country office contact phone numbers, and summarized the key rights of aid recipients as set out in the NGO Code of Conduct and other international instruments. Due to logistical and human resource constraints, TI Georgia did not attempt to compile a who-does-what map of the Buffer Zone by visiting NGO websites (some of which contained no information whatsoever on operations in Georgia) or placing direct calls to dozens of international NGOs. For the same reason, obtaining this information from individual institutional donors was not feasible (see also above), especially as some NGO projects were being financed by non-traditional donors such as foundations. As direct information collection was impossible, TI Georgia turned to information disseminated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), whose mandate included the coordination of NGO activities. OCHA produced a first NGO activity map of the Buffer Zone in October 2008, based on information supplied by the NGOs themselves. The map was freely available for

downloading through ReliefWeb. For each village, the map showed which NGOs were working on what sectors. While providing a welcome overview, the map did not give the sort of detailed information that would allow beneficiaries to hold NGOs accountable. For example, simply knowing that a given NGO was working on agriculture in their village would not enable residents to monitor whether frontline NGO workers were allocating aid fairly to beneficiaries in line with their organizations beneficiary selection criteria, or whether all of the outputs financed by donors were actually reaching the village. Even the limited information provided by the map was often inaccurate. One insider described the map as a wish list, observing that many aid agencies had registered activities whose funding was still uncertain in order to stake out turf for themselves and keep competitors at bay. In 2009, shortly before it closed down its office in Georgia, OCHA published a second, updated version of its map of the Buffer Zone on ReliefWeb. While reportedly more reliable, this map also lacked the kind of detailed information that would have allowed beneficiaries to hold NGOs accountable. (Since OCHAs departure, no further who-what-where overview of NGO activities in the Buffer Zone has been compiled.) Faced with the impossibility of actively providing actionable data on aid activities at the village level to beneficiaries, TI Georgia considered setting up a central information and complaints hotline for aid beneficiaries, using a caseload approach to deal with each call individually. While this would have been an excellent way to increase the transparency and accountability of aid providers to beneficiaries in theory, it would have been nearly impossible to implement in practice. NGO projects start up and close down every week, and their selection criteria and designated outputs may change during implementation. If a Buffer Zone resident had called to complain about corruption or other malfeasance by an unidentified aid agency, TI Georgia would have had to place dozens of phone calls just to discover which agency might have been involved in the incident. Due to a lack of comprehensive and detailed information on donor-funded NGO activities, TI Georgia was unable to empower aid beneficiaries to hold frontline aid providers accountable for their activities. The complexity and fluidity of NGO programming is even higher than that of donor assistance. Also, while most donors seem willing to share some information, including financial data, most aid agencies regard their finances as confidential information. When TI Georgia asked twelve large NGOs to publish the proposals and budgets of the projects they were currently implementing in Georgia in order to allow Georgian stakeholders to see how NGOs were allocating donor resources, only one (Oxfam GB) complied; ten others claimed in a joint letter that a number of legal and contractual implications involved with donors, head office and other stakeholders prevented them from doing so.* *Postscript: The author, acting in a private capacity, subsequently filed a Freedom of Information request with USAID to obtain the proposals and budgets of US-financed NGO projects implemented in Georgia at the time. USAID responded that it regarded NGO project budgets as privileged or confidential information, and refused to release the budgets without contractors explicit permission which was not forthcoming. The correspondence between the author and USAID, as well as statements by some of the NGOs involved and various aid accountability bodies, are archived online in a series of blogs. The concluding blog can be found at: For the complete series of blogs, please visit:


III-1. Supply versus demand for information: the JNA The post-war 2008 Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) for Georgia examined the impact of the August 2008 war and provided a plan for recovery. The World Bank released an edited version of the JNA on the eve of the donor conference. The publicized document omitted key data (see above), was highly technical in nature, and was only available in English. Apart from TI Georgia, no domestic stakeholders seemed to have noticed the World Banks release of this document. In order to bring the JNAs plans for Georgias future into the realm of domestic democratic debates and processes, TI Georgia published and widely disseminated a simple summary of the assessment in both English and Georgian. The summary highlighted two items of the JNA in particular: IDP housing plans and highway construction. IDP resettlement was projected to cost USD 796 million, the equivalent of nearly two hundred dollars for each of Georgias 4.6 million citizens. It would directly affect around 250,000 displaced people, and very significantly affect over 100,000 people without durable housing. The JNA seemed to mark a radical shift in the governments approach towards IDP housing, and arguably towards IDPs themselves, who enjoyed the same voting rights as other Georgians. The JNA also called on donors to finance the construction of 1,763 kilometres of main roads and of secondary roads, at a total additional cost of USD 685 million. If built, these roads would fundamentally transform Georgias ailing transportation network. To the surprise of the author, placing donor plans into the public realm did not spark off significant debate within Georgia about how aid funds should be used. While some media outlets did pick up on the projection of a steep rise in unemployment, no stakeholder publicly commented on the radical IDP resettlement plans or discussed the opportunity costs involved in spending USD 796 million on roads in a country where many people were still suffering from hunger. To the authors best knowledge, not a single media outlet even published a map of what Georgias future road network would look like. Public and political disinterest in aid issues was not limited to the JNA. Ironically, interest in TI Georgias aid monitoring outputs consistently seemed to be greatest amongst a narrow circle of expatriate journalists, foreign researchers and analysts, and international donors, rather than amongst Georgians themselves. Supplying information on aid in the absence of domestic demand arguably did not contribute towards generating better, more effective or more accountable aid.

III-2. Information, responsibility and accountability food aid While lack of interest in the JNA illustrates the lack of domestic demand for some kinds of aid information, this section highlights the difficulties of interested Georgian stakeholders in locating and using information on aid that is readily available. In early 2009, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) together with four aid agencies it had partnered with CARE, World Vision, Save the Children and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) distributed wheat flour in Georgia that, while theoretically fit for human consumption, suffered from a gluten index problem. Food aid recipients in Georgia were unable to use this flour to bake bread, rendering the flour useless to them. Despite being aware of the problem, WFP and its partners continued distributing the flour for several weeks, offloading a total of 800 tons (or 1.6 million individual daily rations) on tens of thousands of people at a cost of over half a million dollars. The flour issue hit the media radar in Georgia when members of an opposition party conducted a self-styled monitoring visit to the Buffer Zone. At a press conference, a party official strongly criticized aid efforts, blaming the government for a variety of problems, including that of the useless flour. The statement was aired on at least two television news programmes, but did not spark any follow-up investigations by the media. A few days later, the Anti-Crisis Council, a body created by the president to oversee international aid, summoned the Minister for Refugees and Accommodation for a televised questioning. According to Council staff, they were aware that the ministry had not actually distributed the flour, about which they had been receiving numerous complaints from IDPs. The Council was trying to hold the minister accountable on the basis that his ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding with UNHCR in which the ministry accepted responsibility for coordinating aid efforts to IDPs. During the hearing, the minister denied culpability, saying that the flour had been distributed by the United Nations, not by his ministry. The Anti-Crisis Council then wrote a letter to UNHCR, asking it to clarify the flour issue. UNHCR never responded to this letter as it considered WFP to be responsible for food aid. It is hard to imagine a case in which an international aid provider would seem more likely to be called to account domestically than that of WFP in Georgia. All food aid to Georgia was being channelled through WFP, so responsibility for food aid was not ambiguous, fragmented or contested. Furthermore, WFP was easily identifiable as the responsible party, both online and on the ground as its logo was emblazoned on the sacks of flour. Tens of thousands of people in a small country were directly affected and had a vested interest in seeking redress. Nearly all of those affected were literate and had access to mobile phones, and many of them lived in the capital city. Democratic institutions including a political party, an official government body and the media had all detected and raised the issue. For once, local demand for information on aid was fully matched by aid industry supply of information. Nevertheless, the Anti-Crisis Council, the political opposition and the media all failed to identify WFP as the actor responsible for the flour distribution. In the end, WFP was never called to account for its flour distribution in Georgia. Due to the lack of capacity of local stakeholders, the public availability of pertinent information on aid failed to translate into better, more effective or more accountable aid.


IV-1. Policy-practice disconnects TI Georgia based its initial advocacy attempts with donors on the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and 2008 Accra Agenda for Action. Comparing donor actions in Georgia with the principles enshrined in these documents revealed that there is a serious disconnect between high-level donor policy and ground-level donor practice. With reference to these documents, TI Georgia successfully lobbied an initially reluctant European Commission to publish the political conditionalities that it had attached to its aid to Georgia. Apart from this notable success, Paris and Accra were not very useful in pressing for better information on aid. While donor staff in Georgia seemed aware of Paris and Accra, many were unclear about their practical implications for their own communications with stakeholders in aid recipient countries. This reflects not only organizational hurdles to translating high-level commitments into practice, but also the apparent scarcity of requests for information made by Georgian stakeholders. Worse, Paris and Accra place demands on donors that are often unrealistic. For example, the commitment to involve a broad range of development partners when formulating development strategies presupposes the existence of local counterparts (such as parliamentarians and NGOs) with a legitimate voice, an interest in macro level aid issues, and the capacity to engage in a very sophisticated high-level dialogue with donors. Even in Georgia, such counterparts barely existed. Also as in the case of the JNA and IDP settlement construction time pressures frequently preclude the possibility of such broad consultations. At times, the release of some aid-related information may not be in the interests of donors, counterpart governments or aid beneficiaries themselves. The JNA contained data showing that key Georgian banks were teetering on the brink of collapse. If the World Bank had followed the spirit of Paris and Accra and made this information public, it would have led to a run on banks, and bank failures which were eventually averted with donor support would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. IV-2. Unclear responsibilities for providing information on aid The responsibilities for providing information on aid are unclear. The best example is the World Banks refusal to reveal even the names of Middle Eastern donors who had pledged aid, or to provide the donor-by-sector breakdowns of other donors who had participated in the 2008 donor conference. The World Banks argument that its commitment to transparency did not extend to information on other donors was not implausible. The fact that the donor conference itself had been co-chaired by the European Commission further blurred responsibility for releasing data on pledges made. Similarly, the World Bank refused to publicize the JNA with reference to the explicit desire of the Georgian government to keep the document confidential. If the World Bank had ignored the wishes of Georgias democratically elected government, would that really have enhanced the accountability of aid to the Georgian people? IV-3. Mismatch of aid information supply and demand The immense complexity and fluidity of international aid is further aggravated by aid fragmentation both between and within donors. As a result, local stakeholders in aid recipient nations are unlikely to be able to process existing information into formats that are useful to them. In fact, the most simple, commonsensical questions about aid Which donor


financed my cottage?, Is donor funding sufficient to complete IDP resettlement? are often the hardest to answer. (After nearly a year of research, TI Georgia was unable to answer either question.) Unfortunately, these are the precisely the types of question that are most pressing for local stakeholders, in particular for direct beneficiaries of aid. The information on aid currently provided by donors seems to reflect the information needs of those who most frequently and effectively demand information: donors themselves, and think-tanks and advocacy groups based in Western countries. Inside aid recipient countries, demand by non-governmental stakeholders for the kind of information currently being supplied by donors is extremely limited. Meanwhile, the kind of information for which there is genuine local demand especially actionable information about aid at the micro level is not being supplied by donors, or else is being supplied in formats that local stakeholders lack the time and/or capacity to convert for practical use. IV-4. Capacity constraints inside recipient countries Georgia is a fully literate society, and overall capacity is much higher than in the vast majority of aid recipient countries. Even so, the Anti-Crisis Council consisted of just eight people, none of whom spoke English; tasked with overseeing international aid, the Council was equipped with just one computer and two telephones. Political parties are weak, and the media is not noted for the quality of its research. Viewed from this perspective, maybe it is unsurprising that multiple Georgian stakeholders failed to ascertain who was responsible for food aid due to their inability to locate a single nugget of information that would have been very easy to find. TI Georgia itself is a strong local NGO by Georgian standards, but not a single member of the aid team including the author had previous experience of dealing with macro level aid. The teams largest problem, however, was external: the scarcity of other Georgian stakeholders researching and analyzing aid. The local scarcity of competent peers in aid research meant that TI Georgia had to start from scratch with any given topic, devoting most time and resources to compiling basic facts and figures in order to lay the foundations for its further analysis, rather than being able to build on foundations laid by others. In a rich country, plans to invest huge amounts of money into a nationwide road building programme would generate a substantial body of data, analysis and commentary by the media, think-tanks, private businesses, pressure groups, government departments and political parties. In Georgia, the most comprehensive piece of information on donor road construction plans that TI Georgia encountered was a map that the (extremely capable) Deputy Minister of Finance sketched on a piece of paper from memory during a meeting, detailing which donor had pledged to finance which stretches of road. Without a multitude of motivated, capable and sufficiently funded intermediary institutions on the ground, it is extremely difficult to meaningfully translate the information on aid supplied by international donors into formats that meet local demand for information on aid. Those calling for macro level aid to be made more accountable to civil society in Latin America, Asia and Africa through the increased and/or improved provision of information on donor activities should bear in mind that very few countries receiving aid have such networks of high capacity intermediaries in place. The issues raised in this paper are discussed in greater depth in the authors PhD thesis on Accountability in International Aid: The Case of Georgia, University of Bristol (UK), 2011. Please contact for an electronic copy of the thesis.