UNESCO’s Papa Makthar Mbaye: “Let’s bring the sunlight into development”

October 1, 2014

Foto bij Blog Papa MakhtarUNESCO is working on a variety of transparency projects. This involves opening up scientific data, heritage information, budget spending etcetera. Opening up UNESCO’s programmes in IATI format is also part of the organisations greater transparency plan.


At the Open Development Camp 2014 Papa will share the insights he came across during this process.


Why is transparency such a hot topic these days?

“More than ever, our work- and private lives are intertwined. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where work starts and our personal life ends, and the other way around. People are used to being able to receive and share real time information about almost everything all the time. When there’s more and more synergy between work and private life, it’s only logical that organisations will follow the path of the people that work in these organisations.


In addition to that, donors are more and more cautious about how their money is being spend. The pressure for public knowledge is increasing. This means that the UN needs to continue its work on transparency. We are certainly moving in that direction.


What is the benefit of connecting all the UN units?


“It will help enormously in planning our projects. For example, both UNESCO and UNICEF are working on education projects. “With more data we would be able to harmonies our developmental efforts”.  There is no standardisation in reporting about projects, results, financial flows, etcetera.”


Can IATI be helpful in setting that standard?


“Yes, that is why we are using IATI to report about our programmes. The design of IATI is very future-oriented. With IATI, anyone is able to compare the efforts of any organisation in the development field. That is groundbreaking, allthough major improvements can still be made.”


Using IATI, what problems did you run into?
“We had trouble recognising ourselves in the code-lists. We do a lot of work in the cultural sector. But there we’re no fields for that. Nor was there enough flexibility in defining the regions. IATI should be better related to all the work that the UN is doing.

Another big improvement to be made is in the visualisations. Some of the current visuals convey the wrong message, or have far too little information. Users cannot judge a project just on it’s budget and location. We really should go beyond that.”


Have you experienced any benefits yet?


“The website that will disclose all the projects has not gone live yet, but the benefits have already been numerous. Data quality internally has improved a great deal and transactions are done in a more efficient way. We’ve already shown previews to some of our most important stakeholders; the donors. Their reactions were very positive so we think the project will be well received. Although there can be no opening up without any trouble, right, so we’re ready also ready for that, haha.”


Why is transparency so important for the development sector?


“Transparency is like sunlight: it’s the best desinfectant you can get. When things are out of the dark, diseases don’t get a chance to grow. Corruption doesn’t happen out in the open. Transparency can also promote equal oppportinity. So let’s bring the sunlight into development.”


Author: Ellen de Lange, OneWorld