What can AidData tell us about Haiti?

Nearly 30 non-DAC bilateral donors made pledges at the donor conference, and we’ll be working hard over the coming months to track these projects right here on the AidData portal.

April 9, 2010
Mike Tierney, Jonathan Chan

Last week at the UN/US sponsored International Donors Conference, 66 governments and international aid agencies pledged $5.3 billion over the next two years towards Haiti’s relief and reconstruction. This commitment came on top of $2.7 billion already committed or disbursed for relief and development since the earthquake. The Haitian government has listed the countries and pledges here. For FY 2010/2011, Venezuela made the largest pledge ($1.3 billion), followed by the United States ($1.2 billion).

Immediately following the earthquake, David Roodman at CGD posted a number of visualizations using existing data to examine recent donor activity in Haiti. We were curious to see how this picture might change if we used AidData to analyze donor activities in Haiti. Our inspiration here is Venezuela. If Venezuela does end up being the largest donor in the next few years, information on its development projects won’t be captured by traditional data sources. And while AidData doesn’t track Venezuelan aid projects (at least not yet), we do track aid from a number of other countries that have made pledges, including Brazil, Colombia, and Kuwait.

The information we have from over 20 non-DAC bilateral donors and 19 multilateral donors that are not tracked by the OECD, as well as aid flows that don’t meet the definition of Official Development Assistance (ODA) can generate some dramatic insights. Whether or not development finance is ODA is important for some purposes, but probably not for folks on the ground in Haiti. And in many developing countries, non-DAC donors play an important role in providing development finance.

For example, consider Mauritania. The picture of development assistance in that country changes depending on the data source that you use:

Without AidData, you would miss nearly $230 million worth of development projects in 2007, or over 61% of total assistance that year. Whether you’re a finance minister planning next year’s budget, an NGO project manager trying to coordinate with other organizations, or a local entrepreneur looking to leverage the next advancement in infrastructure, this information has a huge impact on your operations.

Here we provide comparison of 2008 commitments to Haiti in the DAC and AidData.

As you can see, the DAC commitment data has 26 donors, while AidData adds 9 more donors and $123 million in commitments, for a total of $998 million in 2008. As you dig deeper into the data, you’ll find that a number of these emerging donors are funding a lot of technical cooperation, making investments in human and intellectual capital, as well as contributing to immediate relief efforts. You can see some of the projects these donors are financing here, here, and here.

Finally, it’s easy to see the abundance of donors, which may have detrimental effects to development assistance in Haiti. As Owen Barder pointed out Monday,

The burgeoning number of donors impose more contradictory conditions, add transactions costs, drive up the price of scarce resources, and coordination costs grow exponentially.”

This problem will only increase for Haiti, with the sudden proliferation of donor countries after the earthquake (not to mention NGOs). Nearly 30 non-DAC bilateral donors made pledges at the donor conference, and we’ll be working hard over the coming months to track these projects right here on the AidData portal. Key to this effort will be securing project level data from Venezuela and Cuba. Not only will we be collecting information from donors, but hopefully we’ll be able to capture the Haitian government’s perspective on external assistance through the Aid Management Platform built for them by Development Gateway, a founding partner of AidData.

Michael Tierney is the George and Mary Hylton Professor of Government and International Relations at the College of William & Mary and Co-Director of the Global Research Institute.