The Case for Greater Project-Level Transparency of the UN’s Development Work

Max Otto Baumann
Content Type
Working Paper
German Development Institute (DIE)
There is a case to be made for greater transparency of the United Nations’ (UN) development work at the country level. Transparency can, in the simplest terms, be defined as the quality of being open to public scrutiny. Despite improvements in recent years, UN organisations still only partially meet this standard. Only the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and, with limitations, the World Food Programme (WFP) systematically publish basic project parameters such as project documents, funding data and evaluations. Others do not even publish project lists. Only the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) publishes evaluations – a key source on performance – in an easily accessible way next to programme or project information. Lack of project transparency constitutes not only a failure to operate openly in an exemplary way, as should be expected of the UN as a public institution with aspirations to play a leadership role in global development. It also undermines in very practical ways the development purposes that UN organisations were set up for: It reduces their accountability to the stakeholders they serve, including executive boards and local actors; it hampers the coordination of aid activities across and beyond the UN; and it undermines the learning from both successes and failures.
Development, United Nations, Transparency, World Food Program (WFP)
Political Geography
Global Focus