On 30 January 2018 the Open Budget Survey 2017 report will be released. Following this, UNICEF will disseminate results at national and regional events, and, importantly, will engage with governments and civil society.
Many governments around the world are making less information available about how they raise and spend public money, according to the results of the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey 2017.
Since 2016, UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office has partnered with the International Budget Partnership (IBP) to promote open budget practices among governments in the region.
The partnership seeks to leverage the strengths of UNICEF and IBP to encourage governments to improve transparency, public participation, and oversight in budget systems, with an understanding that such improvements will contribute to more and better investments in programmes that support children.
Importantly, budget transparency and accountability are emphasized in the international development arena, including in the United Nation’s General Comment No. 19 on “Public Budgeting for the Realization of Children’s Rights” and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
Collaboration with IBP flows from two important developments in Africa. First, the continent’s under-18 population is growing rapidly. It will reach almost one billion by 2050 and requires concerted investments. Second, African countries are increasingly relying on domestic resources rather than foreign aid to support their development needs, which means that – in order to end child poverty – governments need to better collect and spend their resources. To help ensure that this happens, citizens and civil society need greater access to budget information and opportunities to input into financial decision-making processes.
IBP and UNICEF are undertaking a variety of joint activities. During 2016-17 IBP and UNICEF implemented the Open Budget Survey in seven countries in Eastern and Southern Africa for the first time (Burundi, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Somalia, South Sudan, and Swaziland). In addition to supporting the implementation of the survey, staff from many UNICEF offices participated in webinars and in-person workshops on the survey methodology and how to take the country report recommendations forward. UNICEF’s Mozambique office also convened a meeting of Portuguese-speaking governments from six countries who were provided training on the methodology.
Further, the organizations jointly carried out an in-depth examination on how budget practices are working for children in Africa. The 2017 publication – Financing Development for Children in Africa: The State of Budget Transparency and Accountability on the Continent – showed most children in Africa live in contexts that are characterized by extremely low levels of budget transparency, which is further compounded by weak oversight practices among Parliaments and audit institutions, and few openings for the public to participate in budget processes. The report has been widely disseminated, including at a joint Africa Union and U.N. Economic Commission for Africa event in Senegal and through an article in the IMF’s widely read PFM Blog.