Aid transparency with IATI

International Aid Transparency Initiative

IATI or the International Aid Transparency Initiative is a global attempt to make aid delivery and the fight against poverty more effective through the sharing of information. IATI tries to provide a good overview of what kind of aid is delivered (or will be delivered) at different places by different actors. These actors can include governments of both the donor and recipient countries, international NGOs, local NGOs, companies, non-profit organisations, faith-based organisations, individual initiatives...

To make aid delivery effective to a country or region effective, it is important to have a common strategy and vision so that different initiatives work complementary to each other and reinforce each other. This is necessary for instance to avoid that everyone starts working on the same spot, hindering each other and pouring too many resources in one location, while people in other locations remain in dire need for assistance.

In order to enable developing countries to coordinate and plan the different efforts that will take place in their territory, it is vital that they know who wants to do what where and when. At the moment this is very difficult, as there are many sources of information and not every organisation informs local authorities about what they want to do - although in some countries there may be very good reasons to avoid government interference.

The second goal of aid transparency is to offer citizens, civil society organisations, journalists, scientists, etc. information about where the funds - provided by government agencies or by private donations - go to. Who is involved in the transferring and spending of this money? Where does it end up? What did it buy? Who received it? What changes did it bring about? Were the projects successful?

To allow for this exchange of information, a common standard was needed for (digital) information exchange. This means that when someone sends you information about a project, this information is structured in a specific way so that both the software at the sending and the receiving end agree about where to find the title of the project, the financial information, the location of the project, the results of the project and so on.

The IATI standard is an internationally agreed standard of information exchange about aid delivery. It is a XML document (similar to HTML which is used to create web pages) and it lists a number of field names and each field contains text or a value. In essence, these XML documents are text documents that can be created with different instruments: an ordinary word processor, special Excel templates (offered by IATI), specialised software such as Aidstream or web services that connect one organisation's database with another (API).

Since version 3.0, Logframer supports the creation, reading and updating of IATI files.

For more information about the IATI initiative, visit their website at


In this section of the manual we'll treat the following topics:

  • What are the main IATI instruments: registry, datastore and d-portal
  • IATI documents according to the IATI standard: activity files and organisation files (and how to create them)
  • Overview of the process: registering, creating files, publishing the files on your site, registering the files in the Registry
  • How to create an organisation file in Logframer
  • How to create an activity file in Logframer
  • Validating files
  • Opening and updating files


IATI instruments

IATI data

The central element in the IATI concept is the Registry. This is where you can find all the organisations that publish information in IATI format, as well as the activities that they are doing. The registry does not contain all the information about development and humanitarian aid initiatives. Instead, it is a list of organisations and for each organisation a list of the (XML) files they have produced and where you can find them. The actual IATI documents can be found on the websites of the different government agencies, NGOs, volunteer groups, etc. that have joined the IATI initiative (and that have registered). While anyone can produce and share IATI documents, the registry is what enables people or organisations all over the world to find that information.

However, hopping from one website to the other to open IATI documents can be tedious and the files will only tell you what each individual organisation does. To get an overview of what is done by different donor countries or what happens in a specific country or region (activities of different organisations), you can use the Datastore. The Datastore visits the websites of the registered organisations, reads the information from the IATI documents and brings it together in a database that you can query.

Another instrument to explore IATI data in a more visual way is D-portal. This tool is still in a development phase and tries to explore the different possibilities to learn from the IATI data.

IATI documents

IATI standard

IATI documents are XML text documents that are structured according to the IATI standard. There are two types of documents:

  • IATI organisation documents contain mostly financial information about the organisation as a whole. Registered organisations are asked to produce an Organisation document at least once a year, with information about their expenses over the last three years and their budget forecast for the next three years. IATI asks you to provide high-level information (the main budget or expenditure headings of our organisation), so in essence what you would publish in the annual report that you put on your website or publish in a paper document.
  • IATI activity documents contain information about projects or programmes. They contain information about the duration of the project, its location, who participates, who benefits, what sums were received, transferred and spent, what results were envisaged and achieved, etc. An IATI activity document can contain information about a single project or about a series of projects (all the projects that your organisation did in the year 20xx).

In principle you can set about creating an IATI document using nothing but a word processor (MS Word, Notepad...) and the guidelines of the IATI reference (the Organisation standard or the Activity standard). However, the standard isn't exactly easy reading if you don't know what you're doing (if you're not familiar with XML mark-up language) and in the end you may produce a document that cannot be validated.

There are different tools available to produce IATI documents, which are much easier to use:

  • Logframer is able to produce both IATI Organisation and IATI Activity files in the current version of the standard (2.02). Moreover, Logframer is also able to open (and edit) existing IATI documents in the current or any previous versions of the standard. The biggest advantage of Logframer may be that you don't have to do anything special to create your files, meaning that you don't have to copy information from other documents to your IATI document. You just develop your project and then with the press of a button you get your IATI activity file. Logframer allows you to create an IATI file for a single project, or one file containing multiple projects.
  • Aidstream is an online tool to create both IATI Organisation and and IATI Activity files. It is pretty straightforward to use and guides you through the whole publishing process. You can register your files directly from within Aidstream, which means you don't have to login separately into the IATI register. As a web interface it can work a bit slower because web-pages have to refresh. Aidstream allows you to enter information about every element of the IATI standard. Aidstream allows you to create an IATI file for a single project, or one file containing multiple projects.
  • The IATI secretariat also offers a number of Excel (CSV) templates that you can use to create xml-files. These are good if you want to register basic information about your projects, but they can't handle every element of the standard. Also, in some cases you need to repeat information (when registering transactions for instance).
  • The last possibility is to transfer information directly from your project database or ERP system to the register and to IATI files using a web service (API). To start with, this means that your organisation needs to have such a database and that it contains all the necessary informations. Secondly, you'll have to make a custom-made solution for your database, which means you'll need to make a bigger investment. On the other hand this is certainly worth it if you are a big organisation with many, many projects, because the alternative would be to re-enter all that information manually in Aidstream for instance. For more information, see:

Overview of the process

You can start producing IATI files right off the bat, but the idea is of course that they can be found easily by anyone looking for information. In order to do that, your organisation has to become a registered publisher and then each time you produce a new file you have to enter it in the IATI registry.

  • Register your organisation: if you are new to IATI you will have to create a new personal account first. Then you can register your organisation. You have to provide some basic information about your organisation and apply for membership. Once your application is approved (which doesn't take long) your organisation is now an official Publisher. More information about how to become a registered Publisher can be found here:
  • Create files: as explained before, there are two types of files:
    • Create an organisation file: this contains mainly financial information about your organisation's main expenditure (during the past three years) and its projected budget (for the next three years).
    • Create one or more activity files: you can choose whether you want to create a single activity file with all your organisation's activities (projects/programmes) or one file per activity. Other possibilities are to create a file grouping activities within a single region or around the same topic for instance.
  • Publish the files on your website: create a folder somewhere on your website and post the IATI xml documents in that location. Make sure that this location is publicly accessible.
  • Register any newly published files in the IATI Registry

As you can see the whole process is relatively simple. The hard part is actually to prepare your organisation. Before you start publishing data on the world wide web you need to be sure that you have a clear idea of what you want to share, how this may affect your organisation (identify any risks), what this will mean in terms of workload and how you will organise yourselves to bring all the information together. The technical process may be simple, but aid transparency is something fundamental that requires a clear commitment and participation of the whole organisation.

On the IATI website you can find good information about what it takes to commit and prepare your organisation to aid transparency.


How to create an organisation file

To make a new organisation file, start up Logframer or click on New project in the File toolbar if you have another project opened in Logframer.

Still in the File toolbar, go to the Mode section and click the IATI organisation button. You will see this on your screen:

Creating an IATI organisation file

As you can see, in IATI organisation mode you can't work with the logframe or with the planning. The IATI organisation file focuses mainly on financial information and nothing much else. This means that apart from the Budget window, you also get a new Expenses window.

If you have registered information about your organisation in the My organisation dialogue, Logframer will automatically add this information in the Partner list. Since the purpose of the IATI organisation file is to report on your own organisation, it's best not to add any other partner organisations here.

In terms of IATI specific information there is not much to add. The only thing you can include is document links, to year reports for instance.


Setting the duration options

For an IATI organisation file, additional fields will appear in the Project Information window next to the start date and end date of the project (or in this case the organisation file).

Duration options for an IATI organisation file

IATI guidelines stipulate that for the organisation file, you would specify the expenses of the last three years and the budget forecast for the next three years. When you create a new IATI organisation file, Logframer will automatically set the following duration settings:

  • For the duration of the project: project start date three years before the current year (on the first of January) and end date on the 31st of December of the year two years from now (see example). So the duration of the project is a period of six years.
  • Start date expenses: three years before the current year
  • End date expenses: end of the previous year
  • Start date budget: beginning of the current year
  • End date budget: three years later (this year + 2)

You are not obliged to follow the 3-year rule, but it is recommended by IATI. If you want to change the default settings you can.

Adding expenses

IATI asks you to present your organisation's total expenses over the last three years. You can make do with a total figure, or you can add some detail according to your own liking. The idea here is to be transparent about your main expenses, but it's not necessary to go into much detail or replicate your bookkeeping here.

The Expenses window

On the Total Expenses page, you can specify which main expenses you want to calculate. Apart from filling out the Description column you don't have to do anything else. Logframer will calculate the numbers for you.

Next go to the first year and detail the costs. How far you go is entirely up to you and depends on your transparency policy. You can provide lump sums or detail duration, quantities and unit costs.

Detailing your expenses for each year

Once you've completed the first year you move to the next. If the costs are more or less the same you can start by copying the headings and values from the previous year. Go to the Items toolbar and click on the button that says Copy values from the previous year. This will save you some manual labour, all you have to do now is to update values where necessary.


Adding the multi-year budget

IATI asks you to present your organisation's budget for the next three years. Unlike the expenses, there are a number of different figures that you need to specify:

  1. Your organisation's total budget for each year
  2. The total budget that will go to recipient organisations
  3. The total budget foreseen for each recipient region (as in international regions)
  4. The total budget foreseen for each recipient country

The Total budget page

On the Total Budget page, you have to do nothing. Logframer will generate the necessary budget headings and calculate the numbers for you.

Next go to the first year and detail each budget header. How far you go is entirely up to you and depends on your transparency policy. You can provide lump sums or detail duration, quantities and unit costs.

Detailing the budget for each budget heading and for each year

Contrary to the expenses, where you can make do with giving a global figure if you want to, you have to pay some extra attention to the detail you provide for

  • The recipient organisations
  • The recipient regions
  • The recipient countries

IATI requires you to use the correct codes for each partner organisation, country or region that you add to the list. You do this using the Budget's Details pane. If this pane is not visible at the bottom of your screen, press <Ctrl><D> or click on the Show Details button in the Lay-out toolbar.

For a recipient organisation:

  • Click on the name of the organisation in the Description column of the budget.
  • In the Details pane, click on the Organisation tab
    Register the organisation's IATI reference
  • Enter the partner organisation's IATI reference

For a recipient region:

  • Click on the name of the region in the Description column of the budget.
  • In the Details pane, click on the Region tab
    Select the international region that will receive funding
  • Select the region using the first drop-down list. If you want to use another list of regions you can use the Vocabulary drop-down list. If you use your own coding system for regions, select 'Reporting organisation' from the second list and enter your own code in the Code field. However, in that case you have to make sure that your organisation's code list is also published on your website (add URL link). For more information, see the IATI website.

For a recipient country:

  • Click on the name of the country in the Description column of the budget.
  • In the Details pane, click on the Country tab
    Indicate the country that will receive funding
  • Select the name of the country using the drop-down list


Once you've completed the first year you move to the next. If the costs are more or less the same you can start by copying the headings and values from the previous year. Select the budget headers that you want to update (drag with the mouse to select), go to the Items toolbar and click on the button that says Copy values from the previous year. This will save you some manual labour, all you have to do now is to update values where necessary.


Create the IATI organisation file

Creating the IATI organisation file (xml file) is very easy. Once you've completed all the information simply go to the File toolbar and in the Import & export section click on the IATI drop-down button.

Select the second option: Create an IATI file (xml)

Create an IATI file

Give your document a name and click Save.


How to create an activity file

Creating an IATI activity file requires you to do three things:

  • Create your project in Logframer
  • Make sure you complete IATI specific information. First and foremost this means you need to enter a valid IATI identifier
  • Create the IATI activity file.

IATI identification


IATI-specific information

To make sure you can see all the IATI-specific fields and lists in Logframer, select the IATI activity view mode in the File toolbar. Most IATI specific settings can be found in IATI tab of the Project information window.

Other IATI-specific information can be found in other locations:

  • For each partner organisation, you need to include its IATI registry code (if it has one). Make sure your own organisation is listed as well in the partner list (once you've completed the information in the My organisation dialogue Logframer will add your organisation to each new project). Every organisation in the list is included as a partner organisation, unless you don't want to (see IATI settings). Contact persons are not included by default, so if you want to include someone as a contact person you should indicate this in their IATI settings.
  • Make sure to include your intervention zone(s). Logframer will automatically create coordinates and country codes. For regional information or specific locations you need to specify a number of things on the IATI tab of the Intervention zone dialogue.
  • Transactions are a key concept in aid transparency and you should pay special attention to them

Whatever you do, do not forget to include the IATI registry code of your project in the IATI tab of the Project information window.

Insert the IATI identifier

Apart from these special attention points, the only thing you have to do is design your project and press the Create IATI file button. Logframer will turn all the information of your project in a IATI activity file. However, do note that IATI activity files contain less information than Logframer files, so not all the information of your project will be included. For instance, IATI activity files do not register verification sources, risks, assumptions or dependences (third and fourth column of your logframe). Likewise IATI doesn't support the number of sub-activities or sub-indicators that Logframer does, so you will only find the top-level indicators and activities in your activity file.

Speaking of indicators, IATI activity files can only handle indicators with values or percentages - see the next topic for more information.


Indicator targets and actual values

IATI activity files are limited in that can only handle indicators with values or percentages. Logframer transforms other types of indicators (yes/no indicators, multiple-choice, response scales, etc.) to value-based indicators, using the scores as values.

On the other hand IATI requires you to indicate both target values and actual values for each indicator. When you've selected the IATI activity view mode, you will therefore see that there are additional columns on the Targets tab where you can register the actual values:

Targets and actual values

This option is only available for indicators of question type 'Value' or 'Percentage', because these are the only indicator types that IATI supports. For other types of indicators you can't register an actual value for now.


Create the IATI activity file

Once your project is complete you can create the IATI activity file (xml file). Go to the File toolbar and in the Import & export section click on the IATI drop-down button.

Select the second option: Create an IATI file (xml)

Create an IATI file

Give your document a name and click Save.

You can also create an IATI activity file that contains multiple projects. All you have to do is open the Logframer projects that you want to include in this file. Then you click on the Create an IATI file (xml) button again, but because more than one project is opened, you will get to see the following dialogue:

Exporting multiple projects into a single IATI activity file

Choose the second option if you want indeed to create a file containing all the opened projects. Below you can choose in what order the activities will be included in the file: ordered by start date, title (alphabetically), country (idem) or simply in the order in which they have been opened.


Validating your IATI file

After you've created an IATI file (activity file or organisation file), you can check online whether it is in accordance with the IATI standard. To do so, visit the page of the IATI public validator.

First you have to upload your file. Click the Browse... button and select the file on your computer, then click Upload.

The Validator will do two tests. First it will check if your file is a well formed XML document. This is more of a technical test and it checks whether the document can be recognised as a XML document (and not a PDF document for instance).

Validate if your file is a well-formed xml file

Secondly, you can start the actual validation by clicking on the Test Validation link (see above). If all goes well then you get to see the following screen:

File is validated


Reading and editing IATI files

In Logframer you can open IATI activity documents or organisation documents as well. To do so click the IATI button in the Import & export section of the File toolbar:

Import an IATI file

Logframer will create a new project for every activity in the IATI activity file (if there's more than one).

For some information Logframer will ask you to provide additional information. For instance, locations in IATI format do not mention the name of the country; so Logframer will ask you for clarification but will also make a suggestion based on other geographic information found in the IATI file.

Indicate the location's country