Two weeks ago, we released our 2015 REPORT documenting significant progress towards greater think tank transparency worldwide. Especially the U.S. results were encouraging – over half of think tanks there are now transparent. In contrast, results for the UK were disappointing.
The Financial Times led off its coverage with the observation that “British think-tanks are less transparent about their sources of funding than their European counterparts.” It noted that “only one of 11 British think-tanks assessed, the Institute for Public Policy Research, was rated as transparent,” while three prominent institutions including the International Institute for Strategic Studies were rated as highly opaque.
The Brussels-based EU Observer titled its article “UK and Hungarian think tanks least transparent in EU”. It noted that think tanks based in Brussels itself performed well: “Three of the thinktanks evaluated are based in Brussels: Bruegel (5 stars), International Crisis Group (4 stars), Centre for European Policy Studies (3 stars).”
One World led with the sentence that “Only three think tanks got ‘significantly more opaque’ during 2014, and one of them is Britain’s Overseas Development Institute.” The author suggested that our survey “addresses an important issue because secrecy about funding sources undermines the credibility” of many think tanks.
Broadcaster KBC in Kenya noted the 5-star performance of two Kenyan think tanks, adding that “donor funding has been a contentious issue in the not-for-profit sector with government proposing stringent laws to cap funding to ensure accountability and openness of funding sources”. The issue is also controversial in Hungary, where the government has recently been accused of orchestrating a crackdown on independent NGOs, including think tanks. Transparify’s report sparked a lively debate in Hungary that is still ongoing; we will provide a separate summary at a later point. Several media outlets in Georgia and Montenegro have also covered the story.
On Think Tanks produced a great map of the global results.
Numerous think tanks released statements explaining their commitment to transparency.
“AERC endeavors to observe best global practices in everything it does, and it is encouraging that our outstanding efforts are receiving global acknowledgment,” said Prof. Lemma Senbet, the Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium, a think tank based in Kenya with strong global name recognition among international development experts.
Also in Kenya, Kwame Owino, the Executive Director of its Institute of Economic Affairs, tweeted that “If we fail to aim for high transparency, we reduce our ability to demand budget transparency in #Kenya".
In Sweden, Johan Kuylenstierna from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) commented that “we believe transparency is essential for building trust and credibility. We provide full disclosure of our funding and invite our partners and stakeholders to assess our objectivity and hold us accountable to our mission… Transparency is a keystone in bridging science and policy.”
Why does transparency matter to think tanks? A list of statements by think tanks on their 2015 transparency ratings, including links to the full text of each, is below.
THINK TANK REACTIONS
- African Economic Research Consortium, Kenya
- Bruegel, Belgium
- European Centre for Development & Policy Management, Netherlands
- CEMI, Montenegro
- Center for International Governance Innovation, Canada
- Institut Alternativa, Montenegro
- Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya
- Stockholm Environmental Institute, Sweden
- Transparency International - Georgia, Economic Policy Research Center, Jumpstart Georgia, in a joint statement; Georgia
- World Resources Institute, United States
Check also the contributions by several think tanks on our own blog, by scrolling down. Transparify will begin re-rating think tanks in November 2016. We look forward to being able to report even more transparent institutions in our next report!