Only three think tanks got "significantly more opaque" during 2014, and one of them is Britain’s Overseas Development Institute, according to a global ranking published by the organisation Transparify.

It dropped from 5 stars to 2 stars (the steepest decline registered worldwide), and was matched only by Tanzania’s Economic & Social Research Foundation (from 3 stars to 1 star) and  Ghana’s Centre for Democratic Development  (2 stars to none).

I don’t how accurate the ranking is, or how seriously it is taken, but it certainly addresses an important issue because secrecy about funding sources undermines the credibility of many of these organisations, which are proliferating worldwide and in the US alone spend more than $1 billion a year.

Britain emerges badly from the ranking.

“Taken as a group, British think tanks drag down the European average stars versus 2.8 stars),” it says.

“Out of eleven British think tanks that we assessed, only a single one the Institute for Public Policy Research – is transparent; two reveal no funding information whatsoever … We hope that this report,  and a forthcoming study by our fellow disclosure advocates at Who Funds You? in London will spark a national debate in Britain about the importance of financial transparency in policy research.”

The ranking reports “a significant shift towards greater transparency by think tanks in South Asia and Oceania” in 2014 and that “The number of transparent think tanks in Africa has doubled to four”.

Two think tanks in Kenya – the African Economic Research Consortium and the Institute of Economic Affairs – excel in disclosure with a 5 star performance and Namibia’s IPPR “is likely to soon (re)join that group”.

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