Empowering Citizens to Fight Corruption

104 posts / 0 new
Last post
Ask Your Government Campaign

One example of an ongoing international civic campaign to promote transparency is the ‘Ask Your Government’ campaign. The International Budget Partnership (IBP) and nine other international organizations have launched this campaign which is the most extensive cross-country exercise to access public budget information to date. This initiative is an ambitious effort to look at what this means on the ground for citizens and civil society advocates. It also aims to reveal the extent to which governments are actually fulfilling their commitments in the areas of access to information, maternal health, aid effectiveness, and environmental protection. The core idea is simple: what would happen if citizens in 84 countries ask their government for budget information that relates directly to key development goals? Would their government provide meaningful and comprehensive answers, or would it disregard the citizens’ right to know how public funds are used?

While quite simple as a concept, this effort to capture budget transparency on the ground is a complex initiative in practice and was only made possible by the efforts of many. The campaign is coordinated jointly by the IBP, Access Info Europe, and the Centre for Law and Democracy. Drawing on their expertise with regard to access to information, AIE and CLD prepared the guidelines for how civil society partners in several countries would actually make the information requests and designed the system for recording the research process and the data obtained.

Given that the initiative covers issues relating to maternal health, aid effectiveness, and environmental protection, organizations in these fields played an important role in defining the focus and ultimately designing the questions. The maternal health questions were produced by the White Ribbon Alliance, Family Care International, and the Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program at Columbia University; the aid effectiveness questions were prepared by Publish What You Fund, Oxfam America, and Development Initiatives; and the environmental questions were prepared by the World Resources Institute, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Recently the coalition of international organizations supporting the Ask Your Government Campaign has been joined by Greenpeace International and the International Human Rights Internship Program.

One goal of this research and advocacy effort is to demonstrate and disseminate the real-life experiences of citizens going through the process of requesting practical budget information from their governments. The results of this process (coming soon!) will be disseminated in a variety of arenas, both at the international level and within the participating countries.

One of the first such opportunities for sharing the results are the many spaces leading up to the Millennium Development (MDG) Summit. Governments worldwide have committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. To know what still needs to be done, we need to know what is already being done. In “Keeping the Promise,” the U.N. Secretary General states that the MDGs cannot be achieved without accountability and transparency. This requires detailed, comprehensive budget information.

To achieve the Goals, the MDG Summit must:

  • declare government budget transparency an indispensable precondition for meeting the MDGs;
  • require all governments to report complete budget information on their efforts to realize the goals, on a yearly basis, from 2011 to 2015; and
  • require donor countries to publish information on their MDG-related funding, including that reported by countries to whom they provide aid.

All of the reported information must be made available to the public (in useful and accessible formats) in each participating country and through relevant U.N. websites.

IBP is therefore requesting partners to sign the Call on the MDG Summit to Demand Budget Transparency at: http://www.internationalbudget.org/?fa=womenEmailForm

"Ask Your Government" campaign

hmasud wrote:

The core idea is simple: what would happen if citizens in 84 countries ask their government for budget information that relates directly to key development goals? Would their government provide meaningful and comprehensive answers, or would it disregard the citizens’ right to know how public funds are used? 

Harika, who were the citizens (i.e. how chosen?) in each country and did they decide how they would ask their government for information?

hmasud wrote:

One goal of this research and advocacy effort is to demonstrate and disseminate the real-life experiences of citizens going through the process of requesting practical budget information from their governments. The results of this process (coming soon!) will be disseminated in a variety of arenas, both at the international level and within the participating countries.

Harika, are there a few examples you can share about some of the real-life experiences of these citizens and what they did?

Using gov't budgets as a monitoring tool

Thank you for sharing information on the 'Ask your government' campaign, Harika! It sounds a lot like the '6 Questions' campaign for which International Budget Partnership is a partner.  Are these two different campaigns?

Watch this film on vimeoAs mentioned in a few parts of this dialogue already, access to budget information is an important part of curbing corruption.  Collecting this information, and holding governments accountable for sharing this public information, can bring about great citizen mobilization campaigns.  New Tactics hosted a Tactical Dialogue on Using Budgets for Monitoring and it is a great collection of tactics and ideas for using government budgets to hold officials accountable for the allocation and spending of these funds.  One example shared in the dialogue comes from SODNET in Kenya - they developed a platform (Budget Tracking Tool) to allow citizens to collect data on their constituencies, including amounts of monies budgeted in various funds for projects in their constituencies.  The best part is - citizens can request and recieve this information via mobile phone!  Users query the system to get information, and users also feed the system with information.   This project has led to the discover of misused funds in Kenya.  Have the information on budget allocation and spending is an important step to ensuring that corruption is addressed.

You may also be interested in reading our in-depth case study on the Children's Budget Unit in South Africa.  This tactical notebook, Using Government Budgets as a Monitoring Tool, describes how the CBU uses government budgets to hold those responsible, accountable for children's rights in South Africa.

Tactical Technology Collective has included this tactic in their 10 Tactics film - you can watch the clip by clicking on the image (while you're there - watch all the other great videos on info activism tactics!).

How have others used government budgets to empower citizens to fight corruption?

Mobile phones

The example of budget monitoring through mobile phones is a very relevant one as it shows that this type of citizen engagement and empowerment is not related to access to the internet anymore. Mobile phones are increasingly powerful devices to connect citizens with their government, and provide services on a municipal level (such as Grupo Faro does in Ecuador), as well as request information and hold leaders to account as in your example.

There's a very useful report by Johan Hellström for SIDA on The Innovative Use of Mobile Applications in East Africa (download from here) who highlights a couple of really promising initiatives looking at citizen to government accountability in East Africa, such as Twaweza in Uganda that plans to track school attendance, the above-mentioned Budget Tracking Tool and BungeSMS in Kenya, and an SMS service offered by the Kenyan government through the Office of Public Communications for citizens to send information, suggestions or complaints. However, initiatives in areas such as health are still way ahead. Projects and tools to improve transparency and accountability are still struggling. He gives a good analysis of the key challenges with the use of mobile phones in governance initiatives and highlights this interesting point:

A challenge that is a bit more sector specific has to do with the mobile industry itself. The sector is highly competitive and privatised with profit as the primary focus. If a non profit service is launched it is usually being implemented as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in the entertainment, sports, housing, health, education and environment sectors, i.e. sectors with maximum reach out, good for marketing purposes and with few political hurdles. Good governance on the other hand is a public good. How does one attain a balance between the two? Today there are few innovative business plans that brings the two worlds together and therefore social and governance applications end up low on the priority scale of operators. Further, public service is a long term commitment, there are no quick fixes which a pilot can fix.

Some more of my thoughts on this here and here. A project that looks promising providing the opportunity to complaint on crime in general and bribery cases in specific comes from Panama. Have a look at: http://www.mipanamatransparente.com. The project is being implemented by the Panaman chapter of Transparency International and the International Centre for Journalism amongst others.

The International Dimension

The UNCAC Coalition is an excellent example of an international dimension that can add substantial strength to a local campaign. Egyptians Against Corruption launched in 2006 demanding that the Egyptian Government publishes and implements the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), we were later introduced to the coalition of international NGOs who support the same mandate in their countries. This shared pool of talents came up with several creative ideas which we used very successfully in Egypt, as an example the coalition got the endorsement of key business officials and religuous figures on a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General requesting the effective monitoring of the implementation of the UNCAC. The fact that the CEOs of GE, Xerox and Shell were signatories helped us get the endorsements of their Country Heads in Egypt, the same applied to the religious figures.

While this is not really an example of Civic mobilization it clearly establishes the potential strength of having an international dimension that is well integrated with an a local campaign.

Digital civil resistance for a clean parliament

(Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images)

Ficha Limpa

Some technical glitches have been preventing Graziela Tanaka, with Avaaz.org in Brazil to join the dialogue to tell us about the Ficha Limpa (clean record) campaign for transparent, accountable politics, that involved both on-the-ground actions and petitioning, together with digital civil resistance. Avaaz.org conducted a massive online campaign that included a petition of over 2 million signatures, 500,000 online actions, and tens of thousands of phone calls. According to Avaaz, the "clean record" law was a "bold proposal that banned any politician convicted of crimes like corruption and money laundering from running for office,"  when 25% of the current Congress was under investigation for corruption. Avaaz reports that its members fought corrupt congressmen daily as they tried "every trick in the book" to stop, delay, amend, and weaken the bill. Now that the bill passed Congress, already over 330 candidates for office face disqualification.

Avaaz's Ficha Limpa digital resistance campaign was enabled by just a couple of Avaaz.org people cooperating with over 600,000 Avaaz members in Brazil. This is a compelling example of how technology can enable a tiny team to help millions of people work together. Below are links to media coverage:

Civic mobilization did not end with this success. A day after the Ficha Limpa law went into effect, protests against officials suspected of criminal activity were launched in 13 cities in the southern state of Paraná. According to one report, the protest was against corruption and the recent scandals involving allegations of legislators’ paying fictitious employees and embezzling public money in the Paraná Legislative Assembly.

Ficha Limpa (Brazil): The offline civil resistance came first!

Hi Shaazka

Thanks for bringing attention to the Ficha Limpa campaign, which has not yet been fully recognized outside of Brazil.

Just to set the record straight - and not discounting the amazing work of Avaaz online - but the Ficha Limpa campaign was promoted offline for almost two years by a coalition of civil society organizations called the Movement Against Electoral Corruption (MCCE), before it became an online phenomenon during the legislation's trajectory in Congress in 2010.

The MCCE's campaign collected manually, old-school style and on paper, the 1.6 million signatures together with voter identification, necessary to introduce the legislation into the Brazilian Congress. The Brazilian constitution requires these physical signatures and voter IDs to be collected for this kind of law to be introduced by popular initiative. It was a massive logistical task, from the volunteers out in communities and on the streets, to the campaign headquarters having to receive and process huge amounts of paper.

While it was indeed the online campaigning that propelled Ficha Limpa legislation through Congress, it would have never even been discussed in Congress without the effort of MCCE and the dedicated 1.6 million Brazilians who signed onto the petition.

Online campaigning is a valuable addition to the mix, no doubt. But I think it is important that people so fascinated by online mobilization pause a little and recognize that it is often the decades of experience of labor unions, church groups, and other offline social movements that have the people power to do this kind of campaigning!

Janet Gunter, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development

Ficha Limpa (Brazil): The offline civil resistance came first!

Yes I agree this is an important point from Janet. When we were researching 10 tactics at Tactical Tech (mentioned elswhere in this discussion) we looked at so many examples (anti-curruption or otherwise) that really showed great uses of information and digital technology but ended up having such minimal participation/application/outcomes. This included projects that get talked about as being exemplary uses of technology for human rights. It does seem like projects that first develop the right engagement with established civil society groups will often have more longevity and participation. The example Kristin has mentioned from 10 tactics (Budget Tracker Tool from Kenya) involved some great strategic planning that forms the background of that successful project. This involved talking with government departments and getting them to agree to give up budget data and then working with a strong network of social development network groups across the country to mobilise community support and to facilitate enagement with the tool that was created to monitor budget spending. As people have already mentioned sometimes people start with technology, rather than starting by understanding civil society networks, what they are already doing and how they could be involved.

Great dialogue everyone! Thanks!

Collaborating with International Campaigners

There has been instances where local citizens collaborate  with international campaigners.An example is during the Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) meeting held in Nairobi, there were sessions held on budget analysis which can help in addressing corruption.

Information   on this can be got from www.equalinrights.org.There are also initiatives by Transparency International on  topical issues on corruption, others are Name and Shame Campaign

What is the role of social networking & digital technologies?
  • How have you used social networking and digital technologies in your anti-corruption work?
  • What are some opportunities for the use of technology that has not yet been explored?
  • Share your examples, tools and stories!

Please share your thoughts and ideas by replying to this theme-comment.

Making fighting corruption relevant for all citizens

Let me start off with a couple of comments on how social media in many ways has changed the way we fight against corruption. In the social web, the fight against corruption becomes relevant for all citizens. It provides anyone with an opportunity to voice their concerns and engage in the fight against corruption. This can be done by signing a petition online in Europe, by gathering evidence of corrupt activities via video in Morocco, or by blowing the whistle anonymously in the US. In giving voice to unfiltered observations and sharing of information, blogs can play an important role for making governments, public institutions and corporations more accountable. I'll be happy to share more examples over the next days.

Through social media traditional obstacles for fighting corruption can be overcome. Key limitations include a difficult political environment where civil society is restricted, the lack of resources and the need to access information. The use of mobile devices, allowing for interaction and partial access to the internet even in regions that are less developed in terms of infrastructure, will further lower the barrier for online engagement.

In sum, I have been seeing three trends and effects on the fight against corruption and I would be curious about your views:

  1. Collaborative and crowd-based: Activists, victims and small groups working on the same issue can link up more easily, and gather in a bigger anti-corruption movement. Crowdsourcing as a tactic has become an option for using collective power. For example, when looking at gathering citizens’ observations during elections through tools such as Ushahidi, when analysing datasets made available under the umbrella of transparency, or in citizen journalism.
  2. Decentralised: Decentralised action and new forms of organisation will be developed wherever necessary. Global protests were initiated after elections in Iran and Moldova, as well as in 2009 in Indonesia, when more than one million people organised themselves via Facebook to protest over the arresting of two members of the national Corruption Eradication Commission anti-corruption commissioners. Particularly under restrictive regimes social media can be used by civil society to organise, meet virtually and work together to overcome boundaries without sharing a physical space.
  3. Empowering: Social media empowers citizens that want to engage and change things. Fighting corruption becomes bottom-up by giving voice to the people affected the most. By contributing with their experience, easily done via blogs, twitter, or a wiki, citizens can become part of the broader movement and provide a face to the problem. Through the Internet these voices become public, making it more difficult for leaders held accountable to ignore them. This point is probably also one of the reasons why using social media is becoming more and more attractive, especially in developing countries.

For me,  one of the most fascinating aspects of technology is how, especially over the last year, more and more technology-based anti-corruption projects have been developed. And even better, this has been happening not only in developed countries, but especially in developing countries. An amazing work is done by the Technology for Transparency Network in analysing these, having now more than 40 worldwide projects online. But just yesterday I learned about a new project from India called I paid a bribe, allowing citizens to report incidences of bribery. 

Social media

Georg, there is so much to think about and learn from in your great posting on social media. When looking through the framework of civic power and the dynamics of civil resistance against corruption and other forms of oppression, your points show how social media can:

  1. Disrupt systems of corruption: your e.g. of gathering evidence of police demanding bribes from motorists via mobile phone video in Morocco, which thus cannot be denied or hidden by authorities and publicly exposes the illicit practices
  2. Strengthen citizen participation: e.g. through low-risk online petitions, Facebook groups, etc.
  3. Strengthen campaign organization and capacity: e.g. through what you discuss as collaborative and crowd-based activities
  4. Win people over: as with your example of decentralisation and new forms of organization (FB, Twitter, blogs, wiki), which bring larger numbers of people into the movement that might not otherwise have become involved
  5. Weaken sources of support and control for unaccountable and corrupt power holders; entities, systems, and their enablers: the "I Paid a Bribe" online campaign in India, which you mentioned, is a good example as it cumulatively can weaken sources of support and control for those in authority who demand bribes.
Using social media to witness & record

Thank you, Georg and Shaazka for highlighting some of the ways that social media and new technology can be used to empower citizens to fight corruption.  I just wanted to share some examples of ways that social media has opened a new space for citizens to witness and record corruption as it happens.  This documentation can then be used to mobilize citizens for action.

Tactical Technology Collective has produced a film called 10 Tactics for Turning Information into Action.  The second tactic is titled 'Witness and Record' and describes the anonymous video activist in Morocco that taped police taking bribes from motorists, along with other examples.  Shaazka mentions this example in her blog post on social media.  This tactic reminds me very much of the 'I paid a bribe' campaign that Georg mentions in his post.  It's empowering to be your own community's human rights monitor!  You can watch the 5 minute video on vimeo by clicking on the image below:

Watch tactical tech's video on vimeo

As the video mentions, not only did the police respond to the overwhelming outcry from citizens upset about this corruption, but the police used the same tactic - using video to gather evidence on police-corruption! 

Of course, anytime you are using social media to document human rights violations, you must keep in mind the vulnerability of those in your video/photo/document (survivors) and your own vulnerability.  It isn't tough these days to trace uploaded videos and SMSs back to you - but if you do your research, you can find ways to post evidence without being vulnerable to being traced.  See our recent tactical dialogue on Staying Safe: Security Resources for Human Rights Defenders (summary coming soon) for more information.

Media wakes up to youth activism in the Middle East

Blogging And Tweeting, Egyptians Push For Change


An example

One of the best Egyptian campaigns that used the net and especially twitter is elshaheeed.org its worthwhile to check it out.

Chile: Corruption Dictionary

The TI chapter in Chile, Chile Transparente, tapped into the wealth of the Spanish language describing corrupt activities and developed a campaign called Corruption Dictionary (Diccionario del Corrupto). The web page uses social networking approaches such as commenting, polling and ranking to document Chilean expressions describing corrupt activities. The project raised general public awareness of corruption in all its forms with more than 45,000 people participating and collected about 1000 terms of expression.

The 100 best terms are now also available as a publication (in Spanish). Have a look!

Chile: Corruption dictionary

Georg, What a great campaign! In addition to it's innovativeness, humour, and clever use of social networking, it is easy and inexpensive. They didn't need a big staff, months of training programs, or an expensive survey to engage the public! The idea was simple yet effective - ask citizens to talk about corrupt activities themselves. After all, they know best because they experience the corruption and are harmed by it.

The TI-Chile campaign is a good example of the difference between a top-down and a grass-roots, bottom-up approach. A top-down approach would develop a campaign, telling the public all about corruption and it's many names and forms. The public would be the recipient of the information; it's role is passive. In contrast, the Chilean campaign has a grass-roots approach; it engages the public, turns citizens into a collective partner, and asks the public to be active -- namely to be the ones to define corruption, share names about it and discuss the different forms of it.  In this context, people exercise their voice and by taking an action, even a simple one online, they take the first step toward possible future actions to fight corruption. As importantly, citizens have a sense of ownership in the campaign, which again builds a collective sense to fight corruption together.

This campaign is also interesting in that it is based on LOW-RISK, MASS ACTIONS. While happily Chile is now a democracy of many years, this example of creating inventive low-risk, mass actions also has applicability in countries where citizens face repression and even violence when they express dissent. The lesson is that social media or other widespread forms of media (e.g, SMS, radio) can be used to create low-risk, mass actions that can engage thousands of citizens without putting them at a high risk. For example, back in 1997 in the "ancient" days before internet and SMS... 30 million people in Turkey living under a repressive system turned their lights off for one minute each night. That's the "Citizen Initiative for Constant Light" campaign. There is a New Tactics Notebook, a paper and a documentary (all online) on the campaign in the resources section of this dialogue.

Engi, maybe you'd like to share a bit about the "shopping bag activists" and the tea glasses in Egypt?

Going o the street

When we launched our movement we wanted to be relevant to the street and gain our credibility through their support, we came up with two simple ideas, a branded plastic bag (cost around 5 cents) which can be used by the females when they go to buy bread or anything from the marketplace and branded tea glasses to be used by the public cafe's (again quite chead a dozen cost around US$ 2), initially we distributed the plastic bags through the street merchants and for free at the coffee shops, they were wildly successful and the merchants were calling us asking for more stating that their clients were asking for them , they became a mechansim through which people publicly (and safely) communicate their support for our mission.

Avaaz.org and Ficha Limpa campaign in Brazil

Check out the posting just put up in the "International Dimension" section of the dialogue, regarding the Avaaz.org digital resistance campaign in Brazil to pass legislation to curb political corruption.

Role of Technologies

In my view  technology has impacted possitively on corruption.Through SMS , local citizens can be mobilized to make demands on their  leaders.

Radio has also played a role , call in shows on development give local citizens an opportunity to  make comments  on development inititives in their localities.

TV programs which bring in interactive dialogues between elected leaders and citizens  such as the one by Citizen TV in Kenya hosted by Louis Otieno was an eye opener in that  an elected leader gets to talk interact with his constituents , this is something that never happens  all the time.

Share resources & tools

Under this theme, please share any other resources and tools that have helped you in your anti-corruption work.  Have you used any guides, manuals, articles that were helpful?  Perhaps online networks of practitioners already doing this work?  Technology tools that have been beneficial?  These resources and tools may be brand new to someone else working on similar issues!

Please share your resources and tools by replying to this theme-comment.

General resources on people power and civil resistance

Below is a list of general resources on civic power, civil resistance and the history of nonviolent movements and campaigns. Some are downloadable; click on the link. If you are interested to receive a copy of a book, let me know.

  • Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, “WHY CIVIL RESISTANCE WORKS: THE STRATEGIC LOGIC OF NONVIOLENT CONFLICT,” International Security, Volume 33, Issue 1 (2008). http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/reso...
  • Adrian Karatnycky and Peter Ackerman, "HOW FREEDOM IS WON: FROM CIVIC RESISTANCE TO DURABLE DEMOCRACY," (New York, NY: Freedom House, 2005). http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/reso...
  • Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, "A FORCE MORE POWERFUL: A CENTURY OF NONVIOLENT CONFLICT," (New York, NY: Palgrave, 2000).
  • Howard Clark (ed), "PEOPLE POWER: UNARMED RESISTANCE AND GLOBAL SOLIDARITY," (London, UK: Pluto Books, 2009).
  • Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kuegler, "STRATEGIC NONVIOLENT CONFLICT: THE DYMAMICS OF PEOPLE POWER IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY," (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994).
  • Desmond George-Williams (ed), "BITE NOT ONE ANOTHER: SELECTED ACCOUNTS OF NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE IN AFRICA," (University for Peace, 2006) http://www.steinergraphics.com/pdf/bite_not_screen.pdf
  • Kurt Schock, "UNARMED INSURRECTIONS: PEOPLE POWER MOVEMENTS IN NONDEMOCRACIES," (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).
  • Maria Stephan (ed.), "CIVILIAN JIHAD: NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE, DEMOCRATIZATION AND GOVERNANCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST," (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) (includes chapter on civic anti-corruption campaigns and movements)
  • Kristina E. Thalhammer, Paula L. O’Loughlin, Myron Peretz Glazer, Penina Migdal Glazer, Sam McFarland, Sharon Toffey Shepela, Nathan Stotzfus, "COURAGEOUS RESISTANCE: THE POWER OF ORDINARY PEOPLE," (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
  • Stephen Zunes, Lester Kurtz and Sara Beth Asher (eds), "NONVIOLENT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: A GEOGRAPHICAL PERSPECTIVE," (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1999).

Check out our dialogue tomorrow for downloadable resources on empowering citizens, engaging in nonviolent struggle, developing effective and strategic tactics, and building civic campaigns and movements…

Five Lessons learned - ICTs, Transparency and Accountability

I invite you to read our article about Technology for Transparency and the lessons we are learning. http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/08/25/technology-for-transparency-fiv...

There you can download a presentation with the most relevant tools and something really important to remember: in a diverse world, it is important to start by looking at the tools available to the people you want to engage. The most advanced technology might fail if people are not familiar with it, if they cannot afford it, or if they can’t adapt it for their purposes. This means being willing to give up on complex technologies if what the community needs is SMS and radio-based efforts. It means building simple, text-only websites if bandwidth is limited. Overall, it means paying close attention to the context of a project and implementing technology only where it really fits.

Five Lessons learned - ICTs, Transparency and Accountability

Renata, thanks for sharing this incredibly valuable resource! We encourage those visiting the dialogue to check it out if they haven't already.

Engaging Youth: Voices against corruption

The World Bank created a network of youth called "Voices against corruption" using a social network, NING. Connecting and engaging people from different countries and inviting them to share concerns and good practices is a good tool to fight against corruption. Check it here: http://voices-against-corruption.ning.com/

Engaging Youth: Voices against corruption

Hi Renata,

Thanks for highlighting the Voices against Corruption youth social network. I hope that others in the dialogue will check it out!

Like you said, it's a good tool to fight corruption. And it's a good example of the international dimension to grass-roots, civic campaigns and movements to curb corruption. International donors and development agencies cannot create grass-roots, bottom-up campaigns, nor should they try! But international organizations can help to facilitate opportunities for the exchange of information, knowledge, skills, and good practices for people from different countries who might not otherwise have been in touch. The Voices against Corruption network is a good example.

Zero Currency - Tool

We use the Zero currency, which is very much similar to the Indian 50 Rupee Note that is in use where the number 50 is replaced by '0'. The downloadable formats of the note can be found at  http://5thpillar.org/india/ZRN . 

In India its almost become a norm that there is nothing wrong in paying a bribe to get access to the Fundamental rights (Food, Clothing and Shelter). To break this stigma among the citizens as well as among he bureaucratic population we felt that we will have to start using a visual tool that reminds people that giving and taking bribes are equally a crime.

Hence 5th Pillar adopted this concept developed by Dr.Bhagat, a social activist and Professor at University of Maryland, USA, to tackle petty corruption in India. The note is printed and distributed in a few major regional languages of India. To further take this concept world wide  the http://zerocurrency.org/  came into being where the Zero currencies of the world is available in the downloadable format.

A few officials in the government departments have this displayed in their office to let people know that they are non corrupt. And the common man uses it to pay the corrupt officer when demanded for bribe. It serves as a way to demonstrate subtly that "I will not pay a penny more that is required by law to get access to the basic rights entitled to me". The Zero Currency carries the contact information of 5th Pillar on the Note and hence the Officer knows that the individual who has presented the note is not alone. Most of the time the citizen gets a Royal treatment by getting seated and Tea served before his request is taken care, where generally the officer would not even look up to give a reply.

The students at Schools and colleges are targeted with the Freedom From Corruption Campaigns where the Zero Rupee Notes are distributed to drive home the concept of Giving and Taking Bribe is a crime. And hence reducing their tolerance level towards Corruption. 

Fifth Pillar movement - India

Thanks for this great summary about Fifth Pillar. Could you tell us why - of all the different kinds of corruption faced in India - that bribery in the public administration is an important target of Fifth Pillar?

There are so many important lessons from Fifth Pillar's work, growth and impact, that are also reflected in other civic campaigns and movements to fight corruption I've been researching. One lesson is that education and targeting youth is important. All to often campaigns forget that education is just as valuable a tactic as more visible actions such as petitions, rallies, monitoring, etc. Related to that is building awareness and action among the youth. Young people are more likely to want to fight injustice change the corrupt or unjust status quo than the older generation. So involving them builds a new active generation of citizens and they have fresh, innovative ideas and approaches that movements often use.

Another lesson reflected in Fifth Pillar and other campaigns is how civil resistance can disrupt corrupt systems. The Zero-Rupee note is a brilliant tactic in the Indian context. First, it sends a message of “noncooperation to corruption” (to quote Vijay)- which is a form of disruption of the corrupt status quo. Second, it shows that the person who has it is not alone; he/she is part of a larger movement - which is an expression of civic power, i.e. power in numbers.

Necessity of addressing Corruption in government dept - India

India's official poverty measure has long been based solely upon the ability to purchase a minimum recommended daily diet of 2,400 kilocalories (kcal) in rural areas where about 70 percent of people live, and 2,100 kcal in urban areas. World Bank estimates are given in the figure above for comparative purposes. The World Bank estimates that 41.6 percent of India's population lives below $1.25 per day and 75.6 percent live below $2 per day.

Government reaches out to the people specially the persons/households living Below Poverty Line (BPL) in all the rural areas of the country by implementing the programs like Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) and National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) run by the Ministry of Rural Development through State Governments and Union Territory Administrations and hence corruption in the Government departments delay or hamper the flow of resources that are made available to the poor.

This makes it necessary to Empower and Enable the citizens so that they have access to their rights. The government runs stores around the country to distribute food articles at a subsidized rate, called ration shops. The employees in most of these shops sell the commodities in the black market at a slightly higher rates and make entries showing that they were distributed to the card holders. Government run Hospitals and clinics are set up to provide free health care, but even the poorest of the poor have to pay a bribe to get access to the health care that he or she deserves. 

There is a scheme called the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, The objective of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA is to enhance livelihood security of the rural households by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year to every household on demand for doing unskilled manual work. Entries are made on false names and the middle men get the money that is allotted for the scheme and it does not reach the poor.

These are a very few examples out of the number of issues that the poor encounter on their day to day life. Hence it becomes very important to address the corruption in the Government departments.

Just to say that I really

Just to say that I really like your concept and I am very glad that this seems to be working. Would love to know more about impact. Have you looked beyond anecdotal measurements of your success?

And I hope you don't mind everyone around the world copying this idea...!

Impressive Initiation: Replication Needed in Nepal

The zero currency initiative is really wonderful one. Nepal, neighboring country of India, also faces similar type of corruption and bribery situation.

Nepal has the dubious distinction of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Corruption — from petty to grand — is endemic here. In recent years, Nepal has fared terribly in global indexes of transparency, accountability and corruption.In South Asia, Nepal ranked 4th highest position in corruption level.

If the initiation like zero currencies and activities of 5th pillar, replicated in Nepal, it will be the effective tool to reduce the corruption level.

Samundra Paudel
Alternatives, Nepal
Buddha Marg-9, Pokhara, Nepal

Zero-currency website

Fifth Pillar has set up a website with zero-currency versions of virutally all the world's currencies. Check it out here:


Replicating Zero Currency

We would be more than happy if more countries could use it as a tool as well. An organization called Pro Public of Nepal, Twaweza Kenya, an East African NGO working on citizen engagement and public accountability and an organization from Mexico city along with a couple of like minded individuals have approached us in the past to replicate the the Zero Currency.

The www.zerocurrency.org has the Zero Currency version of all the countries. Since it was our volunteers in the US who pulled out the currency of the different countries from online we are not sure if they are the recent currency that is in use.

Online documentaries


18-minute documentary on the Citizen's Initiative for Constant Light - Turkey

Turkey: In 1997, over six weeks, the “One Minute of Darkness for Constant Light Campaign” mobilized approximately 30 million citizens in synchronized low-risk mass actions to pressure the government to take specific measures to combat systemic corruption.


18-minute documentary on the Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) social audit

Kenya: MUHURI (Muslims for Human Rights) is empowering communities to fight poverty by curbing misuse of community development funds. It conducts local education and training in social audits, while using nonviolent tactics, such as street theatre, marches, and site visits.


Online resources and tools on civic action to curb corruption

Resources and tools on civic action to curb corruption:

Online resources & tools on effective people power

Creating or choosing a nonviolent action comes at the end of a process of strategic analysis. These 3 links give good background on strategy:

Some general resources: 

There are also some other great organizations that have resources online, of which you may already be aware:

The Book of Shame

This is an idea that we have not yet implemented but we designed with the face book in mind. We ask our members to report incidents of "small' corruption and through our facebook network we seek confirmation of incidents and c if others had similar experiences with the same person or public authority. If it collaborated then we add the name (or authority) to the book of shame. Can anyone give us some comparable ideas or feedback that we can use to better the design?

Civic complaint initiatives

I very much like the idea in principle. But I would caution using Facebook, for one, its very limited options to control and keep privacy and personal data, and secondly, its lack of flexibility when getting into the details. Keep in mind when developing these kinds of applications that anonymity and privacy is often of high importance given that in most countries bribery is an act of crime. For both sides: bribe giving and taking. Often, the people who engage in reporting these acts need to be seen as whistleblowers and thus very vulnerable (see also the other comments in this dialogue).

Actually, the best overview can be found in the final report by the Technology for Transparency Network. There, you'll find a good discussion of similar civic complaint initiatives for reporting acts of bribery and generally issues of local governance through different technology platforms. One of the results the report found is that the platforms will be more successful if a cooperation between the local government and the NGO is strived for. You need to work with, not against the government (of course, this is not always possible).

Here are some platforms that might give you some ideas:

Kiirti, India: http://transparency.globalvoicesonline.org/project/kiirti

Praja, India: http://transparency.globalvoicesonline.org/listing/praja

I Paid A Bribe, India: http://ipaidabribe.com/

Penang Watch, Malaysia: http://transparency.globalvoicesonline.org/project/penang-watch

Ishki, Jordan: http://transparency.globalvoicesonline.org/project/ishki

Ask Journal, Russia: http://www.askjournal.ru


It's the last day of our dialogue and over in my part of the world, the day is coming to a close. Thank you NEW TACTICS, Kristin, Engi, Georg, Graziela, Harika, Badri, May, Shobila, Mahabat, and Kristin for our dialogue. Thanks to all the people who posted comments, resources and expertise, and to those came online. For those who are directly engaging in civil resistance and are involved in civic campaigns and movements to fight corruption and injustice, and win accountability and rights; it's both humbling and inspiring to witness your ingenuity, courage, determination, humanity and accomplishments. You embody what Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

PS: Great anti-corruption song/video

On a closing note, if you haven't heard this great anti-corruption hip-hop song and seen the accompanying video about the Muslims for Human Rights social audit in Kenya, do check it out.


I'm collecting anti-corruption songs/music videos from around the world. If you know of one, please send it to me: sbeyerle[at]nonviolent-conflict.org.

backfround from the International Budget Partnership: This video is for the campaign song commissioned for the release of the Open Budget Index 2008, which rates 85 countries by the amount and type of budget information their governments make available to the public. The OBI is based on the findings from the Open Budget Survey 2008—a comprehensive analysis and survey that evaluates whether central governments give the public access to budget information and opportunities to participate in the budget process.

This video is for the campaign song commissioned for the release of the Open Budget Index 2008, which rates 85 countries by the amount and type of budget information their governments make available to the public. The OBI is based on the findings from the Open Budget Survey 2008—a comprehensive analysis and survey that evaluates whether central governments give the public access to budget information and opportunities to participate in the budget process.

Interesting Corruption Control Event in Nepal

In July 2009, Nepal’s anti-graft body, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), came up with a smart idea to discourage staff at Kathmandu’s international airport from taking bribes. CIAA suggested top officials at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) make “pocketless” pants mandatory for all staff.

The suggestion came after widespread reports and complaints by airline passengers about petty corruption, such as bribery and theft, by staff of CAAN, various airlines, customs and immigration, and even by security personnel posted at the airport. CIAA’s pitch made international headlines, but it seems the plan served only to make a mockery of Nepal’s corrupt officialdom. The suggestion even prompted CAAN officials to discuss the idea, but they failed to come up with a concrete plan of action.

The result: The “pocketless” pants are nowhere to be seen, complaints from airline passengers haven’t stopped and bribery continues at the Kathmandu airport, if reports in local media are accurate.

Pocketless pants - brilliant!

Samundra - Thank you for sharing the "pocketless" pants idea!  I'm very sorry that it hasn't been implemented...yet.  It sounds like a great idea! 

I'm not sure if this "pocketless" pants campaign was meant to be funny, but you may be interested in looking at our past dialogue on Tactics that Tickle: Laughing all the way to the win for ideas on how to add a bit of humor to a human rights campaign.

Have tactics like this, preventing the ability for someone to store the bribe, been implemented in other places?  How have others used humor in their anti-corruption campaigns?

Satellite RTI Petitions

With increased violence against whistle blowers, we have come up with a novel idea of filing petitions using the Right To Information Act from different locations. Any sensitive issues to be addressed more than one petition from different parts of India will be filed so that no single individual will be targeted.

Coordinating petitions submissions

Thank you, Shobila - this is a great idea! Without giving away too much information, how would you recommend that a group of citizens coordinate something like this? There must be a network of supporters that must be built, and then you ask them to submit specific petitions at the same time. This is such a fantastic way to support the whistle blowers!

Are there other examples out there of this tactic being used in other countries?

Corruption control

Hi Paudel,

This seems like an example of why civic power is essential. Without it, there was not enough pressure on the CAAN to take measures to curb corruption at the airport.  

Nepal's Situation of Corruption

Nepal has the dubious distinction of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Corruption — from petty to grand — is endemic here. In recent years, Nepal has fared terribly in global indexes of transparency, accountability and corruption. For instance, in
Transparency International’s (TI) 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index, Nepal scored 2.5 out of 10 (down from 2.7 the previous year).

The Kathmandu airport, customs, immigration, land-revenue, transportation management and police departments across the country continue to have a bad reputation. They are considered hotbeds of often petty — and at times heavy — corruption.

TI’s 2008 index ranked Nepal as the country with the fourth highest level of corruption among the eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Overall, Nepal ranked 124th out of 180 countries included in the report.

Bribery and corruption have been thriving for years in key offices responsible for Nepal’s public service. And that culture is showing no signs of changing for the better, despite the ground-breaking “revolution” and political changes that have swept Nepal in recent years.

Campaign Finance Monitoring in Lebanon

The Lebanese Transparency Association, Transparency International' chapter in Lebanon; monitored the campaign finance of candidates in both the 2009 parliamentary elections as well as the 2010 municipal elections.

Both projects would have never been possible if it wasn’t for the youth who volunteered in order to implement the projects' activities.

In 2009, LTA recruited and trained 79 field monitors along with 5 regional coordinators who were covering 26 electoral districts (equivalent for the entire Lebanese territories). During these elections, LTA's monitors were conducting 4 field visits each in his/her respective district to assess the increase for candidates’ publicity. The same monitors were also attending public events and rallies. After each field tour the monitors would report to LTA the number of publicity for the candidates/lists/political party, and they would also do the same after attending the events. For each field tour LTA developed a different template to be filled by the monitors.

The monitoring activities were conducted before and during elections day, where LTA monitors were present in a representative sample of polling centers covering the entire Lebanese territories.

You may access the 2009 elections report on the following link: www.transparency-lebanon.org/publications/englishcfm.pdf 

The complete training methodology is included in the report, as well as the results of the head quarter and field monitoring activities.

On another note and during the 2010 municipal elections, LTA widened the scope of monitors to reach the 200. These monitors received several trainings which enabled them to monitor in particular candidates’ expenditures. The monitoring activities were similar to the ones conducted for the 2009 parliamentary elections. LTA will issue the report for the 2010 municipal elections shortly.

Election-monitoring in Lebanon-youth play key role

Thanks for this great summary, May!

public awareness campaign in Pakistan

The National Accountability Bureau and National Anti-corruption Strategy in Pakistan have started a 10 years project entitled as “Initiation of public awareness campaigns at different levels” started in 2003 and 2004.

The awareness campaign, which has already been launched, is carried out at a national level. It uses the electronic and the print media, workshops and seminars to achieve the objectives given below. The project team is also interacting with public office holders, civil servants, the cooperate sector, educational institutions and the general public to form a broad based coalition. The awareness campaign is also using institutional channels, such as schools, colleges and even the Pakistan Civil Services Academy to enhance the level of awareness against corruption. Curriculum changes are being made in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to make it more value based.

The project aims to enhance the level of awareness in the society against corruption; the adverse effects it has on the development and progress of the society as well as on the individual. It also aims to enhance an individual’s knowledge of his own rights and the states responsibility towards her/him with an objective to create an environment, which fosters self-sustaining accountability. Finally the aim is to make a shift from reactive unilateral approach against corruption to a broader approach through support and mobilization of society. The National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), a project by National Accountability Bureau advocates a comprehensive strategy against corruption based on awareness, prevention and enforcement. The awareness campaign has been initiated and has the following components:

Media Campaign:

  • Talk shows on various TV channels.
  • Specially developed TV public service messages of 35, 15 and 10 seconds to be run on various TV channels.
  • 150 outdoor hoardings of various sizes, hand painted/skins, all over the urban centers in Pakistan.
  • The NACS logo, which has been finalized, appeared along with an anti-corruption message on utility bills (electricity, telephone, gas).
  • Specially developed investigative documentaries highlighting corruption would be run on various TV channels on issues related to corruption. These documentaries would also cover case studies of those state institutions, which have been successfully reformed.
  • TV serials/dramas emphasizing moral values and ethics would be aired. Two such serials based on real life National Accountability Bureau cases have already been aired.
  • Inculcation of sound moral values at school, college and university levels and during pre-service training of civil servants.
  • Workshops are presently being conducted in collaboration with Ministry of Education to introduce anticorruption themes in the curriculum. Final recommendations would be forwarded to the Ministry for implementation but the same initiative not took place till the year 2010.
  • Awareness against corruption also enhanced at school and college level through debates, essay-writing competitions and organizing special events. Care is being taken to convey the message in a subtle manner without mentioning words such as corruption. Emphasis is on inculcation of moral values and ethics.
  • Initially the aim is to inculcate a sense of ownership on the part of the public office holders so as to build a coalition for the awareness campaign.
  • Similarly workshops and seminars have also been designed at the national, provincial and district level.
Public awareness

Thanks for sharing with all of us in the dialogue the public awareness campaign that is under way.


Topic locked