Thank you to all the Conversation Leaders for their time and commitment to taking part in this important conversation. Please take a moment to learn about the conversation leaders by clicking on their profile photos.
Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:
- What are the steps civil society can take to combat corruption?
- What are the obstacles faced by civil society in combating corruption?
- How can civil society develop successful advocacy efforts for good governance?
- Provide examples and stories of success of civil society combatting corruption
- How can activists advance the cause for good governance?
To kick off the discussion.....If you review anti-corruption techniques and interventions over the years, the most successful anticorruption efforts have commitment from political leaders as well as public support. Anti-corruption initiatives where civil society, in partnership with government and private sector actors, raises awareness and works not only to combat corruption, but to build integrity, have a higher success rate in terms of systematic designing out corruption. There is considerable global evidence on the active role civil society has played over the years in promoting participatory government and holding government to account. The impact of citizen participation on strengthening democracy, service delivery and empowerment is increasingly recognised (Spurk, 2010). Furthermore, there is a growing evidence base on the impact that civil society led anticorruption efforts have had on indirectly reducing corruption and increasing state responsiveness (Chêne, 2012). Therefore a strong partnership and sense of collective responsibility between civil society and government is vital to build strong democracies and reverse the negative effects of corruption. Some great examples of this in practice are, for example from my personal experience, Integrity Watch in Afghanistan (http://iwaweb.org/) or some great stories and examples from Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice - Shaazka Beyerle's book (a must read for all anti-corruption practitioners in my opinion).
Thank you for sharing the link Integrity Watch in Afghanistan. I particularly liked the story about "Why Should a Bridge be Built three Times in Afghanistan?" It reminded me of how powerful and essential citizen participation has been in India for combatting corruption in local communities.
The organization, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), researches local government records, records interviews and organizes public hearings to expose acts of corruption. These public hearings provide an opportunity for citizens to publicly challenge officials on the difference between the promises that were made and reality.
Nancy, I totally agree. We have a lot to thank MKSS for in this space. They pioneered the way for so many!
Hey Joy, thanks for the thoughtful post!
We have seen the same principle in our work on open contracting: the more civil society can work with government and the private sector jointly, the higher the success rate. A good case in point is Ukraine.
I think a good tactic to make this happen and find a common ground is to understand the different use cases between the different groups - in our case for public procurement. We've done this in developing the Open Contracting Data Standard and it really is one of the concepts now when we support partners from governments and civil society that has been working in bringing them closer together. Here's a useful post by my colleague Lindsey that explains some of the workshops that can be done to explore this idea of creating use cases.
Georg, I'm a big fan of Open Contracting and love what you do!
As many as two in three people worldwide believe that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption. Whether it’s taking on an abusive school system, exposing a crooked driving instructor or blocking the re-election of a corrupt mayor, individuals are demonstrating their power to bring about lasting change in their communities.
Yes! But do you have the link to the research?
Thanks Joy, you are right, link is missing. Here you can find the results of Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer:
The 3rd graph shows the results we got when we asked people the extent to which they agreed with the following statement: ‘Ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.’
Overall, two in three (67 per cent) people around the globe believe that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
Asalas - the world map link you shared is really interesting. I also explored the informatin related to individual countries and the perceptions of their citizens.
Nancy, you are totally right. According to Transparency International at the last International Anti-Corruption Conference in Malaysia, NGOs face unprecented times in terms of governments trying to limit their freedoms.
I think in part, this is what the Open Government Partnership is trying to combat in their collaborative approach to making governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/. Of course, there are some challenges in trying to deliver open government reforms (particularly about whether governments are being ambitious enough) but there has been an impressive take up with 70 countries signed up in the last 5 years.
In relation to specific examples of NGOs working to build a fairer, just society, I think the work I did at Integrity Action speaks to some great examples (see below)....in working to build integrity, we took a collaborative and constructive approach with government and providers to deal with the problems in service delivery (more often than not due to corrupt practices, fraud or mismangement) by looking to improve three areas 1) access to information (transparency) 2) participation of communities 3) effectiveness of service delivery. We found that a combative, agressive approach was not received well by government and so if you were lucky it might work once, but to get sustainable change needed constructive dialogue and joint problem solving.
We found in an overwhelming number of cases that access to information wasnt provided and so worked with civil society groups to improve access to information laws in country so that they could hold government to account. [As an aside Open Contracting do a great job on this: http://www.open-contracting.org/] if government is willing to be transparency, then
However, some specific examples from Integrity Action:
1. In Kenya, the President was keen to limit the work of NGOs because of the high number of brief-case NGOs that persuaded foreigners to invest in local NGOs, but then went on to pocket the money so was keen to pass a bill that limited external (non domestic) funding for NGOs to 20%. Our feedback from NGOs was that was going to shut down many vital NGOs because they were funded from overseas. Instead, our partner National Taypayer Association worked with the government and the NGO council to introduce extra transparency requirements for NGOs to ensure they were valid rather than funding requirements which would have limited their efforts. This work is still on-going but shows the power of collaborative working with government to keep channels of communication and work open.
2. Palestine - working with AMAN (TI Palestine): http://integrityaction.org/case-study/ramallah-municipality-palestine-pr...
The cases in Palestine (http://integrityaction.org/index.php/case-studies?field_re_target_id=10&...)show time and time again that government was hestitant to work with NGOs and were willing to limit their impact until they realised that we had a constructive and collaborative approach that was focused on problem solving (and not just highlighting problems) and then were willing to share and work together to ultimately improve services.
In specifically tackling your question in countries where the space for civil society is shrinking, Shaazka Beyerle's book (Curtailing corruption: people power for accountability and justice) has some great case studies that might help...
Shrinking space for civil society and journalists is worrying me increasingly. Thanks for sharing these great examples of how to find ways to work constructively, but also independently with government despite a challenging environment.
I am always impressed by my colleagues and friends working and continueing to work in so challenging environments. Sometimes, a stronger international voice that criticizes where boundaries are slowly moving towards closed would be welcome.
A key challenge is to provide channels that these activities actually create lasting change. As you know, Mexico's recent changes are a great example of how civil society has identified a clear solution to an opaque system and moved this forward towards legislative revolution. Transparencia Mexicana, as you know, has been one of the main leaders in making this happen!
Georg, it's great to be a part of the conversation with you. Thanks for sharing the Mexican case. It's a great example of civil society advocacy and civil society policy input combined with people power. The article states that over 650,000 documented signatures were collected to introduce the civil society/people's legislation. When we think mass mobilization tactics, the first that often comes to mind is demonstrations, but this is just one of dozens of large-scale tactics, and demonstrations are not necessarily the best choice in a given situation. This signature drive is an example of another mass mobilization tactic. While a proportionate number of signatures was legally required, many thousands more were collected. This wielded incredible pressure on the politicians which pushed them to pass the legislation. Another similar case is Ficha Limpa (clean record/slate) from Brazil.
The Movement against Electoral Corruption coalition (MCCE) collected 1.6 million signatures to introduce the Ficha Limpa (Clean Slate/Record) legislation to the Brazilian Congress, which would prohibit candidates from taking office if they have been convicted of specific crimes by more than one judge (misuse of public funds, drug trafficking, rape, murder or racism). Following a sustained campaign of street actions, and later, digital civil resistance coordinated by avaaz.org, the bill was passed both in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It subsequently was approved by then-president Luis Ignazio da Silva in June, 2010, and in February 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that Ficha Limpa was constitutional and would be enforced. One can also read a chapter on Ficha Limpa in "Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice" (Rienner 2014). It's also a valuable example on digital resistance - nonviolent resistance in the digital realm.
Hi, all - glad to be a part of this conversation and thanks to others hear for starting things off with some thoughtful and in-depth ideas and content. I wanted to add one idea to the mix, regarding the first question posed in this discussion, namely, want can civil society do to combat corruption?
While the drivers of global corruption, both in the public sector and private sector, are complex, a key driver is wealth and profit. Simply put, all too often individuals or companies exploit or game weak governance mechanisms to enrich themselves personally, at the expense of the public and the commonwealth.
However, for those involved in such corrupt transactions, once they've attained their ill-gotten gains, they need to find a way to spend them without being detected and held accountable by law enforcement, electorates, the media or civil society. That's where the global financial system comes in.
Far from being a passive actor in the ecosystems that serve corruption, there are plenty of examples of institutions and individuals who are willing participants in a 'shadow' financial system that helps hide, move and launder illcit financial flows from one corner of the globe to the other.
The work we do at Global Witness - alongside partners such at TI and many others - seeks to expose not only corrupt deals in the first place, but the architecture of such schemes and how the financial system played a role in faciliating such deals in the first place.
But, beyond our work, perhaps the best example has been the Panama Papers - which, as some of you may know, was the largest single data leak ever recorded, and which uncovered a world of illcit finance, law firms taking on suspect clients, and shadowy shell companies that touched hundreds of countries. And, this just one law firm! The story showed just how broad and deep this world of shadow finance is, and how it is intertwined even at the highest levels of government and industry.
So, given the critical role that the financial system plays in faciliating corruption, a recommendation we're making is that players in that world - from the banks and bankers, to the lawyers and accountants, the realtors and the tax havens - should be obligated to player a larger role in deterring illicit finance and to be held more accountable for their role in doing so.
If we can make it harder for corrupt actors to move the money siphoned off from corrupt deals in the first place, we can help deter such actions, but perhaps as important, we can create space for civil society and other reforms to build or remake the institutions of governance that can shine a light on pubilc spending, private and public sector interactions and transactions,and other aspects of governance that should be conducted more out in the open.
We've got some ideas on how civil society, as well as individuals, can play a role in making that happen, but would love to hear other people's ideas and reactions about how groups and individuals can engage on this strategic front in the broader effort to tackle corruption. What do you all think?
Groups and regular people can make a difference in impacting global financial corruption. Organized, nonviolent, people power campaigns and initiatives are essential. For example, they can create political will, pressure policymakers and decisionmakers to take actions and implement measures, including those proposed by civil society. They can start to shift powerholders' positions, not only from governments but from the sectors of societies that are enabling financial corruption, e.g. financial, legal, accounting sectors. Above this comment is a link to an article (English and French) with Dr. Peter Ackerman on this topic, with some short case studies. If I remember correctly, Global Witness was involved.
Thanks for the invitation to participate in this conversation. I'll be happy to share some of the experiences we've had at the Open Contracting Partnership from working on uncovering and fighting corruption in public procurement, notably government's number one corruption risk.
One of the key developments over recent years in this space has the development of e-procurement and opening up that data publicly. This has happened in part through applying open contracting. The concept of open contracting builds on the idea of publishing standardized open data to open up the full public procurement process from planning to implementation and engage with citizens and the private sector to create change. This has opened up new opportunities for civil sociecty to monitor, track and engage with government in this crucial area.
Let me highlight some of the examples of how using open data in public procurement has worked:
Joy, thanks for mentioning my book. Info can be found here: www.curtailingcorruption.org. It has a chapter on Integrity Watch Afghanistan's (IWA) community-based monitoring of reconstruction and development projects.
For those who are intrested to learn more, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) is empowering villagers in community monitoring of internationally and domestically funded projects, in order to curb corruption and improve reconstruction and development. While the numbers change with time because the community-based monitoring continues, since 2010 to approximately last year there were 560 fully completed civic initiatives. In 460 (82%), either problems were uncovered and rectified as a result of grass-roots community pressure, or those responsible for the projects (contractors and the State) cooperated during the process, or no problems were found. Among the final cases, there was no “success” in that irregularities weren’t discovered during the monitoring, site access was blocked to citizens, or the communities weren’t sufficiently mobilized. IWA is also empowering communities and volunteers to monitor courts, schools and in some cases, extractive industry.
Monitoring can be considered a defining method. In the people power/civil resistance field, this is a special category of tactics. The term was coined by Dr. Kurt Schock, a leading scholar in this field who is at Rutgers University, and it is a series of sequenced nonviolent tactics that together wield people power. There is a main tactic around which a number of other tactics revolve. In the case of community-based monitoring, the main tactic is monitoring but there are many others that come before and after.
One of my favorite resources from IWA is this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xPa25X8oRwE -- fast forward to 16.10 to see how community-based monitoring looks in reality. I think I managed to upload two photos which show how people power involves multiple dynamics - engagement with the public and powerholders (stakeholders, officials, media, etc.) and disruption of the corrupt status quo (monitoring the road).
Here's the second photo.
In case anyone would like to see some more examples of community based monitoring working in practice. Here is a handful of short videos from Kenya, Palestine and Kyrgyzstan showing different perspectives: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrNb4FVh17xvHaJ93csDUwdLCeGBlm88 Enjoy!
Brent, thanks for bringing all of us together. There are multiple dimensions to this online conversation on the role of civil society to combat public sector corruption. We're already starting to focus on the role of citizens. Already today so many compelling examples have been given and many more will be cited in the days ahead. Literally, over the past 18 years, millions of people have been involved in organized campaigns, social movements or other forms of civic initiatives impacting corruption.
What is corruption? How we define a problem affects how we try to tackle it. A traditional (Transparency International) definition is: "the misuse of entrusted power for private gain." But there are some limitations. First, the abuse of power is not limited to private gain, but can also be for political gain or collective benefits for a third party, entity, group, or sector, for example, state security forces, political parties, businesses, financial services, and unions. Second, it’s helpful to think about how corruption functions. It’s not just a collection of unconnected transactions. It functions as a system of power abuse involving a multitude of relationships, some visible but many others hidden, hence our struggle for transparency. Third, within this system are long-standing interests that will try really hard to maintain the venal status quo. They may try to supress honest people, reformers and integrity champions, and in public administrations they may pressure or force their colleagues or subordinates to engage in corrupt practices. They may thwart change through many different ways, from non-compliance to intimidation to violence.
Thus, I propose a systemic definition: "a system of abuse of entrusted power for private, collective, or political gain – often involving a complex, intertwined set of relationships, some obvious, others hidden, with established vested interests, that can operate vertically within an institution or horizontally cut across political, economic and social spheres in a society or transnationally." A systemic approach looks to disrupting systems of corruption or the corrupt status quo in the short run, with the longer term objectives of dismantling them, reforming/reshaping institutions, and changing practices, norms and attitudes. Activities such as monitoring are examples of disrupting the corrupt status quo. They also include citizen-generated information and engagement with both the public, officials and other stakeholders both state and non-state (e.g. private sector, unions, professional organizations, cultural/community/youth organizations, religious organizations, educational institutions, etc.)
But what about a bottom-up, people-centered view of corruption? For regular people, corruption is not an abstract evil. We can experience it. Aruna Roy, the great Indian civic leader (among other things, in the Right to Information movement) said corruption is "the external manifestation of the denial of a right, an entitlement, a wage, a medicine." When we take Aruna Roy’s people-centered view, the priorities shift to controlling those forms of graft and abuse that are most harmful or common to citizens, particularly among the poor and marginalized. This brings us full circle to combatting corruption in the public sector. Those who are often affected and harmed are the poor and marginalized in a given society, as they have the least resources and a great need of public sector services and support.
[i] Aruna Roy, “Survival and Right to Information” (Gulam Rasoon Third Memorial Lecture, Forum for Freedom of Expression, Hyderabad, India, n.d.), 11.
“The man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.”…Wole Soyinka
Civil society is fundamental to stemming the tide against corruption. However, civil society faces a number of obstacles in combating corruption. Below are a few examples:
i) Credibility of CS; in a number of countries where corruption is endemic, some civil society organizations are perceived as fundamentally/inherently corrupt. Consequently, civil society’s fight against corruption is viewed skeptically by the general public; and its goal, an inherently more difficult fight. Civil society must reform itself to gain the public’s trust and make the fight against corruption a “personal goal” for everyone. Fundamental reform and the ability to make fighting corruption personable to the average person; are goals civil society must set and achieve.
ii) Fighting corruption requires credible research, investigative journalism, etc. It takes time and resources. Resource constraints such as lack of financial and human resources are common challenges for CSOs. Donor funding, a critical driver of funds for CSOs are volatile and insufficient funding lowers CSOs staff morale. The domino effect is that some CSOs become ineffective in the fight against corruption and on occasion, become willing participants in a corrupt system.
iii) Financial resources: The resources of corrupt people and of governments cannot be compared with the resources of civil society. This has a huge impact on how CS can fight corruption. Outside donor funding can sometimes be seen as funding to destabilize a country. In such cases, CSOs might be targeted or their organizations de-registered.
iv) Fundamental to the fight against corruption is an independent judiciary. A corrupt judiciary system is an infection that eventually disseminates to other parts of society, eroding the public trust and beginning the process of the disintegration of society. Ensuring that the judicial system remains independent and the rule of law promotes good citizenry are fundamental pillars in civil society’s charge against corruption.
Hello Olajobi. I thought a lot about your post and the quote by Wole Soyinka, which is so powerful. The real challenges you outlined point to the need for new, creative forms of organized civil society that go beyond the traditional ideas about NGOs and CSOs. There are some emerging hybrid organizations, for example, the Accountability Lab @AccountLab and Rhize @RhizeUp that are blazing new paths - in terms of their own transparency and credibility, working as "co-creators" (to quote Rhize) with regular citizens, and presence at the grass-roots. In my research, Hussein Khalid, the former Executive Director of MUHURI (Muslims for Human Rights) who now heads up HAKI Africa in Kenya discussed the relationship between the CSO and citizens. When talking about the communities, he said, "The key actors were the communities and we were backing them up...The issues were owned by the communities...I don't know where one starts and the other ends. The communities are part of us and we are part of them." MUHURI had multiple pillars of focus and engagement, from national advocacy over human rights issues and passage of right to information legislation, allo the way at the micro level, with community empowerment and action. An excellent online documentary about MUHURI's social audits can be found here (English, also French and Spanish subtitles). Another trailblazing NGO is Serbia on the Move. One of its areas of focus is combatting corruption in the public health care system and improving health care services.
Your comments about donors also point to a need for donors to change their ways of interacting with civil society organizations. Two resources that are pushing for new approaches are: @USIP's "Aid to Civil Society: A Movement Mindset" (Maria Stephan, Sadaf Lakhani and Nadia Naviwala); and Chapter 12 from Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice. To download chapters 2, 4, 5, 8 and 12 of this book - click here.
Citizens can also be sources of sources of information about corruption in the public sector. This can complement the work of journalists, or supplement it in cases where the media is constrained. Information generated by citizens can have legitimacy and it can be more difficult for corruptors to disregard it. Such information can be collected through low-risk tactics. For example, in Uganda, citizens reported police extortion demands through SMS and calls to a live radio talk show.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan has deliberated on how to improve the judiciary in Afghanistan and how to empower citizens in this process. They have developed an innovative community-based monitoring program of courtrooms, in which regular citizens are the key protagonists. Joy, is there more you can tell us about it?
Glad you are mentioning AccountabilityLab. Their Integrity Idol in Pakistan, Liberia and Mali - making honest politicians to stars - is a fascinating concept and has been quite successful. As this recent post on the Global Anticorruption Blog rightly said: Never is everybody corrupt.
So celebrating integrity is awesome.
Nonviolent action - also called civil resistance, nonviolent struggle, and nonviolent conflict - is the bottom-up method to fight oppression and injustice through which people power is wielded. It involves strategy, planning, organization, communications, and tactical selection and sequencing.
People power refers to the social, economic, political and psychological pressure that is exerted on state and non-state powerholders by significant numbers of individuals, organized around shared grievances and goals, engaging in a variety of nonviolent tactics, such as civil disobedience, non-cooperation, monitoring, information gathering, face-the-public forums, petition drives (offline and online), strikes, boycotts, low-risk mass actions, and demonstrations. The pioneering nonviolent struggle scholar, Gene Sharp, documented over 198 types of tactics. New ones are constantly generated by movements and campaigns, including those targeting corruption, for example: monitoring; public forums; information gathering about budgets, spending, public services, development projects; Right to Information procedures; cooperation with state integrity champions; protection of state integrity champions under threat; aiding whistle-blowers; joint citizen-state committees and boards (e.g., Provincial Monitoring Boards launched by Integrity Watch Afghanistan); negotiation;bottom-up ethics and integrity trainings for public officials.
Monitoring is a tactic often used by civic actors – including regular citizens - to combat public sector corruption. It can involve: observing, recording, verifying, comparing, overseeing, checking, and inspecting. In the anti-corruption context, the targets of such activities are: 1) people (for example, election candidates, parliamentarians, government leaders, public officials, civil servants, social service providers, police); 2) institutions (parliaments, public administrations, government agencies, judiciaries, state security forces, municipalities, corporations, universities, schools, hospitals); 3) policies (such as poverty reduction, education, natural resource exploitation); 4) budgets and expenditures; 5) public programs, social services, public works; procurement practices; procurement outcomes; and 6) social and economic development projects conducted by governments and/ or external actors. Monitoring can either be visible (for example, public audits or site inspections) or anonymous (for instance, mobile phone videos or SMS reports of public officials and police demanding bribes). Effective monitoring creates social pressure and disrupts corrupt practices within systems of graft and abuse.
There are three main dynamics to people power in the corruption context, including in the public sector:
This Spectrum of Allies illustration by Joshua Kahn Russell was originally published in Beautiful Trouble and appears here courtesy of a Creative Commons license.
Thank you for highlighting the "Specturm of Allies" tool. New Tactics adapted the original 7 segment spectrum to these 5 segments illustrated in Beautiful Trouble. The original "Spectrum of Allies" comes from Training for Change. New Tactics provides some helpful resources in our Strategy Toolkit for organizations that are seeking to "Map the Terrain" and utilize the "Spectrum of Allies" a very useful tool to help them identify appropriate tactics for the people, groups, organizations, institutions, etc who fall into each of the 5 segments.
The searchable tactics database helps people to expand their tactical options by looking at tactical aims: prevention of abuses; intervention in an abuse; promotion of human rights institutions and cultures; and restorative - seeking justice, redress and healing.
I'm interested to know how you and others would view our current tactics in the database regarding "corruption" in some form or another as these might relate to your own efforts to combat corruption.
Nancy, New Tactics has so many excellent resources and I'm glad you've highlighted some. As you may have noticed, I adapted (with credit of course) some of them in the Freedom from Corruption self-study curriculum.
Thanks for sharing this terrific resource and adapting New Tactics resources into this application for people working to combat corruption. The examples provided by groups from around the world provide inspiration and hope that corruption can be addressed in creative and effective ways!
A question for the other participants in the conversation: What resources has your organization found to be particularly helpful and / or inspiring for your efforts to combat corruption?
Please see the post on the Backfire Model - in our conversation on whistleblowers.
My work has been focused mostly around community based monitoring and teaching on integrity. To help with those, we created
community based monitoring guide: http://integrityaction.org/training-materials/52
integrity education textbook: http://integrityaction.org/publication/live-and-work-integrity-you-can-d...
But there are lots of resources on the Integrity Action website
I also find the U4 publications good: www.u4.no and the AP intact network: @apintactnetwork
The UN Global Compact is a call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take actions that advance societal goals. The tenth principle against corruption was adopted in 2004 and commits UN Global Compact participants not only to avoid bribery, extortion and other forms of corruption, but also to proactively develop policies and concrete programmes to address corruption internally and within their supply chains. Companies are also challenged to work collectively, and join civil society, the United Nations and governments to realize a more transparent global economy. Collective action is a major part of our work. We also work with investors to ensure that in making investment decisions; anti-corruption is a major part of it. For more information on the UN Global Compact, on anti-corruption, on UN Global Compact 10th Principle and SDG 16