Creating an anti-corruption ethos: Civil society and donors working together

Patrick Alley, Yaw Buaben Asamoa, Ghassan Moukheiber, Phil Mason, Heather Baser, 10th IACC, Workshop report, Civil Society

 

Chair:
Heather Baser, Programme Coordinator, European Center for Development Policy Management, the Netherlands

Panellists:
Patrick Alley, Global Witness - London, United Kingdom
Yaw Buaben Asamoa, Executive Secretary, Ghana Integrity Initiative, Ghana,
gi@ighmail.com
- Creating an anti-corruption ethos: Civil society and donors working together
Ghassam Moukheiber, President, The Association for the Defense of Rights and Freedom, Lebanon
Phil Mason, Anti-corruption Coordinator, DIFID, United Kingdom

Discussants:
Mr. Gamal, Lebanon
Dieter Frisch, Transparency International Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
Ms. Shazli, National Democratic Institute, Beirut, Lebanon
David Ndii, Transparency International Kenya
Rama Krishna, Transparency International India

As the first speaker, Phil Mason outlined the joint anti-corruption concept put together by the like-minded so-called Utstein Group (Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom) which produced a joint anti-corruption policy in May 2000 with four strategic objectives:

  • strengthening the international framework (e.g. OECD), including regional co-operation

  • pursuing activities on the local level in developing countries: harmonising (donors') procedures, strengthening financial management, accounting, etc.

  • strengthening strategic considerations in donor agencies (budgetary procedure, sector wide approach of aid, macro economic approaches in aid, etc)

Mason expected from the participants of the workshop concert proposals on how to change and thus improve donors' procedures and policies. He wanted official channels of DFID, so they could be discussed within the Utstein Group.

As the next panelist, Patrick Alley demonstrated from his experience how awareness building in alliance with official donors' support can curb illegal logging. The cited example was Cambodia, where Global Witness, through a constant and careful spread of information on illegal logging and lobbying in Cambodia herself and with international and bilateral donors and agencies illegal logging has today become more difficult. Global Witness was finally appointed by several donors and is reporting to the government on its findings on logging. The organisation has been asked to undertake a similar monitoring process in Cameroon.

Thus, through the combination of "watchdog" NGOs with an awareness campaign vis-a-vis donors corruption could be curbed, if donors take up the issue as a strong tool and discuss it energetically with the respective government. Mr. Alley warned however, that the pressure had to be maintained. Otherwise, if the issue at stake would be followed up only half heartedly, the evil would only be exacerbated.

The next speaker, Yaw Buaben Asamoa, suggested to group the fight against corruption under three broad areas:

  • opportunity reducing measures

  • management of incentives

  • awareness enhancement

Mr. Asamoa drew the attention of the participants to the problem that civil society often does not have the capacity for proper monitoring and requested that this capacity be further increased. The measures could include, among others:

  • standardization of donors' procedures

  • donors should pressure the Government to really consult with the civil society

  • the dialogue between donors and civil society should be formalised,

  • the governments should use independent organisations for monitoring and evaluations

  • donors should open a frank and energetic dialogue with the respective governments and not hesitate to touch upon delicate issues as still too often is the case

  • donors should finance CSOs' capacities by supporting their administrative costs - and not only specific projects

Ghassam Moukheiber concentrated his remarks on the relationship between donors and CSOs. The latter are often acting like quasi state institutions. Major problems could arise through the different perceptions donors have of the CSOs with whom they co-operate (non-profit oriented, efficient implementation, visibility, accountability) and the CSOs' visions of their own role (participation, transparency, accountability).

CSOs face internal and external problems. External: lack of freedom of association, undue regulatory obstacles to funding especially from abroad, government approval required for projects). Internal: partly no democratic structures, non-membership based, lack of appropriate bye-laws and constitutions.

Often CSOs who do not support government policies or have the so-called watchdog functions suffer from regulatory hindrances and thus are not visible. As a result, the proper CSOs may be overlooked by donors and therefore not be supported.

The panelist requested:

  • a proper definition of criteria, standards, under which CSOs could work

  • the promotion of democratic standards for non-membership based CSOs (which often have a high level of professionals), and institutional capacity building for membership-based CSOs

  • good internal governance

  • to develop rules of conduct, jointly between donors and CSOs

  • to develop the relevant policy jointly between the respective donor of a CSO and the CSO itself

Discussion

Strongly endorsed was the request of strengthening the capacities and the professionalism of CSOs. Different examples were cited where this is happening. This relates to issues like developing a code of conduct for CSOs, strengthening the professionalism through university courses (with a certificate), the establishment of a CSO resource centre (Lebanon). ToR for CSOs should not be too narrow in order to leave room for their development.

Also stressed was the necessity to support the "right'" CSOs which promote development and peace in their country.

Attention was drawn on the possible danger, that too strong an emphasis on endorsing professionalism may have negative effects on the capacity of CSOs to reach the grassroots. Instead, "traditional structures" should be used and maintained.

Attention should be taken to avoid creating "islands of integrity".

A participant suggested breaking down the aid process into different stages where corruption might and could take place. This would allow to better locate the occasions and reasons for corruption. At each of these steps, CSOs should participate. The first one would be the conceptional stage as the most important one, followed by the implementation stage, its preparation (tender and procurement) the implementation itself, etc. One important element to enable the CSOs to participate in this process at equal level with government and donors would be sufficient training in order for them to reach the necessary professionalism.

Main Themes Covered

  1. Joint Initiative of Utstein Group to combat corruption

  2. Collaboration between CSOs and donors in order to reach measures to curb corruption

  3. From awareness-building to awareness-enhancing: concrete proposals how to capacitate CSOs for being really able to play a participatory role (see also contribution of Mr. Asamoa)

  4. Relationship between donors and CSOs and their different perceptions; the importance of increasing the freedom of association for CSOs

Main Conclusions

  1. The role of CSOs should be strengthened, also in relation to activities in donors in the respective country. This includes participation in planning and conceptual discussions with their government and with donors, in monitoring, evaluations, etc.

  2. There is a need to formalise the inclusion of CSOs in the consultative and monitoring process with their government and donors.

  3. There is a need to increase the transparency of goals and the support provided. The relevant reports have to be released.

  4. The participation of CSOs has to start at the planning period and should continue throughout the implementation of the projects/programs.

  5. The freedom of association for CSOs has to be strengthened distinctly (see also contribution of Mr. Moukheiber).

  6. In all above mentioned areas donors have to take additional responsibility in strengthening the role of CSOs, be it in their discussions with the respective government (on the receiving side), or by supporting the capacities of CSOs to strengthen their capacity in order to be able to effectively play their role.

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