28 Sep 2012

ERCAS Director Discusses Corruption in Eastern Europe at Sida Event

ERCAS Director Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi participated last month in the seminar “How can we fight corruption in Eastern Europe”, organised and hosted by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in Stockholm, Sweden. She presented the findings of the study “Contextual Choices in Fighting Corruption: Lessons Learned”, commissioned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) to the Hertie School of Governance and published in 2011.

Prof. Mungiu-Pippidi pointed out that Eastern European countries are on average doing better than other regions in control of corruption. However, despite EU accession and the implementation of several anti-corruption programmes in the region, significant improvement has been limited in the last decade.

While addressing the main question that inspired the seminar – “how can we fight corruption?” –, Prof. Mungiu-Pippidi argued that the answer does not lie in determining what causes corruption, but rather in understanding that societies afflicted by systemic corruption have this as a default mode of governance, based on an equilibrium between resources that feed corruption and constraints that counteract it. Effective approaches to fighting corruption thus involve measures that contribute to shifting this equilibrium.

Prof. Mungiu-Pippidi also criticised common anti-corruption programmes supported by international donors in the last years, highlighting that an important explanation for the lack of effectiveness of those programmes is the fact that they relied on partnerships with corrupt governments, which have no incentive to fight corruption seriously. She argued that donors should instead support actors that stand to gain from increased control of corruption, and emphasised the role of a strong civil society and freedom of information in checking government actions and the implementation of anti-corruption policies.

Evidence presented by other participants in the seminar also corroborated the points made by Prof. Mungiu-Pippidi. Goran Miletic, Human Rights Lawyer and Programme Director for Western Balkan at Civil Rights Defenders, for instance, showed how the implementation of an Ombudsman institution in Serbia was distorted by additional regulation requiring that Ombudsman reports are submitted and approved by Parliament, thereby limiting the level of independence of this institution from the political process. Professor Jakob Svensson, from the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University, also highlighted that traditional approaches to anti-corruption have not worked in the past years, and that it is important to develop mechanisms to allow those that pay for corruption to exercise pressure for change.

More information on the event is available in the article “Tough fight against corruption in Eastern Europe”, published on www.sida.se.