14 Feb 2011

Grassroots Anticorruption Resource Webpage for Eastern Europe

A new anticorruption resource webpage and a report on ‘Civil Society as an Anticorruption Actor’ was launched on September 15, 2010 at the Open Society Institute in Brussels in the presence of EU officials and aid industry exceutives. www.againstcorruption.eu was realized by the Romanian Academic Society in cooperation with Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and includes nearly 500 anticorruption projects from the last ten years of work of NGOs in Eastern Europe. Country reports on the effectiveness of civil society as an anticorruption actor can also be found on the webpage, which includes a database of most significant projects, as well as diagnosis tools and recommendations for anticorruption activists.

In the general report analyzing the effectiveness of civil society in promoting good governance in Eastern Europe, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi from the Hertie School of Governance found that “the [lack of] strength of civil society explains most of the level of of corruption, with controls for development, political pluralism and market institutionalization. It is a stronger determinant of good governance than political pluralism, market institutionalization and any other component of democracy except media freedom”.

But civil society is weak and resourceless in many new EU member countries, accession and neighboring ones. As the report explains, resources for corruption remain great in these countries, including:
a. public jobs, as the public sector is extremely politicized and each winning party fills not only political offices but many civil service positions with its own people;
b. public spending, for instance the commissioning of public works, but also preferential bailouts, subsidies, loans from state banks;
c. preferential concessions and privatizations from state property; and
d. market advantages in the form of preferential regulation.

A survey of governance by the World Economic Forum in 2009 found only Estonia and Georgia on the border between the fifty most advanced countries and the rest of the 138 countries surveyed. For headings such as government favouritism and diversion of public funds due to corruption, response to this survey by business experts did not reveal great differences across the postcommunist region, suggesting that differences are in size rather than in kind. The report argues that the two countries had active civil societies but also virtuous governments, which cut resources for corruption by deep market reforms.

She argues that no efficient state-building formula can exclude civil society, but not one colluding with the government, but one able to increase ‘normative constraints’ by creating integrity markets, where public actors need to compete to prove integrity. Such work is still very reduced in the present, the report claims, with only 3% of projects surveyed involving voluntary work and the majority treating corruption in general rather than focusing on a sector. The report claims that post-EU accession monitoring was partly ineffective due to collapse in donors’ financial support for civil society, which left the European conditionality like ‘a bow without an arrow’. Civil society needs funding independent of government, and programs focused on increasing corruption costs, not expert programs; also distributed through flexible small grants mechanism, conditioning money of grassroots activity. Estonia is given as a positive model for EU funds distribution for good governance, although the report found that EU contributted less than a third of anticorruption funds for civil society impact projects. The study also found proof of large impact for small sized grants of smaller donors, such as Norwegian government, Open Society Institute or Balkan Trust and recommended that EU anticorruption money is channeled through such donors than EU bureaucratic channels.

Full report, country reports, database and contacts on www.againstcorruption.eu