31 May 2012

Joining Forces with Russian NGOs in Fighting Corruption

The Civil Society against Corruption network, supported by the Romanian Academic Society (SAR) and the European Research Center for Anti-corruption and State-building (ERCAS) at the Hertie School of Governance, has joined forces with Russian NGOs in the fight against corruption. The main partner in the region is the NGO Golos, which advocates for fair, transparent and free elections and conducts short-term and long-term election monitoring in almost all regions in Russia. Golos has 12 years of expertise in watchdog activities regarding elections as well as in developing training and education programs for voters about exercising their democratic rights as citizens. Their experience extends to five Federal elections and hundreds of regional and local campaigns with the support of their regional departments established in more than 40 regions of Russia including Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

The collaboration with Golos consists of exchanging experience and examples of good practice in anti-corruption initiatives. Among their main contributions to the Civil Society against Corruption network are their constant inputs regarding relevant news in Russia, updates on their new initiatives, and most importantly, their assistance in developing a Russian version of againstcorruption.eu.

Ties with the Russian anti-corruption civil society extend to other organizations as well. The first contact with Russian NGOs was established in the fall of 2011, and an active cooperation started in January 2012, when SAR, represented by project manager Daniela Marinache, organized meetings with representatives of Russian civil society organizations in Moscow, which led to very fruitful exchanges of experiences and discussions of potential collaboration from these organizations to the further development of the Civil Society against Corruption network. Elena Panfilova, director of Transparency International’s Russian Chapter, and Anton Pominov, Research Director at the same organization, saw their involvement and contributions to the network as a window of opportunity to strengthen the project and bring the most current anti-corruption initiatives to light, especially in the present context of increased mobilization of Russian civil society for monitoring of the public administration and more transparency in the election process. TI-Russia showed great interest in including their most successful projects and initiatives on the againstcorruption.eu platform and in offering support to other NGOs willing to develop anti-corruption projects in the country.

The Institute for Information Freedom Development from Saint Petersburg was also enthusiastic to be part of our network and sent us information regarding their organization and activity. Since 2004, the institute performs monitoring of government bodies’ official websites. Of most interest is that they have developed a special methodology for analyzing official websites’ contents and calculating the so-called information openness rate. Showing and sharing how they managed to implement such a monitoring mechanism would be an important added value to our network and the NGOs that also wish to implement such a project.

The Russian experience made clear the importance and the achievement of expanding the Civil Society against Corruption network and the Anti-Corruption Toolbox project to the Russian region. We wouldn’t have been able to make this important step without the common interest and enthusiasm that we shared with the Russian NGOs. With Golos and other organizations being part of our Eastern Europe anti-corruption network and sharing their expertise on our website, complemented by our effort to implement a version of againstcorruption.eu in Russian language, we expect to increasingly reach other segments of Russian civil society and integrate them into the regional debate on anti-corruption issues and in knowledge-sharing circles of innovative and successful initiatives to fight corruption.