Curbing Corruption: Ideas that Work

ccreportThe Legatum Institute launched a new collection of successful anti-corruption case studies. The series titled “Curbing Corruption: Ideas that Work” is published jointly by the Legatum Institute and Democracy Lab. It presents a wide range of case studies illustrating what does and what doesn’t work in the field of anti-corruption. The study wants to stimulate a discussion on corruption “that draws on implemented policies, lived experience and specific details,” according to Christian Caryl, Managing Editor of Democracy Lab and Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute. By doing so it wants to avoid the pitfall of generalising anti-corruption policies, which often only work in specific contexts and addresses a particular form of corruption.

The eleven case studies take the reader into different corners of the world and into a large spectrum of anti-corruption success stories. Christopher Eglund and Johan Engvall, for example, are looking at the reforms of the education system in Georgia after the 2003 ‘Rose Revolution’. They describe the ‘big bang’ approach of sweeping reforms introduce by Alexander Lomaia, the new minister of education and science. They turned the Georgian education system around into one that values academic performance and integrity. In another case study Richard E. Messick looks at the FBI agents that uncovered a web of corruption in Chicago’s court system. He describes how they used fake trials and informants to tackle deeply ingrained court corruption. Anna Petherick analyses the case of Brazil where authorities tried to reign in on corruption on the municipality level with ‘audit SWAT teams’ performing surprise audits of municipalities. A lottery decides which municipalities are going to be audited; this way all mayors know the next audit could be in their constituencies.

These are just three out of the eleven case studies presented by the Democracy Lab and the Legatum Institute. They illustrate the broad range of cases covered in the Curbing Corruption series. The reports were launched in September with a panel discussion titled “Fixing the Fight Against Corruption”, held at the Legatum Institute in London. The panelists stressed that there is now easy fix for corruption and that solutions always have to be adapted to local environments. The case studies give plenty of food for thought in this context. Naturally the evidence they convey remains anecdotal. Yet, they spark a debate about potential policy solutions. In the end, this is exactly why they were commissioned.

Democracy in Decline

What is the state of global democracy? According to renowned democracy expert Professor Larry Diamond who spoke last week at Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance , democracy around the world continues to decline largely because of a lack of good governance.

During the event, chaired by ERCAS Director Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor Diamond presented evidence that between 2005 and 2014, Freedom House scores (assessments of political rights and civil liberties, both of which are reported every year by the organisation) consistently declined. While 5 new democracies (Fiji, Kosovo, Madagascar, Maldives, Solomon Islands) were added to the global tally, the overall trend is shifting away from democracy.

Diamond highlighted the breakdown of democracy in Russia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Kenya. In Africa, 25 nations declined in their Freedom House scores, 11 improved, and democracy overall on the continent eroded. He argued that the situation in Venezuela is continuing to deteriorate, and pointed to the incipient populist authoritarian leadership in Bolivia and Ecuador as further cause for alarm.

Shifting focus to the Middle East, Diamond looked at what he dubbed an “Arab Freeze”, arguing that the hope of the Arab Spring has in fact failed to deliver democratic gains, with the exception of Tunisia where democracy is slowly taking hold.

Why have so many democracies broken down? Diamond argues that in all instances there is a weak rule of law coupled with executive abuse of power. Many fragile or failed democracies are also quite complicated countries; they are quite ethnically or religiously or linguistically diverse.  If, as Diamond pointed out, effective institutions are not developed and if broad and inclusive political coalitions are not developed, the results (for example in Ukraine) can be disastrous. Poor economic performance can also have a detrimental effect on democracy, but Diamond argues that government performance and perception of legitimacy by citizens is sometimes as or more important than mere economic success.

With many established democracies mired in legislative deadlock, and authoritarian countries gaining global influence, there seems to be little hope of inspiring new democracies. The rise of China for example as a global economic power could have negative impacts on leaders of non-democratic states who could argue that authoritarianism has produced good economic results. On a slightly more upbeat note, Diamond did point out that there is a real possibility (even in China) of economic success leading to more citizen demands for democracy. When these happen in countries that are already high-functioning, there is a a hope for democracy taking hold.