Changing the Rules of the Game
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A Paradigm Shift
With the first decade of the new millennium having drawn to a close, transparency now has a firmly established place on global, regional and national agendas. It has become fashionable for political candidates to campaign on anti-corruption and good governance platforms. International agreements have been ratified and international firms progressively adopt compliance and oversight programmes.Yet trust in institutions on which our future depends has eroded. At the individual level, widespread apathy is the result of continuing abuse and impunity. The challenges that threaten the rights and livelihoods of populations across the world have increased while hope for greater social justice has faded: Efforts to reduce poverty and deliver on promises for sustainable development, human security, the curbing of illicit trade and climate control have not yet resulted in positive change. Progress in all these areas is seriously threatened by corruption.At the same time, a great number of people – citizens, activists, government officials and journalists – are working to fundamentally change the rules of the corruption game. Their individual and collective efforts strengthen people’s participation in governance and disrupt systems of corruption. They create incentives for integrity and accountability, drying up the sources of abuse. Their work wins broad-based support from different sectors and they accelerate change. The individuals and organisations behind these initiatives are [game changers] who empower people in the fight against corruption.Their strategies build on more traditional awareness-raising strategies and complement the policy reforms that have been the hallmarks of the fight against corruption. Yet they permit much bigger ambitions for sustainable change that improves livelihoods. When informed citizens can stand up safely against corruption, exerting their rights, accountability becomes tangible. Changes in laws and institutions that hitherto existed merely on paper are beginning to make a real difference in people’s lives.This paradigm shift towards a people-centred approach in the anti-corruption struggle has been evident from many submissions to the 14th IACC. Diverse actors and organisations have expressed their interest to share experience and learn from others who aim to empower people in the fight against corruption. These diverse perspectives are broadly described in the following section. As a demand-driven initiative, the 14th IACC will structure its new “people empowerment special sessions” along these three dimensions …
The first dimension of this paradigm shift concerns an accelerating dynamic of mobilising people against corruption. Increasingly, citizens themselves are taking centre stage in creating change. People and communities articulate their demand for an end to impunity and better government. Citizens and NGOs are using new technology to make their voices heard, denouncing corruption where it threatens livelihoods. Community organisations and others are increasingly engaging people outside the capitals and in marginalised neighbourhoods in the fight against corruption. Others are using non-violent campaign tactics to hold leaders accountable.
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Please note that panelists often speak in Spanish.
What is common to many of these initiatives is their bottom up character, putting the focus on people’s priorities not the setting of top-down policy objectives. Mobilising people has the potential to be a real game changer in the fight against corruption. However, despite their impressive range, these efforts to empower people need to be brought up to a massively greater scale to create sustained demand for better governance.
Supporting Victims, Witnesses and Whistleblowers
The anti-corruption community, including NGOs and law enforcement agencies have long acknowledged the bravery and importance of individual action against corruption. In recent years, a number of governments, businesses and civil society organisations have considerably stepped up their efforts to support those who have experienced corruption. Increasingly, individuals and communities are coming forward to take a stand against the abuse of public or private office. Initiatives supporting people range from educational activities and basic advice on filing official complaints to strategic litigation.
While there is an increasing number of assistance mechanisms in place for people to report and pursue corruption, far too many people around the world – among them often the most vulnerable – remain unaware of their rights. Too many are still outside the reach of information and professional advice that empowers them to confront abuse. In some countries, the shrinking space for civil society and an increasing number of threats to anti-corruption activists and investigative journalists are also preoccupying signs in this context. In particular the public image and personal security of whistleblowers remain threatened by inadequate laws and negative public perceptions in many countries.
It is a challenge for governments, businesses and civil society alike to respond to these trends and to massively expand their support to victims, witnesses and whistleblowers.
Connecting the [Game-changers]
While mobilising and supporting people are perhaps newer trends emerging from the anti-corruption community, change in policy and practice remains absolutely critical in many traditional areas. Effective access to information regimes, whistleblower protection, investigative journalism and the respect for fundamental political rights are particularly important enabling conditions for people-centred anti-corruption strategies. Empowered people will in turn fundamentally reinforce systemic change in these areas.
At the same time, traditional priority areas for those fighting corruption are re-shaped by external trends, notably the growing role of technology. New ways of collecting, disseminating and using information promise massive opportunities for transparency but also bring some new challenges for those promoting change. Game-changing strategies have emerged in this area in recent years.
[Game-changers] are people who work to empower others, in highly diverse country contexts and across all sectors. They use diverse strategies and tactics as well as innovative approaches to working with information technology. The challenge for these [game-changers] is to redouble their efforts to put in place the critical enabling conditions as they increase their work to empower people to fight corruption. A key ingredient of their success is collaboration with a wide range of actors.
Connecting the [game-changers] and building new coalitions against corruption will contribute to substantially scaling up their efforts and accelerate sustainable change.