From the Ground Up: Assessing the Record of Anticorruption Assistance in Southeast Europe

From the Ground Up. Assessing the Record of Anticorruption Assistance in Southeastern Europe

By Martin Tisné and Daniel Smilov

Publication date: July, 2004
ISBN: 963 86569 1 3, paperback
ISSN: 1785-4377 (Print), 1819-8287 (Online)
Series: CPS Policy Studies Series
Extent: 76 pages
Availability: Order for free

Based on research findings from twenty case studies from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Macedonia, this policy paper assesses the effects of five years of donor-supported anticorruption projects and high-profile public awareness campaigns in Southeastern Europe.
As a starting point, the paper posits that while projects seem to have succeeded in raising public awareness and demand for reform, solutions to match that demand have yet to be found. The authors question both what reforms or change in particular the projects raised expectations for, and what success the implemented measures thus far may claim. The donor community's failure to meet the high public expectations that their projects fostered coincides with falling trust in democratic institutions in the region. The paper underlines the urgency to respond to citizens' needs and expectations. The authors of the case studies argue that the reviewed projects had only a short-term impact, if at all. Projects generally failed to create a self-sustaining constituency for further reform, and when success was achieved it often depended heavily on contingent factors such as the presence of a 'champion' or the availability of an exceptional level of donor resources for a single, receptive client. The most successful projects provided direct benefits to a well-defined constituency. In all cases, reducing corruption was one of the declared aims of the reviewed projects; yet interview material and project reports showed that none of the donors claimed that they had effectively achieved this goal.

In conclusion, the paper argues that donors should seek to build sustained public demand for a realistic, long-term anticorruption reform agenda. This can be achieved, firstly, by moving away from the fight against corruption per se -- characterized by large-scale public awareness raising campaigns and broad NGO coalitions -- and towards mobilizing well-defined constituencies behind focused governance reforms that have a clear impact and benefits for those involved. Secondly, citizens should be encouraged to fight corruption through the democratic mechanisms of political representation by supporting, among others, political party reform. If anticorruption reforms are included in the political process and meet public needs, the long awaited mobilizational potential of the anticorruption agenda might yet be realized.

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