Just a Way of Life?

People often think corruption is ‘just a way of life’, but every society, sector and individual would benefit from standing United Against Corruption. On this International Anti-Corruption Day we recognize that corruption is a major hindrance to stability, security and sustainable development. The scale of the issue is huge. Sixty-eight per cent of countries worldwide (with a total of 6 billion people) have a serious corruption problem. Not one single country, anywhere in the world, is corruption-free.

But what is corruption and what does it mean for those living in society and how can it be tackled?

One definition of corruption is ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’. It can take many forms. Corruption can be grand corruption committed at a high level of government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, to allow leaders to benefit at the expense of the people. Petty corruption involves the everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies. And political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth.

But beyond the definitions and the figures, what does it mean for ordinary citizens trying to live and operate where corruption is rife? What does it mean for businesses operating in corrupt systems?

Many companies perpetuate corrupt practices, paying bribes to rig bids to win public procurement contracts. A commonly cited World Bank estimate from 2005 places the total cost of corruption around $1 trillion annually. Some estimates place the total cost of corruption at more than 5 percent of global GDP each year, which amounts to $2.6 trillion, or 19 times larger than the $134.8 billion spent globally on official development assistance (ODA) in 2013. The Center for Strategic and International Studies produced a report using World Bank data in February 2014 that estimated private sector corruption alone accounted for $515 billion or more annually. It is estimated that the financial burden on the private sector organizations is around 10% or more in terms of added costs of doing business in many parts of the world. The result is that economic growth is impeded, competition distorted and serious legal and reputational risks for businesses are incurred. The WEF estimates that moving a business from a country with low corruption to one with medium or high corruption constitutes a 20 percent tax increase for that business.
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International Day of Peace: A Cacophony of Perspectives



Happy International Day of Peace!”

September 21st is always an exciting day for us peacebuilders when we come together to galvanize the world around the importance of peace.  Even Facebook greeted their millions of users at the top of our feeds this morning with a video to remind us that “Peace Begins With Love.”

As with all the other international days to recognize important issues, we use this day to build awareness of the importance of peace, such as the London-based global campaign #PeaceOneDay, and as a call to action to do something for peace, such as USIP’s #PeaceDayChallenge.

Do you have a clear definition in your mind of what exactly “peace” is?  I have been pressed several times in the last month to define peace.  Or rather, to acknowledge that there are so many different definitions of peace that this might hinder us professionals from sufficiently aligning our efforts to make a real difference in the world.  So with this cacophony of messages and initiatives on Peace Day, I am both inspired by the number of caring people and organizations involved and also aware of our disparate and diverse pieces of peace.
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Civil Society and Business Leaders: Forging a Needed Partnership

Business leaders and leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs) generally speak different languages and often find it difficult to connect. This is despite the fact that both sides realize the other’s value— companies need the skills and knowledge that CSOs offer while civil society wants to operate with more business acumen and wants to offer its services to the private sector.

With this dynamic, PartnersGlobal is always keen to convene leaders from these two sectors. In June, with funding from the Ford Foundation, we held two training sessions for civil society in Nigeria and Senegal to learn how to diversify their sources of funding—a key component of this was having discussions between business leaders and CSO representatives on how the two sectors can benefit from each other.

In the lead up to the event, our West Africa affiliates, Partners West Africa – Senegal and Partners West Africa – Nigeria explored the opportunities and challenges of social entrepreneurship in both countries and then conducted a survey of 45 civil society organizations who could benefit from a training on diversifying funding streams. Based on these two preparatory activities we had a pretty good sense of whom to invite as well as the content that would be most relevant. In both countries the program entailed: a business panel, CSOs sharing their own experiences of sourcing fee for services, pitch simulations to various private enterprises, and then a presentation that provided concrete advice on diversifying income sources.
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How Businesses Can Help Deliver On The Sustainable Development Goals

Achieving the SDGs will require the private sector to work in authentic partnership with civil society and resist going back to business as usual.

Through an incredibly participatory process, the United Nations brought the world together to launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All 193 Member States agreed in September to an ambitious agenda of 17 new global development goals that aim to end poverty, promote well-being and protect the planet.

Yet I find myself wondering whether we will go back to business as usual, or will the SDGs really spur us to collaborate between sectors to achieve real change by 2030?

Many have criticized the SDGs for including too many issues — 17 goals with 169 targets — raising the risk that we could splinter off into our silos to work toward our “favorite” goal, forgetting the importance of long-term policy changes through strong local institutions. Goal 16 addresses this systemic, societal change:

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Unfortunately, the private sector and local civil society often find themselves at odds on issues of accountable governance, social inclusion and peacebuilding; but meaningful joint investment to achieve Goal 16 are important now more than ever.
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The Intersection of Politics and Civil Society in Albania: Collaborative Policy to Support the Sector is Possible

Fall_of_Communism_in_AlbaniaTwenty-five years after the collapse of the Albanian communist government, Albania continues to experience the growing pains of a democratic transition. Throughout the years, the presence of a strong and active civil society has been a key factor in the democratization of Albania. Yet, civil society in Albania has continued to struggle to maintain their significance as advocates for citizens’ concerns.

Historically, civil society in the Balkans has been at the center of progressive change; dozens of prominent activists in the region have used civil society as a springboard for political careers. However, their entry into politics has proven to be controversial, at times even weakening or detrimental to the organizations left behind. These incidents have also triggered a broader debate about the intersection of politics, civil society and European aid in the region. Still, others argue these cases show the vitality of civil society, validating its influence and its successful penetration into politics.

Nonetheless, the cases of using civil society as a catalyst to push political agendas have shaken many citizens’ belief in civil-society initiatives. This consequently creates the opportunity for those against civil society to disenfranchise and disenable productive civil society spaces. In addition, the nuances of the bureaucratic legal and regulatory frameworks have been affecting civil society’s development and operation in the country. As a result, needed reforms and democratization have been slow to unfold within this political dynamic.

This has yet to stop Partners Albania’s efforts to address the most pressing issues for civil society development and citizen participation. Partners Albania has developed new frameworks that contribute to increased cooperation between civil society actors, and both local and national governments. By promoting new legislation that legitimizes and sanctions citizen participation processes, and by utilizing participatory methods to implement current policies, Partners Albania has made strides to integrate change and conflict management in a meaningful way. Their methods have encouraged new models of participatory governance and cooperative planning.
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Introducing “Partners Global” – More Than the Sum of Our Parts

Think Global, Act Local is a well-known slogan and call to action that asks us to be mindful of our collective impact. All Politics is Local is a truism that reminds us that citizens get most involved with issues that affect their daily lives. Local First has become common jargon in the development field to reinforce the values of local ownership over solutions and assistance programs. With all the (warranted) importance placed on this “local” perspective of bringing about change – what is the place for “global” action? What is the value of “Global Civil Society?”

Partners GlobalWe have been asking ourselves this question as our network celebrates our 25th Anniversary this year with the launch of our new brand: Partners Global, (formerly Partners for Democratic Change International) consolidating our two hubs in Washington D.C. and Brussels. As a network now made up of 19 local autonomous organizations working for peaceful and democratic change, we have been jointly investing in local leaders, local organizations and local solutions since 1989. Beginning with our first member in Partners Poland, to our newest member in Partners El Salvador, we represent a rich diversity of local initiatives and perspectives; however, we also recognize the need to strengthen ourselves as a global platform. This is not always an easy undertaking when working across cultures, time zones and languages; but the evolving challenges to peace and democracy throughout the world require solidarity, cooperation and action from a Global Civil Society. Why is this global orientation so important?

  • Global Impact by Connecting Local Expertise: Our 19 member organizations have worked on 5 continents and more than 50 countries. We have developed and then shared many programs with each other throughout the years: anti-corruption expertise from Romania, extractive industry conflict resolution from Peru, participatory budgeting from Jordan and countering violent extremism from Yemen. We conscientiously translate our national expertise and experience into global knowledge, and continually reflect together to transform our work.
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Fostering Peace and Transforming Conflict, One Barrio at a Time

Many know Bogotá as a model of urban development in Latin America. In 1993, the city was in crisis, with a recorded homicide rate of 81 per 100,000 inhabitants. To put this figure in perspective, in 2014 there were 328 murders in New York City, or about 4 per 100,000 inhabitants. Over the next few years, however, a series of progressive mayors implemented innovative policies to fight crime and violence. For example, Antanas Mockus sent mimes into the city to use comedy to cajole residents into coexisting peacefully, while Enrique Peñalosa constructed miles of bicycle lanes to influence positive and healthy social behaviors. By 2014, Bogotá enjoyed one of Latin America’s lowest murder rates and citizens took pride in their beautiful and safe city.

While this transformation was certainly dramatic, many would argue that it simply served to contain crime and violence in the city’s most marginalized barrios. These geographically-isolated and precarious communities cling to high mountain peaks on the city’s northern and southern outskirts. Their inhabitants are generally rural refugees fleeing the country’s bloody civil war who constructed makeshift shelters wherever they could find room. As a result, just a few neighborhoods account for an outsized percentage of Bogotá’s poverty and crime. For example, just six of the city’s 109 neighborhoods accounted for 55% of the city’s homicides in 2014.

Photo by D.R. 2006 Caleb Harris

Photo by D.R. 2006 Caleb Harris

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Yemen Youth Lead

Before the uprising in Yemen I worked as a Computer Engineer in Sana’a, Aden, Mukalla and Hodiedah. It was a good opportunity and I was happy to have a stable job in a country where unemployment is so high. On my free time I would volunteer with civil society organizations. Increasingly, I started to love my volunteer work, more than I did my job. When the revolution finally came to Yemen in 2011, I knew then that my place was with the youth and the civil organizations that demanded reform. During that time, I quit my job and started working full time with youth and civil society organizations.

Since then I have personally witnessed the fearlessness, hope and commitment that the youth of Yemen have to offer. Through my work with adolescence I know firsthand that Yemen’s true transformation will come through the efforts of youth—youth whom will rise to the occasion to lead within their communities and government. During my time with Saferworld, I had the opportunity to work in the Amplifying Youth Voices program, where I met a young woman by the name of Zuha Yassin; she was one of those young people that believed she could change the world. I loved her energy, and I truly believe that it is young people like her who can make a difference.

Angry, Young and Poor

Youth have always been the engine of civil society activities in Yemen. They have worked tirelessly as vital volunteers to bridge the gaps between communities by providing aid to society’s most needy. They communicate and share their ideas and stories with each other and are priceless advocates for various causes.

Unfortunately youth have also played a role in fueling conflicts as well. This was due to the neglect they faced from local governments before the 2011 protests and uprisings. There were no sufficient funds to support them from neither national nor international donors, or even from the private sector. To make matters worse, extremist groups used religion and other youth-centered social activities, such as sport outings, trips and charity work in poor communities, to attract at-risk Yemeni youth.

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Informing the Citizenry to End Corruption


Weeding out corruption and ending transnational organised crime requires restoring accountability and transparency within all levels of society. Recently, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visited President Obama at the White House to discuss matters of security, economic development and corruption in the Nigerian government. During his visit, the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assertively tackle corruption in Nigeria. He also advised President Buhari to appoint only “seasoned technocrats” to head key sectors of the economy. 

President Buhari made clear to his U.S. government hosts that he would not appoint a cabinet until September, explaining that he needed time to root out corruption before naming his ministers. “The fact that I now seek Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150 billion in funds stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former, corrupt officials is testament to how badly Nigeria has been run,” President Buhari recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

Indeed, President Buhari has a large order to fill; public safety and economic progress in Nigeria relies heavily on who he appoints, but most importantly on his commitment to accountability and transparency. However, the weight of this responsibility is not squarely on his or the future cabinet’s shoulders alone. Nigerian citizens and the civil society organizations that represent them have a role to play in Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign. Collectively, civil society and the public must help identify corrupt practices, gather data to identify holes in the system and develop and implement joint solutions with the government. With proactive and productive partnerships with the Nigerian government agencies and civil society, President Buhari has many willing partners to dismantle the corruption embedded in the Nigerian governance system.

One approach to diagnosing and treating corruption is the development of partnerships between civil society and the Nigerian government agencies, such as those created through the Access Nigeria (AccessNG) project. Working with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC), National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the project has stressed the importance of transparency and accountability within these particular prosecuting agencies, since 2014.

The initiative has trained and deployed twelve civil society groups to develop engagement plans and cultivate positive and productive relations with the four agencies. For example, our partners, the Innovative Strategy for Human Development (ISHD), requested information on cases being prosecuted by NAPTIP to improve their own work on the prevention of trafficking in persons. Despite bureaucratic challenges and delays, ISHD was able to work with the NAPTIP South West regional office in Lagos to collect information on prosecutions in that region. Sustained interaction and trust between the agency and the civil society partner at the regional level made this interaction possible.

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