Authoritarianism and corruption increasingly threaten democracy on a global scale, including by undermining public trust and institutions. The fight to prevent and combat corruption has featured prominently on the political agendas of many international, multilateral and bilateral organizations, resulting in substantial anti-corruption commitments and initiatives. Recent examples include the political statement adopted during the June 2021 UN General Assembly Special Session on Corruption. While these statements clearly signal international recognition of the challenges at hand, gaps remain in states’ legal frameworks and practical approaches to anti-corruption.
One entry point for supporting progress on this front is to focus on existing international and regional anti-corruption standards that states have already committed to - by becoming a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), for example, or signing regional treaties. Anti-corruption evaluation mechanisms (like the peer review mechanism led by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption and the African Union’s African Peer Review Mechanism) also produce vast repositories of expert guidance and recommendations on pathways for improving anti-corruption frameworks and their implementation.
IFES partners with the CEELI Institute (CEELI) to implement two unique programs that take these international and regional anti-corruption standards and evaluation recommendations as their starting point. Both projects are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. They build on strong partnerships with local organizations that steer research and action planning to fit unique contexts. They also aim to shift incentives to effectively address corruption by providing direct technical support to institutions and navigating questions of political will.
The Effective Combat Against Corruption (ECAC) project was launched in September 2018. Through this project, IFES and CEELI provide technical assistance directly to domestic stakeholders and influencers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Romania. The project will also be expanding to Kosovo in late 2021.
The ECAC project also supports peer dialogues on pressing corruption challenges in the Eastern European region, bringing together international organizations, government agencies and civil society organizations to share diverse perspectives and identify solutions to implementing programs and advancing reforms. These sessions respond directly to emerging challenges, such as building transparency and understanding around political spending and advertising as campaigns move increasingly into the cyber realm, and maintaining meaningful court monitoring activities during public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building on the ECAC program model, the Implementing Anti-Corruption Treaties and Standards (IMPACTS) project was launched in 2019 in Armenia, Malaysia, The Gambia and Ethiopia. Under this project, IFES and CEELI support partners’ ongoing efforts to identify and prioritize outstanding international and regional anti-corruption commitments and effectively implement anti-corruption reforms backed by sufficient political will to make sustainable change. The project added two new target countries – Morocco and Algeria – in late 2021.
As our partners under both projects identify new needs for tools and guidance to support their programming, we also leverage our combined networks to develop new resources to fill the gap. For example, IFES’ new guide for turning action into analysis Piercing the Veil: Using Peer Reviews in the Fight Against Corruption emerged from the ECAC project. The guide supports anti-corruption stakeholders’ efforts to engage with high level experts and processes and leverages existing recommendations for enhancing national laws and practice. To help position civil society in post-transition contexts to better take advantage of openings for reform, IFES partnered with CEELI to develop the Anti-Corruption and Anti-Money Laundering Course for Civil Society in Post-Transition Environments under the IMPACTS project. This course was designed to build a common understanding of corruption and the tools and strategies available to combat it among a diverse group of civil society advocates.
Based on significant research and consultations, ECAC and IMPACTS partners work with state institutions, legislatures, academics and civil society partners to address gaps and challenges in:
- Management and control of political finance;
- Prevention and documentation of abuse of state resources;
- Asset recovery;
- Public procurement and spending;
- Public sector ethics;
- Law enforcement reforms;
- Effective criminalization of corruption; and
- Judicial independence and integrity.
Published on October 21, 2021.