Author: Izabela Chmielewska
Unlocking Corruption: Why did we host this event?
On December 8th, 2021 we held a joint pre-summit event with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) centered around Unlocking Corruption: Frontline Perspectives on Locally Led Solutions. The recently concluded Summit for Democracy and the OGP Global Summit this month created ripe ground to convene around corruption: a vexing problem that is transnational, systemic, and complex.
The aim of this online gathering was to contribute to an open, ongoing, and globally inclusive conversation about the value — and limits — of locally-led anti-corruption approaches, and the supportive role global actors can play in unlocking sustainable solutions that utilize co-creation and address the political economy drivers of corruption.
Chaired by Pallavi Roy (Research Director, SOAS-ACE Anti-Corruption Evidence Research Partnership Consortium), the event consisted of three brief presentations, interactive small group discussions, and reflections from Abigail Bellows (Deputy, Policy, USAID Anti-Corruption Task Force).
The presenters – Nkemdilim Ilo (CEO, of the Public and Private Development Centre, Nigeria), Aryanto Nugroho (National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay, Indonesia) and Raphael Fuentes (Director General, Public Procurement, Panama) – gave practical insights on the design and implementation of policy reforms aimed to protect and improve the use of public resources in their respective country contexts. The following discussions took on a wider global lens on localized anti-corruption initiatives.
Local Insights: What came out of the discussions?
While corruption should not be generalized to a one-size-fits-all framework, learning across contexts can be helpful. The speakers shared their first-hand experiences of how locally-led approaches can fit within the wider context of transnational corruption.
Aryanto Nugroho emphasized that the extractives sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption, but working with CSOs & multilateral organizations can help promote transparency. Nkemdilim Ilo highlighted the importance of localizing global standards (such as open data) as an effective plug for leakages in procurement and contracting, an often cumbersome process that should be contextualized and collaborative. Raphael Fuentes pointed to digitization, open bidding, and micro-procurement to combat corruption and discretionality, stressing that all sectors should be involved during the policy journey (especially implementation), with political buy-in at the highest levels.
The small group discussions focused on policy journeys at the crossroads of locally-led approaches and global support networks. The rapporteurs shared several insights that emerged from the conversations, namely:
(1) Local champions are essential to push through effective reforms, and there needs to be a healthy balance between local leadership and external support to ensure policy agendas are aligned with local, not external, goals.
(2) A deeper understanding of the local context and the associated political economy dynamics – the interests and incentives of various actors – is needed to ensure that the policy reforms can be implemented as designed.
(3) Due to often divergent dynamics, time horizons of policy changes tend to be long and unpredictable while summit goals tend to be lofty, so accounting for implementation gaps and addressing them with adaptable solutions that carry local legitimacy is a feasible way forward.
Moving Forward: What’s next for locally-led approaches to addressing corruption?
At the end of the event, Abigail Bellows shared her reflections about how USAID’s approach to supporting progress against corruption might be informed by the agency’s enhanced emphasis on locally-led approaches to development.
While locally-led approaches are not new, there is a notable shift towards incorporating localization as a central strategy for anti-corruption and international development by large agencies, including USAID. In November, Administrator Samantha Powers committed funds to shifting the power dynamic: from the current 6% of funds going to local partners to 25% in 4 years and finally to 50% by the next decade. This means placing “local communities in the lead to either co-design a project, set priorities, drive implementation, or evaluate the impact of our programs,” as Bellows emphasized, echoing Powers’ statements.
The objective is to shift away from donor-driven development to amplify local voices – with the potential to make development more inclusive, more equitable, and more responsive.
Anti-corruption initiatives should be “locally led, not locally isolated” – as Bellows pointed out. They should be bolstered by the international community with technical and financial assistance to address their limitations in ways that are co-creative, not extractive or prescriptive. This is where multi-stakeholder initiatives, particularly OGP and EITI, can bolster the efforts of local leaders by extending a collaborative network that supports transparency, accountability, and open governance. In these ways, reforms can stick and make a difference.
As stated in the December 9th USAID press release, on International Anti-Corruption Day, “local actors are critical to diagnosing the root causes of corruption, exposing corrupt acts, shifting social norms, and mobilizing support for ambitious reforms. When anti-corruption efforts are locally rooted, they are more likely to be effective and sustained.” Global actors and networks can further sustain these efforts by providing adaptive support that enables co-creation of solutions that work.
We look forward to seeing the emergence of an anti-corruption agenda that is locally-led and globally-connected, and that is itself informed by open and globally inclusive conversations about how to best address corruption and its political economy drivers.