Empowering Citizens to Fight Corruption

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Empowering Citizens to Fight Corruption

Thank you for joining Shaazka Beyerle and the New Tactics online community for this dialogue on Empowering Citizens to Fight Corruption. This dialogue explored how campaigns have empowered and mobilized citizens to counter corruption in their communities. Citizens working together are gaining powerful results. This is a space to learn about and share experiences in these kinds of campaigns as well as share your ideas, resources, and stories.

Though not widely known, over the past 10 years there has been a grass-roots, bottom-up "eruption against corruption" to borrow a popular slogan from the Fifth Pillar movement in India. Citizens can and are fighting to curb corruption in their communities and countries. They are organizing and strategically using nonviolent actions such as: civil disobedience; petitions; vigils; marches; sit-ins; Right to Information laws, demanding information; monitoring/auditing of authorities, budgets, spending and services; social networking and blogging; coordinated low-risk mass actions; creation of parallel or independent institutions; social and economic empowerment initiatives; street theatre; songs; humor; and public pledges.

Why is it important to empower citizens to fight corruption?
  • Why is it important for citizens to be empowered to fight corruption?
  • Why is it important to consider the power of 'bottom-up' or 'grass-roots' approaches to curbing corruption in addition to more 'top-down' approaches?
  • What power do citizens have to make their voices and demands heard? 
  • What is civic power and how does it work?

Please share your thoughts and ideas regarding these questions by replying to this theme-comment.

Why is it important to empower citizens to fight corruption?

 There are many reasons why it’s not only important but essential for citizens to be empowered to fight corruption, and we would like to hear your thoughts. Three main reasons are:

Protest 1) People have power and can use it to curb corruption. The efficacy of civil resistance is not a matter of theory. Nonviolent social movements and civic campaigns have a rich history of ending oppression and injustice, and the apparatus of state and other forms of corruption. A 2009 study found that over the past 110 years, violent campaigns succeeded historically in only 26 percent of all cases, compared to 53 percent in the case of nonviolent, civilian-based campaigns.[i] Over the past twenty years, from the 1986 “People Power” uprising in the Philippines to the “Color Revolutions” in the former Soviet Union, corruption has been a source of deep public discontent and a key mobilizing issue of nonviolent social movements. A post on the dynamics of people power and civil resistance will follow later today. In a few hours I’ll add in the  resources section a list of good books on the history of civic power, civil resistance and nonviolent campaigns and movements.

 2) It is ordinary citizens who bear the brunt of corruption, have direct experience of it, and suffer from it. For people, corruption isn’t abstract; it can be encountered in daily life and impact their health, education, security, jobs and even survival: from a widow who cannot get her food ration card because she cannot afford the bribe demanded by the civil servant, to voters whose elected officials siphon off or misuse funds intended to alleviate poverty, to parents whose children die in collapsed schools during a strong earthquake while nearby buildings remain standing (all real examples).

Aruna Roy, one of the founders of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) movement for the “Right to Information” in India, characterizes corruption as “the external manifestation of the denial of a right, an entitlement, a wage, a medicine…" Thus corruption doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it is linked to many other social ills and injustices in society, from violence to poverty, human rights abuses, authoritarianism, unaccountability, substandard medical care and education, and environmental destruction, and other concerns.

 3) As a result, when citizens fight corruption, the priorities often shift from traditional, top-down, technocratic, rules-based strategies to curbing those forms of graft and abuse that are most harmful or common to citizens, particularly the poor. Curbing corruption is part of a larger set of goals for accountability, participatory democracy, and social and economic justice. Over the next few days we'll share real examples of cases - some going on right now - of nonviolent, civic campaigns and movements to fight corruption.

[i] Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict,” International Security, Volume 33, Issue 1 (2008). http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/reso...

Photo Credit: Image found on the CommGAP blog.

Why are bottom-up/grass-roots initiatives needed?

women gathering in IndiaWhy is it important to consider the power of 'bottom-up' or 'grass-roots' approaches to curbing corruption in addition to more 'top-down' approaches?

…And we noted that an empowered citizen is the best tool we have for fighting corruption… We must strive to reach and mobilise people from all quarters, and from all age groups.

- 13th International Anti-Corruption Conference, 2008

To their credit, there has been a growing recognition in the international anti-corruption community and among donors and development institutions, especially over the past five years, that corruption cannot be impacted unless the civic realm is involved, including grass-roots initiatives and the active participation of citizens.

Top-down approaches to fighting corruption have focused to a large degree on developing norms, rules and institutions that mainly target public administration graft. The outcome has been international agreements, legislation, institution-building, and codes of conduct and ethics. Efforts have sought to improve national and local government capacity, and public finance management. The underlying assumption was that if anti-corruption structures are put in place, then illicit practices will change. But can institutional mechanisms bring forth change when they must be implemented by the very institutions that are corrupt? Those who are benefitting from corruption are expected to willingly be the ones to curb it. So even when high level political will exists, it can be thwarted - because too many people have a stake in the crooked status quo.

That’s where bottom-up, grass-roots initiatives come into the picture. In a nutshell, top-down approaches create an anti-corruption infrastructure. But an infrastructure is a skeleton without people to activate and use it. Mobilized people, engaged in organized collective nonviolent actions are that force. People have power and they can harness that power to make their collective voice heard, demand change, and exert pressure on the state as well as on other sectors in society. But how does this happen? What are the dynamics of people power? What exactly is civil resistance? Where is civil resistance to curb corruption going on around the world? What are these civic movements and campaigns accomplishing. Stay tuned for new postings from all of us...

What is civic power and how does it work?

Have you wondered what exactly are civic power and civil resistance, and how is it that citizens can be a force to hold powerholders accountable, make demands and get results, including curbing corruption? Here is a summary of the core concepts.

CIVIC POWER: pressure that comes from significant numbers of people organized together. It’s also called people power. It’s the capacity to make your collective voice heard. This power isn’t given to people by powerholders at the top. It originates from citizens and the civic realm.

CIVIL RESISTANCE: the expression of civic power through the use of nonviolent strategies and tactics. It’s the methodology of how to make your collective voice heard and exert pressure to curb corruption and win your rights. It’s also called nonviolent struggle.

NONVIOLENT TACTICS: the methods of civil resistance. Scholars have identified over 200 tactics, and most campaigns and movements create new ones. Civic anti-corruption initiatives engage in varieties of:

  • noncooperation
  • civil disobedience
  • low-risk mass actions
  • displays of symbols
  • street theatre and stunts
  • songs and poetry
  • humor
  • citizen “report cards” for public services
  • civic “report cards” for political candidates
  • monitoring of officials, institutions, budgets, spending and public services
  • social audits
  • social networking technologies (e.g., Facebook organizing, blogging)
  • education and training
  • social and economic empowerment initiatives
  • youth recreation
  • creation of parallel institutions
  • anti-corruption pledges; public awards
  • protests, petitions, vigils, marches, sit-ins
  • strikes and boycotts
  • nonviolent blockades
  • nonviolent accompaniment.

DYNAMICS OF CIVIL RESISTANCE: civic power is wielded through the sustained, strategic application of a variety of nonviolent tactics that are designed to:

  • STRENGTHEN citizen participation and campaign organization and capacity;
  • DISRUPT systems of corruption, including dishonest relationships, illicit practices and the status quo;
  • WEAKEN the sources of support and control for unaccountable and corrupt power holders; entities, systems, and their enablers; and/or
  • WIN people over to the civic campaign or movement from the public and from within the corrupt system (e.g. honest officials).

 What this means is that civic anti-corruption campaigns and movements do not achieve goals and objectives because powerholders and authorities want to be nice or magnanimous to the people; it’s because they create pressure that cannot be ignored and they disrupt corrupt systems and relationships. For example, during six weeks in 1997, the “CITIZEN’S INITIATIVE FOR CONSTANT LIGHT” mobilized approximately 30 million Turkish citizens in synchronized low-risk mass actions, creating such pressure that the government took some specific measures to combat systemic corruption that had been demanded by the campaign. ADDIO PIZZO (meaning, good-bye protection money) is an Italian youth anti-mafia movement in Palermo, which was launched in 2004. It is disrupting the system of extortion by building an ever-growing group of businesses that publicly refuse to pay pizzo, mobilizing citizens to resist through simple, everyday acts, such as shopping at pizzo-free stores, and harnessing national and international support through mafia-free tourism initiatives.

CIVIC CAMPAIGNS AND MOVEMENTS: emerge from the civic realm and include the participation of ordinary people united around common grievances, goals and demands.

CIVIC REALM: the collective non-state, bottom-up initiatives and relationships in a society. This includes: nonviolent civic campaigns and movements; civil society organizations (CSOs); nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); community-based organizations (CBOs); civic coalitions and alliances; unions; professional organizations; grass-roots networks, committees, and collectives; local citizen groups; activists, community organizers, and last but not least, citizens.

Watch Shaazka's powerpoint presentation online.

The power of civic action in Turkey

shaazka wrote:

...civic anti-corruption campaigns and movements do not achieve goals and objectives because powerholders and authorities want to be nice or magnanimous to the people; it’s because they create pressure that cannot be ignored and they disrupt corrupt systems and relationships. For example, during six weeks in 1997, the “CITIZEN’S INITIATIVE FOR CONSTANT LIGHT” mobilized approximately 30 million Turkish citizens in synchronized low-risk mass actions, creating such pressure that the government took some specific measures to combat systemic corruption that had been demanded by the campaign.

Thank you for this great overview of civic power! There are so many great books on this topic, but it's nice to see a brief summary of the important aspects of this idea. 

I'm glad that you mention the example of 'Citizen's Initiative for Constant Light' from Turkey.  It is such a great example of your point on the power of citizens to make a change in their society.  New Tactics has a Tactical Notebook on this tactic - a great 20-page step by step account of how this tactic was implemented.  The beauty of this tactic, for me, lies in its ability to engage so many people in the campaign without asking them to risk their safety:

Light switchThe Campaign of Darkness for Light gave people an easy and no-risk action everyone could take – simply turning off their lights at the same time each evening – and thus show their displeasure with the system. Such a simple action – a flick of the switch – and yet when people saw that their neighbors had turned off their lights, too, they felt the power of their collective voices and began to invent their own ways to speak out by gathering on the streets, marching and banging pots and pans. This deceptively simple tactic carried out in a mass numbers sent a powerful signal that the public was calling for an end to corruption in Turkey.

The Tactical Notebook, A Call to End Corruption: One minute of darkness for constant light, is available for download in English, Russian, Turkish and Bangla.

Online documentary on the Citizen's Initiative 4 Constant Light

Check out this engaging and inspiring 18-minute documentary on the Turkish campaign. It's got English subtitles.

Image of video

Places to look for new nonviolent tactics to use & adapt

shaazka wrote:

NONVIOLENT TACTICS: the methods of civil resistance. Scholars have identified over 200 tactics, and most campaigns and movements create new ones.

Identifying appropriate nonviolent tactics are an important part of carrying out a successful civic action campaign.  Here are a few great places to find more information on these kinds of tactics, and to find new ideas about tactics you've never thought of before!

Shaazka posted a collection of reading materials on people power and civil resistance - are there other places we can look for new ideas?


While I like the concept of civic power and resistance for providing a very useful to capture, describe and analyse the actions and activities of citizens, it also seems to me to be too strongly focussed on the relationship of citizen against the government. In my view, the concept of accountability (and with it the relevance for the concept of transparency) provides a more balanced approach for all stakeholders to work together. It opens the discussion for the introduction of a new series of tools and platforms for citizen engagement, many of which are technology-driven, that have evolved over the last couple of years and that allow citizens to hold their governments, local and national, and leaders to account by requesting information, making processes transparent and participate in the dialogue.These measures are often preventive allowing for reducing the opportunities to carry out corrupt activities, and tie in well in the trend for Open Data iniatiatives.

Some words on the concept of accountability: It can be understood as “the concept that individuals, agencies and organisations (public, private and civil society) are held responsible for executing their powers properly. Generally, accountability is divided into horizontal and vertical accountability. While horizontal accountability subjects public officials to restraint and oversight, or ‘checks and balances’ by other government agencies, vertical accountability describes that public officials are held accountable by the citizens with elections being the main (and often only) form for citizens. The World Bank has been promoting strongly the concept of social accountability, describing active participation and engagement of citizens and civil society groups in policy-making and implementation and therefore enhancing traditional vertical and horizontal accountability relationships. A World Bank policy note describes this as: ”The prevailing view of social accountability is that it is an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement, namely a situation whereby ordinary citizens and/or civil society organizations participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability.” Participatory Budgeting, social audits and citizen report cards are classical examples of social accountability initiatives.

Just to mention a few of the most successful website that have been developed over the last years and that are more driven by the need for an open and transparency accountability relationship between citizens, government and businesses.

- FixMyStreet: As the name says, allows citizens to report any issue related to the streets in their neighbourhood.
- WhatDoTheyKnow: Make or explore Freedom of Information requests.
- SeeClickFix: Similar to FixMyStreet, but operating in the US. Here's here a very good example for how this platform was successful in bringing about a dialoguea and fixing the problem of a pedestrian crossing.
- CongresoVisible: Follow MP's and make the parliament's work more transparent. Example from Colombia.
- DineroYPolitica: Making campaign financing in Argentina more transparent.
- AdoptAPolititian: Follow what a polititian does and blog about it. Example from Brazil.

Cash transactions & secret accounts lead to money laundering

I agree with Georg Neumann. Is it not high time the world demonetizes all currency transactions and open up secret bank accounts, to prevent corruption, money laundering, arms and drug trade, terrorism, etc.?

If all transactions are made transparent using Biometric Smart card based transaction linked to a single money account the world over, would it not help to introduce transparency and accountability?

Would this not help to create a level playing field, create equality of opportunity the world over, ensure food security, good health, housing, sanitation, education, skill training, employment, social security, etc.?  

Why is civil resistance effective against corruption?

"The greatest enemy of corruption is the people". - Robert Klitgaard, Ronald Maclean-Abaroa and H. Lindsay Parris

Why is it that civil resistance can be particularly effective to curb corruption? Why is it that organized, strategic civic campaigns and movements can impact corruption in ways that top-down strategies cannot?

First, we need to think about our concept of corruption. The traditional definitions are “the misuse of entrusted power for private gain,” or the “abuse of public office for private gain.”[i] These are very useful, concise and accurate definitions. But conceptually, they do convey the systemic nature of corruption. Thus, I would define corruption as, “a system [of misuse of entrusted power] that involves a complex set of relationships, some obvious and others hidden, with established vested interests, that can cut across political, economic and social forces. [ii] This means that:

  • Not only governments and their institutions may be corrupt. Graft can potentially pervade other groups in societies, such as big agricultural landowners, the private sector, multinational corporations, oligarchies, crime syndicates, gangs, paramilitaries, and others.
  • Corruption can be horizontal. For example, there can be corrupt interrelationships across these groups, for example when organized crime infiltrate the police, security forces, and even government ministries and parliaments. [Unfortunately, this is not hypothetical...] Or when  officials from an education department collude with textbook publishers and distributors so that schools do not get all the books allocated to them, the quality is shoddy, and deliveries are late or irregular. [Philippine textbook count case]
  • Corruption can be vertical—it can flow up and down an institution. An example of how it flows up and down is in corrupt public bureaucracies or the police. Corruption goes on at the top of these institutions, from the head honchos living in grandiose villas through illicit gains, all the way down the chain to the junior staff demanding petty bribes from citizens and back up again when the junior staff are pressured to to give a percentage of their bribes to their bosses. [These are real examples...]

Second, well-organized, strategic nonviolent movements and campaigns engaging in nonviolent tactics may be particularly suited to a systemic approach to curbing corruption. Why?

  • Because mobilized, nonviolent citizens constitute a social force that can exert pressure on the state as well as on other sectors in society
  • Civil resistance has the potential to disrupt both vertical and horizontal corrupt relationships.
  • Civil resistance has a strategic advantage to curb corruption because it consists of extra-institutional methods of action to push for change, when power holders are corrupt and/or unaccountable, and institutional channels are blocked or ineffective.[iii] 

In other words, if a system is rotten, it’s hard to clean it up from the inside because those benefitting from corruption will not voluntarily want to give up their benefits. Civil resistance doesn’t change every single corrupt person into an honest person—what it does is disrupt or shake-up the system itself, making it more difficult for the corruption to continue as normal and supporting the honest people within the corrupt system who want to change it.

For example, if we look at Fifth Pillar in India, which Shobila told us about in a posting, what does filing the Right to Information Act (RTIA) application do? It disrupts the corrupt system in a given public office. When a corrupt civil servant who has collected bribes for years is faced with a RTIA  inquiry about why he/she has taken months or years to provide a document that should be processed in 30 days and he/she could be now be penalized, the bribe-demanding goes down or stops. This in turn affects other civil servants in that public office--the dishonest ones also change their bribe-demanding and the honest ones are empowered to not take bribes. Add to that other nonviolent tactics, such as posting the real rates for public documents and licenses outside the office or passing leaflets to citizens with information about the RTIA and official rates. Together, these nonviolent tactics can be part of a strategic campaign. The outcome can be that the corrupt status quo changes in that public office, and most importantly, citizens who visit that office do not have to pay bribes. [These are real examples.]

Third, civil resistance can activate an anti-corruption circle. By mobilizing citizens and harnessing civic power, nonviolent movements and grass-roots civic campaigns can create alternative loci of power, which in turn can further empower the civic realm to continue to wage civil resistance against corruption.[iv] A Kenyan civic activist explains it this way: “If people are able to be encouraged to go out, today it’s CDF [Community Development Funds], tomorrow it’s something else, and another day it’s another thing. So CDF is an entry point to the realization of so many rights that people are not getting.”[v]

[i]Transparency International. “Frequently asked questions about corruption,” Transparency International. http://www.transparency.org/news_room/faq/corruption_faq. Daniel Kaufmann, “Ten Myths about Governance and Corruption,” Finance and Development, September 2005, p. 41. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2005/09/index.htm.

[ii] This systemic definition of corruption is inspired by points made by Maria Gonzalez de Asis, World Bank, in an unpublished, working paper.

[iii] This conceptualization is based on the definition of social movements by Kurt Schock: Kurt Schock, “People Power and Alternative Politics,” in Politics in the Developing World, ed. Peter Burnell and Vicky Randall, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[iv] Stephen Zunes, Panel presentation, 13th International Anti-Corruption Conference, October 31, 2008.

[v] “It’s Our Money. Where’s It Gone,” International Budget Partnership documentary film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2zKXqkrf2E&feature=player_embedded.

Why this is so important

Terrific conversation. Permit me to make three points and, should anyone want further elaboration on any of the, then I would be delighted to so, But, in brief:

1. Many people do not adequately appreciate how enormously successful the fight against corruption has been over the last 20 years. We are turning the corner at last. More people will join the fight when they appreciate that this is not a hopeless cause, far from it - just two decades ago there were no international anti-corruption conventions, there were minimal numbers of prosecutions against bribe-paying companies (in fact only the US had a law against corporate bribery of foreign government officials - now 40 countries have such laws); there were very few civil society organizations concerned with fighting corruption and none that sought to be multilateral - now, for example, Transparency International has a network of some 90 national chapters; back then all of us seeking to develop campaigns had to use fax and expensive telephone calls - the e-mail/Internet age has revolutionized organizing, and massively increased the media focus on corruption. But, most importantly, in scores of countries today there are very courageous, driven, highly skilled, professionals leading anti-corruption civil society - we need to take strengthe from this and spread the word that this is a fight that can make major progress.

2. responding to the rise of civil society organizations with this mandate a few of us created the Partnership for Transparency Fund (www.PTFund.org) to provide small grants - usually no more than $30,000 each - to civil society groups in developing countries that have specific anti-corruption projects. We have made dozens of grants. The demand grows to the point where we can only currently fund about one-quarter of the applications. But, PTF is an example of new funding sources to empower citizens - we want to encourage applications and all the details are at the website.

3. over 40 Transparency International national chapters have developed approaches that we call in TI the ALAC, which fundamentally seek to provide people with advice and effective assistance when the want redress after having been cheated by corrupt officials. What started a few years ago as just the idea of one chapter has spread at a dramatic pace and as it does, so it takes the cases of ordinary citizens and places them at the very heart of the broad fight against corruption. 

For all of the achievements and the succes, we have an Everest of corruption to confront. The challenge is great, but we are now entering a new era in the fight that will see unprecedented participation at the grass roots levels - understanding this and acting on this potential strength will be the dominant feature of the anti-corruption global fight in the coming decade.

Thanks, Frank


Funding opportunities for citizen-based anti-corruption campaign

Frank Vogl wrote:

But, most importantly, in scores of countries today there are very courageous, driven, highly skilled, professionals leading anti-corruption civil society - we need to take strength from this and spread the word that this is a fight that can make major progress.

I couldn't agree more! I think it is so important to document and share these stories.  Documenting these stories help practitioners reflect on their own work, sharing them with others allows others to learn from these approaches and gain new ideas.  The entire process is an opportunity to honor the great work of human rights activists.  Let's continue this process!

Thank you, Frank, for sharing this information on the Partnership for Transparency's Fund grant opportunities!  This is a great resource for practitioners.  Is anyone out there familiar with similar opportunities for funding civic anti-corruption campaigns? 

Ford Foundation

I had a meeting with the director of Ford Foundation who informed me that they have decided to approve grants for anti-corruption activities on condition that : the applicants must prove that their project will lead to alleviation of poverty! Quite a handicap but it is a step in te right direction.

Fight against corruption - Freedom from corruption Campaigns

With out the involvement of the citizens the fight against corruption will be a shallow concept. An organization or a individual cannot fight against this evil that corrodes through the system. The tolerance level towards corruption in India is high among the citizens. Person getting a bribe is not at crime as long as he completes the job that he is got the money for. And many a times its not only the citizens who are victimized but there are a lot of bureaucrats who are victimized where they are  overpowered by money or fear to sanction an illegal activity.

Here i would like to explain how the corruption works through itself in the public works department, when a highways contractor gets a project of laying the roads he will have to share a percentage of his profit with the project manager who sanctions the project work.Since the officer himself gets a huge amount as a bribe he turns a blind eye to the out come of the project. Most of the roads laid in the interior parts of Indian villages might not have been laid but the amount would have been paid accounting that the roads are laid.

We use one other tool called the Right To Information (RTI)Act, which empowers the citizens with the right to get access to the information from government departments, the citizens can ask questions to expose the conditions of the roads.  Every government department in India has a public information officer who is entitled to answer the petitions filed by the citizens on RTI, he will have to reply with in 30 days of receiving the application and the application can be written on a plain A4 sheet asking for any information. On failure to answer the petition on time the officer in charge is liable to a fine of Rs.250 per day up to a maximum of Rs.25,000. This will hold the officers accountable only if all the citizens start using it.

Freedom from corruption campaigns targets the citizens of all walks of life.Since the literacy rate is approximately 65% and almost half of them have attended only primary school and hence anyone who knows to write his/her name is considered educated. We also extend support to the illiterate mass to help with framing and writing the right kind of Questions apart from training the citizens on RTI under the Freedom From corruption Campaign.

Here are a few success stories that we have shared on our website. http://india.5thpillar.org/~pillar/india/category/content-type/success-story. Learning about the success of the RTI more and more people are coming forward to use it, but not enough to create a sweeping change, it will take some time as the tolerance towards corruption has to reduce remarkably. Only if the citizen gets access to his basic needs that he is entitled to can he think of holding an officer accountable. And for which the corruption has to be curbed so that the what ever is alloted to reach the poor reaches the poor.

We are conduct the Freedom from corruption campaigns extensively in schools and colleges, villages, public events and pamphlets are distributed to citizens at public places like the bus stops, shopping complexes and the railway stations etc. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXPEpK1mqtA&feature=player_embedded


Why is it important to empower citizens to fight corruption

Empowerment of citizens  is important because   when citizens have the knowledge, they   become aware and thus are able to develop strategies   on how to address corruption collectively

In Kenya for instance, there is money set aside by the government known as Constituency Development Fund (CDF) , the purpose of this money is to  develop the constituency  through projects such as re-carpeting of  intra constituency roads, filling pot holes,  building of additional classrooms , health projects  etc.

For a long time, many Kenyans have believed that CDF money belongs to  members of Parliament (MPs) and councilors. This is because in many instances when councilors address local citizens, they often say “ I have brought you CDF money”, thus citizens assume this money comes from either councilors or MPs.

Through empowerment,  citizens are able to make demands on their elected leaders , they are able to use performance of  their elected leaders  as a scorecard on whether to re-elect them or not.

How have citizens organized, mobilised & impacted corruption?

Share stories of how citizens have successfully organized, mobilised, and impacted corruption through nonviolent actions, initiatives, campaigns and movements.

Please share your stories by replying to this theme-comment.

Lebanese Youth Coalition Against Corruption

The Lebanese Youth Coalition Against Corruption (LYCAC) seeks to raise awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences, and civil rights among youth in Lebanon. They also lobby government institutions to implement anti-corruption reforms. The group has served as an anti-corruption watchdog, investigating claims of abuse and exposing individual cases. LYCAC also organizes and implements local and national anti-corruption projects. These projects include improving road security, using art to denounce corruption, monitoring healthcare services, children's plays, and corruption free sports teams

The goal of the project is to educate and train youth leaders to address corruption and promote fair and effective governance. The project mobilizes youth leaders and empowers them with resources and skills to combat inefficient and corrupt governance in Lebanon. Is anyone aware of other organizations that are mobilizing youth in the fight against corruption?

A new audience getting involved

You are mentioning a very important point here by highlighting youth as an audience, but much more so as a new actor in the field of anti-corruption (also have a look at Renata's comment here). This is of course especially relevant for youth provided with new opportunities for example through social media to become active.

Let me give just a couple of examples for how other Transparency International's chapters have worked with youth around the world:

In Armenia, prior to the 2008 Presidential Elections, TV shows with high school students and presidential candidates were organised to give students an opportunity to ask one question to a "Future President." In total six programmes were aired on national media as well as on three regional channels.

Our chapter in Bangladesh has organised young people in a social movement under the name Youth Engagement and Support (YES) bringing them together for massive anti-corruption concerts and events. But they also are able to do something against corruption: Some of the activities they are carrying out together with relevant professionals where needed is helping people to confront corruption in key public sectors from education and health, to law enforcement and land administration through TI Bangladesh's in-house and satellite Advice and Information Desks across the country.

In Indonesia, the chapter has created the SPEAK Youth Club organising seminars, speeches and other activities through Twitter and Facebook under the motto: "Know to care, then act! Youth of Indonesia stand together fight corruption."

And maybe yet another example from the Asia region. This one is from Papua New Guinea and I like it because it supports young people who are interested to become active, building up future leaders. About 50 students and out-of-school youth are participating in a ten-day camp (the annual Mike Manning Youth Democracy Camp (YDC)) with workshops and seminars on good governance issues from laws to elections, to media and human rights. The students then take their experience back to carry out initiatives in their own communities.

This is a quick snapshot of activities that youth can use to not only be the audience of the message, but also become active themselves on a local level.

As Shaazka highlighted as well, while laws and strong institutions are essential building blocks of effective anti-corruption work, citizens must be empowered to make their voice heard in the equation. And I believe, we also need a greater commitment to integrity, a value that is essential to counter corrupt behaviour.

Role of youth in curbing corruption

Thanks Georg for all these great examples. Your point about needing a greater commitment to integrity is well-taken. Maybe Shobila and Vijay can tell us about the integrity pledge that Fifth Pillar conducts in India with youth.

Mobilizing youth to fight corruption


There are campaigns that have mobilzed youth to fight corruption - e.g., the Textbook Count and Textbook Walk in the Philippines mobilizes 1,000,000 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts every year! Please see this post on how youth engage in civil resistance to curb corruption.

Monitoring Procurement Expenditures on the Disabled

Following is an example from Kazakhstan regarding how citizens mobilised and impacted corruption:

In Kazakhstan, the non-governmental organization Namys (“Conscience”) advocated for the rights of disabled persons.

Initially, Namys focused its attention on advocating for a law that recognized the rights of disabled persons and established programs to provide rehabilitative services. In 2003, the government proposed a regressive law that would represent a return to the old Soviet policy of essentially blaming the disabled for their condition. Namys launched an aggressive campaign to influence this proposal: it held a number of events to protest the law, submitted petitions to the president outlining its concerns, and organized media events to publicize its demand for improvements. These efforts paid off when the government accepted some of Namys’s main provisions, such as by placing clear responsibility on public agencies to protect the rights of disabled persons.

Namys next focused on analyzing the funds allocated to public agencies to help disabled persons to ensure that they were used appropriately. It initiated its monitoring activities as part of a broad coalition that included more than 30 non-governmental organizations supporting disabled persons from all over the country.

Initially, Namys monitored the budget for disabled persons in the Almaty province in southeastern Kazakhstan. Namys uncovered several irregularities in the execution of programs for disabled persons, particularly in the procurement of goods and services. The group documented these findings in a report to the government. For example, Namys found that a program under which the city of Almaty provides new wheelchairs to 250 disabled persons every year was procuring wheelchairs of a very poor quality. This was not considered illegal, since low price was the main procurement criterion. Namys brought this issue to the attention of the mayor, who responded by appointing a disabled person to serve on the board assembled to manage wheelchair procurement. The next year, this person tested sample wheelchairs from bidders and made a recommendation. Further, procurement rules were changed to include quality as a criterion.

Monitoring Procurement Expenditures on the Disabled

This is a great example of a civic campaign that curbs corruption. Thanks Harika. It shows how corruption is linked to other injustices in society and effective grass-roots, bottom-up campaigns make the link between corruption and other needs, injustices and rights that impact citizens. The NAMYS campaign began as a human rights campaign - the rights of disabled people and social services they deserve. In the next phase it targeted corruption that had a direct impact on disabled people. To win their rights, they needed to curb corruption.

This case also illustrates the impact of civic power on power-holders. It was information (documentation of irregularities) combined with people power that pressured the mayor to appoint a disabled person to a procurement monitoring board that was created and that resulted in changed in the procurement rules.

Youth mobilizing to fight corruption

Youth are playing a catalyzing role in citizen mobilization to fight corruption. They are originators and leaders of innovative campaigns and movements, that target corruption as well as accountability and democratic governance, organized crime, education, human rights, poverty, illegal development and environmental protection. Here are some examples.

Anti-Corruption Student Network in Southeast Europe - http://see-corruption.net/

  • Armenia: Anti-corruption advocates, youth groups and environmental activists are using humor, video, animation, and creative nonviolent street actions to protect the environment from illegal building and commercial development, protest against the violation of freedom of expression and other civic rights, and support political prisoners and victims of repression.
  • MJAFT (Albania): The youth-driven Mjaft! (“enough” in Albanian) emerged in 2003 to increase citizen participation, promote good governance, fight corruption and improve social justice. For the fourth year, the annual “I Vote” report disseminates the results of civic monitoring of Albanian legislative activity. Mjaft employs an array of nonviolent tactics from petitions and vigils to humorous street theatre and an “Office of Complaints.” http://www.mjaft.org/en/index_intro.htm
  • OCASA (Colombia): Begun in 2006, OCASA (“truth” in the Chibcha indigenous language) uses the internet and social networking--including discussion fora, training, Facebook groups and databases-- to educate, mobilize youth to fight corruption, develop their sense of ownership in this struggle, and promote citizen action. It created an online course and established a national youth competition that provides funding and technical support for the winning project. http://www.ocasa.org.co/
  • ADDIO PIZZO (Italy): Addio Pizzo (good-bye protection money) is a youth anti-mafia movement in Palermo, which was launched in 2004. It is disrupting the system of extortion by building an ever-growing group of businesses that publicly refuse to pay pizzo, mobilizing citizens to resist through simple, everyday acts, such as shopping at pizzo-free stores, and harnessing national and international support through mafia-free tourism initiatives. http://www.addiopizzo.org/english.asp
  • Orange Movement, KuwaitORANGE MOVEMENT (Kuwait): In May 2006, a group of young men and women, communicating through text messages, launched the “Orange Movement” against political corruption. Their nonviolent tactics, including leafleting the parliament, enlisted public support and participation, resulted in early parliamentary elections in which legislation to change electoral districts (to prevent corruption) became a major campaign issue and was later adopted. http://www.merip.org/mero/mero090706.html and http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=16581

In the book mentioned in the references posting yesterday, entitled “Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization and Governance in the Middle East,” there is an excellent chapter on the Orange Movement. If anyone would like a copy of the book, let me know.

  • TEXTBOOK COUNT/TEXTBOOK WALK (Philippines): Launched in 2003, an ongoing campaign to curb corruption in the elementary and secondary education system annually organizes about one million boy and girl scouts to count textbooks and conduct quality inspections. After the recent tragic floods, the civic network created from this campaign has mobilized to help victims and get relief services and supplies to people in need.

[Photo credit: Middle East Online]

Online handbook for youth

Only Young Once - book cover imageCheck out this excellent online resource published by the University for Peace-Africa: Only Young Once: A Guide for Nonviolent Struggle for Youths - available in English and French (pdf)

Youths have played crucial roles in numerous nonviolent struggles, which require, among other things, well-formed strategies. Only Young Once: An Introduction to Nonviolent Struggle for Youths is a practical guide geared alike towards university or secondary school students, young soldiers, young professionals, civil society leaders, and youthful parliamentarians. It challenges the blind faith in violence so often found where there is conflict while also explaining the basic ideas and principles of nonviolent action. In the classroom, it can be used to supplement Teaching Model: Nonviolent Transformation of Conflict. It also complements "Bite Not One Another": Selected Accounts of Nonviolent Struggle in Africa. 88 pp. ISBN 9977-925-46-1.

TI Bangladesh and the social movement against corruption

Dr. Iftekhar Zaman, Executive Director of TI Bangladesh has generously shared with us a comprehensive report on citizen empowerment and the "social movement against corruption" they are conducting in Bangadesh. Corruption is linked to real concerns of citizens, such as education, medical services, bribe-free public administrative office services. Among the tactics are: citizen report cards, the "Advice and Information Desk" set up outside public building, street theatre, concerts and cultural tools, information gathering, budget tracking/monitoring and open budgets, "Face-the-Public" meetings with citizens, local watchdog committees called "Committees of Concerned Citizens"  (CCC) and Youth Engagement and Support (YES) groups.

Through the framework of people power, these activities activate the dynamics of civil resistance by:

  • STRENGTHENING citizen participation (e.g., CCCs, YES groups, Mother's Gathering, street theatre);
  • DISRUPTING systems of corruption, including dishonest relationships, illicit practices and the status quo (e.g., Advice/Information Desk; budget tracking and monitoring, CCCs);
  • WEAKENING the sources of support and control for unaccountable and corrupt power holders; entities, systems, and their enablers (Face-the-Public meetings); and/
  • WINNING people over to the civic campaign or movement from the public and from within the corrupt system (e.g. face-the-Public meetings, citizen's report cards in cooperation with local authorities, signing Integrity Pledge).


The Integrity Pledge: Participatory Governance through Social Accountability

The Integrity Pledge (IP) is a micro level social accountability process introduced by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) to promote participatory and accountable governance at the level of service delivery by a voluntary engagement of stakeholders. This is in response to the need to innovate and adopt new tools and processes that reinforce the element of participation and empowerment of the people at the delivery end of public services.

Involving the people as stakeholders – in design, delivery, monitoring and assessment of the quality of services - effectively reinforces and strengthens the conventional accountability systems. It takes the people as proactive stakeholders rather than simple beneficiaries or service recipients, so that their voice and demand are counted.

As a legally non-binding social contract, it is a process that involves voluntary engagement of the local level public representatives, officials and service providers with the service recipients and other citizens to promote transparency and accountability at the delivery of services in vital sectors such as education, health and local government.

Introduced in local level institutions of public service delivery, the IP has built-in process of application and monitoring.  The IP involves a written but voluntary commitment signed by stakeholders – public representatives, officials and other service providers, informal groups of people as service recipients and citizens’ committees - where all parties make a pledge to work together and help each other to:

  • prevent and control abuse of power for private gain;
  • eliminate all forms of unauthorized payments, including bribery for services rendered;
  • ensure and promote participation of service recipients in decisions that affect the content and quality of services provided;
  • ensure transparency in public contracts and in implementing work under such contracts; and
  • promote disclosure and transparency to ensure accountability in all related actions.

The Process Leading to IP: The IP is essentially a stage of social accountability reached in a process built through a number of steps and tools. These are:

Citizens Report Cards (CRC): The CRC is a tool to measure the degree of satisfaction of service recipients about the content and quality of service provided by a selected institutions, particularly in education, health and local government. The findings of the CRC are released usually with the participation of the authorities which serves the twin purpose of wider public information and awareness as well as engagement with them in efforts for follow-up initiatives.

  • Advice & Information: TIB has introduced a mobile advice and information service titled AI-Desk, usually provided in the premises of the relevant institution with a view to informing the service recipients about their rights and entitlements, range of services and rates thereof, if applicable, grievance mechanisms etc., so that they can avoid being victims of corruption for lack of information. Another complementary process in this connection is the street theatre and other cultural tools. The primary objective is to equip the service recipients with the information that helps challenge the prospect that corruption can be taken as a way of life.
  • Participatory Budget: Wider and freer disclosure of budgetary information helps higher levels of accountability, which, in turn, can help expedite the poverty reduction process. Participation of the beneficiaries of development efforts as stakeholders makes the budget more appropriate, transparent, accountable and effective. Participatory open budget, budget tracking and monitoring with the participation of the service recipients are key elements in the build up as well as follow-up on the IP.
  • Face the Public (FtP):The FtP is a forum for the public representatives, officials and other service providers to respond to questions and demand directly raised by the members of the public in general, and service recipients in particular, especially with respect to the commitments made as well as the content and quality of the range of services provided by the selected institution. Depending on the institution FtPs vary in modes, processes and participation. In schools, for instance, mothers are the key participants in the forum called Mothers Gathering whereas in the local government body members of the general public take part as stakeholders.
  • Signing the Integrity Pledge: Through the above process complemented by a series of consultations and engagements among the stakeholders that eventually lead to when the IP is signed. The whole process is catalyzed by the Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCC) set up by TIB as local level citizens’ watchdog forums as a part of its civic engagement in the social movement against corruption. Working on a fully voluntary basis, the CCCs are assisted by the YES (Youth Engagement and Support) groups, who also work on a fully voluntary basis.

Key Substantive Elements of the IP: Parties to the IP: a) The authority (public representatives/officials), b) service recipients (citizens), and c) Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC):

By signing the IP, the authority (the first party) commits to:

  • Abide by the laws, rules and regulations, and be sincere in providing the services as per jurisdiction;
  • Refrain from corruption and bribery and take all measures to reduce the same;
  • Ensure people’s access to information and to proactively disclose information; 
  • Ensure transparency, accountability and integrity in all services provided by the authority and in development and other efforts related to the institution;  
  • Engage the community/service recipients in the planning process of development activities and take into account their suggestions and disclose all information related to such activities;
  • Maintain highest level of integrity and transparency in all financial transactions and proactively share all financial information with the community members;
  • Arrange open budget sharing programmes and maintain highest level of transparency in this regard. The budget will take into account suggestions of the community/service recipients and due importance will be given to their needs and priorities;
  • Facilitate periodic budget tracking and social audit of all financial transactions;
  • Observe existing rules and regulations to ensure highest level of transparency in all procurements. Arrange monitoring of the procurement process by citizens committee members;
  • Eliminate all forms of unethical practices including nepotism, favouritism and partisan political consideration in the management and delivery of services;
  • Create conducive conditions for better coordination among all departments/offices within the jurisdiction and ensure all offices, both government and non-government are run with efficiency and integrity without any partisan political bias;
  • Regularly organize Face the Public programs to monitor and review the progress of implementation of the IP and to ensure their accountability;
  • Effectively enforce the Citizens Charter;
  • Ensure that the employees shall not take part in any bidding process for procurement for the institution which may benefit them directly or indirectly or in any other form. The employees will not also play the role of mediator in any part of the procurement process. In giving services to its clients, the employees shall not take any financial or any other benefits or resort to corrupt practices. The authority will take all measures to prevent abuse of power in these processes;
  • Introduce the e-Governance system, where applicable.
  • Ensure that all public activities it conducts are credible and enjoy the trust of the people.

By signing the IP the service recipients/citizens (the second party) commit to:  

  1. Assist the authority (first party) in all its activities and will provide them with advice and suggestion;
  2. Work with the authority in the spirit of cooperation and provide them with support and advice to ensure quality services, transparency and accountability in the management of the affairs of the institution;
  3. Remain vigilant about all expenditures and make sure that resources are used and managed transparently and accountably;
  4. Ensure that while receiving services from the first party no corrupt practices are resorted to; and
  5. Refrain from paying bribe to the authority (or any of the family members/friends of any of the employees of the institution) while taking part in any procurement process.

By signing the IP the CCC (the third party) commits to: 

  1. Provide technical support to the first and second party and help them to build capacity and ensure integrity, transparency and accountability of the management system;
  2. Help the first party to ensure transparency, accountability and thus reduce corruption in the community;
  3. Coordinate activities of all parties and advise to improve the quality of enforcement of the IP;
  4. Advise the first party on a regular basis in improving the quality of its services; and
  5. Work as a watchdog and monitoring body in ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity of all parties and ensure people’s participation in it.

Enforcement & Monitoring

All parties agree on the following to ensure enforcement and monitoring of the IP:

  • Collectively develop action plan to implement commitments;
  • Hold regular meetings between the parties to assess and monitor progress;
  • Set up information boards (services delivered, rates of payment, progress on development work etc.);
  • Activate all standing committees in LG/School Management Committees;
  • Continue with the open and participatory budget and budget tracking;
  • Regular holding of the Face the Public/Mothers’ Gathering;
  • Disclose all information in accordance with the Right to Information Act; and
  • Work in partnership with other local relevant stakeholders, especially in close engagement with the administration.

Indicators of Results

  • Unauthorized payments for services controlled;
  • Improved quality of services;
  • Fair, transparent and unbiased delivery of services;
  • Corruption in procurement and construction reduced;
  • Management quality improved;
  • Accountable use of budget;
  • Improved rights awareness among people;
  • People are empowered & demand change;
  • Public representatives and officials are committed to engage, and develop stakes and ownership to a participatory process of governance.

The Integrity Pledge: Challenges

All parties to the IP believe that successful implementation will generate further interest, ownership and thereby more effective enforcement with the scope of further replication and up-scaling. On the other hand failure in proper implementation and monitoring leading to lower than expected level of results will jeopardize the whole process. The main challenges of the IP are:

  • Limits to possible changes are determined by the level of the given resources and capacities at the level of the concerned institution. Higher levels of success will depend on supportive policy and institutional change as well as necessary resource allocation from the national level.
  • The IP being conceptually built on participation, any shortfall in ensuring it, especially of the service recipients, mainly poor and disadvantaged, will be severely damaging.
  • The instrument and the process are built on voluntary participation of all stakeholders. Hence erosion of volunteerism will jeopardize the prospect of its success.
  • The process through which the IPs have come into being is a learning by doing. Much would depend therefore on the skills and capacities of the stakeholders to successfully enforce it.
  • Like any other social accountability tool, the IP is a legally non-binding instrument with no scope of legal redress in case of violation by any of the parties involved. Therefore, the key to its success is the continued commitment and ownership of all stakeholders supported by favourable political will and administrative support.
The Villagers Got their voice heard

The Egyptian government issued a decree to take over an agriculture island in Luxor to turn it into a hotel park and Marina, thereby confiscating the land owned by around one hundred villagers all to benefit one famous Egyptian real estate developer. The villagers contacted us for support and what was very impressive is they organized themselves into two committees one to work with the media and the other to pursue legal action, they had also collected seed funds to support both initaitives. During the past two years they were very successful in getting contniuous media attention by arranging for press conferences and media visits, conducting demonstrations, organizing for public events on the island (including a New Year's party!), featuring audio visual material on the net, to the exent that even before the Egyptian Court ruled on the case the Prime Minister cancelled the decree.

Legal action & pursuing redress

Engi - that's a great story!  Thanks for sharing.  Implementing two approaches - engaging the media and legal action - that both support each other sounds like a very strategic plan! It's great to hear that it was successful.

You mention that this community pursued legal action.  It sounds like this legal action was meant to prevent the abuse from occuring - but it made me wonder about how citizens have pursued legal action to obtain redress once an abuse takes place.  In a comment above, Frank writes:

"Over 40 Transparency International national chapters have developed approaches that we call in TI the ALAC, which fundamentally seek to provide people with advice and effective assistance when the want redress after having been cheated by corrupt officials."

Can those of you following this dialogue share your stories on how citizens have pursued legal action (or other action) to obtain redress for corruption abuses that have occured?  Thanks!

Have a look at TI's 2009

Have a look at TI's 2009 Annual Report where we go into the detail of three stories. We hope to have more up on our website very soon.

Monitoring government vehicles

Here's two campaigns that monitor the abuse of public property for private gain through various mean, some more social media than others:

Here's a great impact story that was led by out TI chapter in Palestine supporting the Ministry of Transportation.

Private use of government property (such as the over 6,000 vehicles used by government officials) should be used for business and during business hours only. However, many of the public officials used them after office hours for private purposes. So, during the months of November and December of 2009, AMAN supported the Ministry of Transportation’s initiative calling upon citizens to monitor and report on government vehicles used after working hours through a campaign. The activities including all standard awareness raising activities, radio spots, billboards, newspaper ads, and symposiums. But more importantly, AMAN made its Advocacy and Legal Advice Center hotline available to facilitate citizens reporting of violation of vehicles uses. This allowed to potentially track the whereabouts of these vehicles (through their license plates for example).

As a result of these activities, new regulations will save more than 30 million Shekels (US$ 8 million).

A similar initiative tracked the Tunisian president's plane on websites devoted to tracking air traffic. Tunisian bloggers collaborated on a mapping project that revealed the presidential plane was being used for extensive personal travel. The  campaign began when a blogger discovered images of the Tunisian president's plane on websites devoted to tracking air traffic. Using this data, the plane photos were combined in a visualisation using Google Earth to show which airports the plane had been seen at and when. The video spread on YouTube, which led to the mainstream media investigating further. As a result, the issue of misuse of public property by government officials received much attention, however, as another consequence, the Tunisian government blocked YouTube and another video sharing site, DailyMotion. The latter campaign has also been profiled in the great Ten Tactics toolkit mentioned a couple of times already here on the website.

More examples from around the world

Some of you may be familiar with these examples of civic campaigns and movements to fight corruption. If anyone is interested in further information, let us know.

Guatemala: A local citizen’s movement emerged in Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa in the aftermath of the civil war (1960-1996) to recover the community from the hands of drug lords and organized crime, prevent electoral fraud, maintain resilience in the face of violent repression, defend victories, and foster social and economic development.

Indonesia: The 2009 CICAK campaign mobilized citizens around the country through creative nonviolent tactics, including a 1.7 million member Facebook group, humor and anti-corruption ringtones, to defend the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and secure the release of senior commissioners, who were jailed under false charges.

Kenya: MUHURI (Muslims for Human Rights) is empowering communities to fight poverty by curbing misuse of community development funds. It conducts local education and training in social audits, while using nonviolent tactics, such as street theatre, marches, and site visits.

Korea: A coalition of 1053 civil organizations called the “Civil Action for the General Election 2000” formed to clean up politics by identifying corrupt and ineligible candidates in the general election. They set up transparent guidelines to define corrupt and anti-human rights activities, held street rallies, petitions, phone and email campaigns, and launched youth websites that included TV, movie and music celebrity endorsements.DHP_0.png

Mexico: DHP (Dejemos de Hacernos Pendejos-yes, that's the name) is a new citizen's movement "that arises from the deep dissatisfaction felt by Mexicans regarding the social, economic, cultural and political situation in our country." It seeks to alter the apathy of people, foster a sense of civic responsibility, win accountability. They use street actions, stunts, social networking and humor. DHP has created innovative tactics to involve citizens and gain access to information and pressure members of parliament to return bonuses they give to themselves, including an "adopt a parliamentarian" campaign and the "rights for citizens petition" under the Mexican constitution.

Pakistan: The “Movement for Rule of Law” emerged in 2007 when then President, General Pervez Musharraf sacked the “People’s Judge,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry, known to take on corruption and human rights cases. Ongoing large-scale civil disobedience, noncooperation, low-risk displays of symbols, “long marches” and other nonviolent tactics pressured the Musharraf government and the successive democratically elected government to reinstate him and other honest deposed judges.

Paraguay: Controlarios Ciudadanas has grown into a network of 70 citizen watchdog groups covering every province. They share expertise on filing criminal reports of corruption and getting information to the media about corrupt officials. They also support politicians and judges displaying integrity. When a district attorney’s life was threatened, they organized marches and placed newspaper ads highlighting his bravery and honesty.

Resources on tactics to be used in fighting corruption

Thanks for this great list of examples, Shaazka!  You mentioned many great tactics in those descriptions - many of which we have hosted tactical dialogues around!  Here is a list of a few dialogues that correspond to the tactics you mentioned.  I hope you all can use them as a resource to find people and tools to help you in your work!

People power for accountability in reconstruction



Photo courtesy of the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation.

As the human catastrophe in Pakistan, due to the massive floods, weighs on our minds and hearts, there have been disconcerting reports in the news that donations have been low (even from the Diaspora) due to mistrust over corruption. It's another way in which people, in this case tragic victims, are denied assistance as an outcome of graft.

I have not found a case to share, in which people mobilized during a crisis. If anyone knows of such cases, do let us know. But what about the aftermath, when aid is also critical for reconstruction and human needs? To their credit, ordinary Pakistanis in the Northwest region launched a civic campaign in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake in 2005. According to a report from the International Budget Partnership, a flood of aid came in, but in the ensuing three years, little progress had been made to restore housing and critical public infrastructure. The Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation, 300 civic organizations and ordinary citizens, mobilized and wielded people power to hold the government to account and to pressure it to meet their demands. You can download the report from this link:



Hi all,

It’s been great to read about some of the inspiring campaigns going on around the world. There have already been a few mentions of the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) run by about 40 National Chapters of TI and how they seek to counter corruption by empowering citizens. Many of the campaigns mentioned on this dialogue remind me of the stories of cases people have brought to the ALACs. As I am currently working on writing up a number of these here at the TI Secretariat in Berlin, I thought it might be interesting to share with you some practical examples of how people are using ALAC services to register and pursue their complaints about corruption. The stories of success that emerge from ALACs are great examples of how empowered citizens can be instrumental in the fight against corruption.

People utilize ALACs both as individuals and in groups. One such individual client was Hikmet, a pensioner from Baku, Azerbaijan. To supplement his meager monthly pension, Hikmet wanted to open a flower shop. He was asked for a bribe of 10,000 USD in exchange for the granting of the necessary permission. Unwilling and unable to pay, he contacted the local ALAC and pursued his complaint with its help, and the municipality was eventually ordered to grant him permission. In another case a man from Ramallah in the West Bank lodged a complaint against a labour union that was charging fees for advice on health insurance that should have been free. His case drew attention to what was apparently common practice and is now being addressed systematically across the West Bank.

Other stories affect a wider group, and are tackled through collective action to ensure transparency and accountability in their communities. One example is the case of a group of Czech villagers, who prevented the construction of a hugely unpopular housing development in their town by demanding public consultation and a vote on the development.

Some of the recent cases we’ve been hearing about from ALACs include a diverse community group in a small Pacific island state, rallying together to oppose the operation of a tuna processing plant near their capital city. Initially constructed without a proper environmental impact assessment, the factory could cause irreparable harm to the delicate ecological and economic balance of their island home, if made operational. In a case from a Southern African country, 23 women were pressured into having sex or paying large bribes with a housing official in order to avoid eviction from their homes. Since, some of the women have also expressed fears of having contracted the HIV virus from the man.

Kristin Antin and Shaazka have asked if we could share examples of how the paying of small bribes can cause serious violations of human rights – often human rights are violated when those in a position of power (the police and the judiciary are often subject of complaints to ALACs) solicit a bribe from someone whose rights they have the ability to impinge upon – that was the case for three brothers from Ghana, who were asked for a bribe from a judge in order to guarantee them a fair trial when they were accused of stealing cattle. Whistleblowers in some countries also face serious threats – as is the case for a current ALAC client from the a small Pacific Island state who gave evidence after she witnessed police officers deliver fatal blows to a prisoner. She now finds her personal safety and economic security as well as that of her family in jeopardy.

Whereas low risk mass action referred to by some other posters can provide the public with an inspirational example of the power of public demonstration in ensuring the voice of the public is heard, it may be just as important to provide tools that can help people in channeling their discontent about corruption, successfully seek redress for their grievance and - through advocacy for structural change – help bring about longer-term effects for society at large. My personal experience with TI’s ALACs reaffirms that in the fight against corruption, real power to change the way things work can come from the people. I would be interested in learning what others think – how can we ensure that public discontent is not only channeled and use to rectify individual cases of corruption, but also used to create a platform from which to advocate for greater change?

Citizens Organized, Mobilized and Impacted on Corruption

My examples will be based on  corruption at the local level, because we work with  grassroots communities

Examples of cases where Kenyans have organized  against corruption is  when   demonstrations are carried out mostly by Civil Society organization on various corruption activities going on in the country.

Another  instance is when Kenyans in 2007 voted most of their MPs out of parliement, the  yardstick for measuring corruption was what the MP had done with regard to the CDF fund and if citizens felt that the MP had embezzled  the constitutency development fund then they voted the MP out.

Nowadays , one can see bill board erected in local wards giving information about projects that have been funded by the Constituency Development Fund   for instance in Kaloleni/Makongeni ward , of Makadara constituency -Nairobi there are billboards showing supply of laboratory materials to a local secondary school, perimeter wall fencing for a local  primary school  etc.

During meetings with people from other wards or other constituencies, I get information that  citizens in various constituencies are demanding  involvement in local projects eg constituency development committees as well as youths demanding that  contracts be given to local youths aimed at local development initiatives such as  road repairs


What are the chalenges & risks faced by civic initatives?
  • What are challenges and risks that civic initiatives and movements face?
  • How have they been overcome? 

Please share your thoughts and ideas regarding these questions by replying to this theme-comment.

One of the biggest Challenges are the beneficiaries themselves

In countries like Egypt where corruption is weaved into the social fabric permeating down to the lowest socio-economic segments people tend to focus on the big corruption cases of the business and government sectors disregarding the fact that it all starts with the couple of pounds they used to bribe a government employee. This dichotomy was endorsed by the Mufti of Egypt (the Highest Islamic Religious Authority) who declared that these are to be considered "facilitation fees" and are not bribes.

I recall that when we launched our movement "Egyptians Against Corruption" many of our membership base wanted us to focus only on the big corruption, their arguments varied from "Lets focus on the big money, this is what leads to poverty" to "When some civil servants make only 20 $ a month, how else can they survive?", one of the most compelling arguments was raised by a key and well respected activist who leads a major human rights NGO in Egypt , he told me laughingly "These small bribes are what enables us to support the activists inside Egyptian jails, so I really don't know if I want to wish you success!!".

But the fact is the Big corruption is just the tip of the iceberg, it can only exits if there is a strong base of support, so fighting corruption can not segregate and should not allow for the condoning of "facilitation fees". So to support our arguments we quote major calamities that were the outcome of "small bribes" from fourteen people who died in a theater that was burnt down because the caretaker was bribed to place empty fire extinguishers, to the poisoning of thousand of babies because the distribution clerk was bribed to falsify the expiry date. During the past four years we have been modifying our strategies and tactics to ensure that we bridge this schism which even if not vocalized by the people is a resistance barrier that must be overcome.

Moving from abstract issues to everyday concerns/real outcomes

Engi wrote:

So to support our arguments we quote major calamities that were the outcome of "small bribes" from fourteen people who died in a theater that was burnt down because the caretaker was bribed to place empty fire extinguishers, to the poisoning of thousand of babies because the distribution clerk was bribed to falsify the expiry date. During the past four years we have been modifying our strategies and tactics to ensure that we bridge this schism which even if not vocalized by the people is a resistance barrier that must be overcome.

Your point raises a key lesson learned from analyzing many cases of civil resistance against corruption. By explaining how small bribes can directly lead to the loss of lives -- an abstract problem is linked to everyday concerns and real, tangible consequences. This linkage is consistently found in effective civic campaigns and movement, and it helps to win public support and engage citizens.


Artists & musicians educate communities on effect of corruption

After doing some research on an interesting group that I had come across called Artists Against Corruption, I found a great story in response to my own question!  A group of artists and musicians in the Teso region of Uganda have been using music, art and theatre (through public performances) to share information with their communities on the impact that corruption has on the ground.  They have been able to empower many citizens in this region into action.  An article in the Guardian, writes:

Renowned local artist, Johnson Otinga, from Bukedea district, which lies to the east of Soroti, now uses open theatre performances to educate communities and, in the process, hold leaders to account. Otinga identifies pressing issues in the community, such as poor hygiene, shoddy public work, writes a piece of drama about it and puts on an open theatre production.

At the end of each performance he asks residents to identify similar incidents in their respective villages. As residents give examples of the events depicted in the drama, local authority officials in attendance are tasked to give a public explanation, and should he/she fail, residents ask police to take action.

PAC's (Public Affairs Centre) executive director, Benson Ekwee, holding an album containing music on corruption. "After one his performances the district was able to recover UShs 36m that had been misappropriated by an officer. This is what we want from our community," said Benson Ekwee, PAC's executive director.

It would be great to hear of other examples!

Providing advice

One of the key challenges for citizens in many countries to engage can be the fear for reprisal, or simply not knowing how to engage. Some good insight gives Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer, were people were asked if they filed a complaint after having to pay a bribe. And only one in five did so. When asked why they did not present a formal complaint, every second survey respondent responded that it would not have been futile. Every fourth respondent felt the process would have taken too much time, while every fifth, were even afraid of reprisals as a result of their complaint.

We have found that supporting victims of corruption through one of the over 50 Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres worldwide, run by TI's chapters in a growing number of countries around the world, can be incredibly effective. The Centres educate citizens about their rights and avenues for legal recourse, and provide free legal advice on pursuing corruption complaints. Only during 2009, more than 68,000 people sought help. Some examples for success stories of how not a movement, but simply a citizen - supported by an organisation - can create change have been written up here for TI's 2009 Annual Report.

This of course relates very much to the question empowered citizens feel to raise their voice and and where I see an increasing role in social media. I think people will feel more empowered because they know that a simple text message can make a difference, when it highlights an irregularity in elections. And when they know that they can go to a place to get legal advice if they want to complain. And an empowered citizen will be more likely to engage with other citizens to engage in a campaign and make their voices heard.

Now I know I am an optimist. So I was happy to see that there actually has been research that showed that communities with active participants demonstrate for example lower levels of crime and death rates. It would be interesting to see if similar results can be measured for the levels of corruption in a local community with more engaged citizens being able to use social media.

Supporting victims of corruption

Thank you for sharing these invaluable resources on supporting victims of corruption. Those taking risks must know they are not alone. Protecting the few empowers the many – activists, honest officials and citizens. I will add a separate posting on making repression backfire.

You are very correct

In Egypt, many whistleblowers have been harrassed, some were demoted, others sued. We use two tactics to support them, the first is through our annual Anti-Corruption Hero Award which gives them visibilty with the media and the public and we also launched "The Integrity Fund" which is 100% funded by donations to legally defend the whistleblowers should they need it (since some of them are subject to libel ad defamation law suits simply for reporting what they know about corruption cases).

Countering repression: Backfire model and civic power

We all know that fighting corruption and injustice can lead to repression. All too often, whistle-blowers, honest officials or anti-corruption agencies cannot challenge or dismantle entrenched, multi-faceted, systems of graft and unaccountability. Such attempts have been compared to the actions of political dissidents, who stand in singular defiance before an entire undemocratic system and are therefore easily suppressed.[i] This was the fate of John Githongo, a former Kenyan anti-corruption chief, who fled the country in 2004 after threats to his life.

Right now, an honest official in India is facing grave threats. Last month an Indonesian anti-corruption activist was severely beaten and hospitalized. It’s being speculated that the assault was connected to his reporting to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force that a number of police generals had unusually bank balances.


 The immediate need is to protect the person at risk. International solidarity can be critical. So can public support. Civil resistance campaigns have protected people fighting corruption, and in the case of Indonesia, the integrity and authority of Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). The 2009 CICAK (Love Indonesia, Love Anti-Corruption) campaign mobilized citizens around the country through creative nonviolent tactics, including a 1.7 million member Facebook group, humor and anti-corruption ringtones, to defend the KPK and the lives of officials who had been jailed on false pretenses. [Stay tuned to this dialogue for more on CICAK.] In Paraguay, Controlarios Ciudadanas has grown into a network of 70 citizen watchdog groups covering every province. They share expertise on filing criminal reports of corruption and getting information to the media about corrupt officials. They also support politicians and judges displaying integrity. When a district attorney’s life was threatened, they organized marches and placed newspaper ads highlighting his bravery and honesty.

What is the goal of repression of citizens and activists expressing dissent, fighting injustice and corruption, and seeking to win their rights, human security, freedoms and social and economic development? Oppressors have very strategic goals in using repression:

  • target one person or a few individuals to impact many people;
  • stop anti-corruption activities such as campaigns, investigations, media inquiries, whistle-blowing, etc.;
  • instill fear, hopelessness and apathy among anti-corruption and other civic advocates, journalists, honest officials, and more generally, among citizens;
  • prevent unity among anti-corruption organizations and civic, grass-roots networks
  • prevent linkages or unity with related civic struggles, e.g. human rights, social and economic justice, workers rights, women’s rights, rural land rights, democracy, and others. 

The paradox of repression is that it can actually backfire and strengthen campaigns and movements. Throughout the history of people power, force used to repress activists and citizens has often backfired against the repressor. For example, the 1930 Salt March in India, in particular the beatings at Dharasana, mobilized popular support for independence from British colonial occupation. 

Backfire: an attack can be said to backfire when it creates support and attention for whoever or whatever is attacked. Any injustice or norm violation can backfire on the perpetrator.  

Campaigns and movements have discovered how to effectively make repression backfire. Those taking risks must know they are not alone. As well, protecting a few empowers many – activists, honest officials and citizens. Below are some useful resources. 


Dr. Brian Martin at the University of Wollongong has assembled practical information and strategies to counter repression. 

The Whistleblower's Handbook: How to Be an Effective Resister, is a practical manual for people who speak out in the public interest. It tells how to assess options, prepare for action, use official channels, build support and survive the experience.


The Backfire Model is a framework for understanding tactics used by perpetrators of injustice and how to oppose them. It was developed by Dr. Brian Martin at the University of Wollongong. He has assembled practical information and strategies to counter repression.


Suppression of Dissent


For a great presentation on making repression backfire, check out ICNC’s webinar with Dr. Les Kurtz: slideshow and tape of is online presentation and questions and comments from callers around the world.


Dr. Les Kurtz, professor of Sociology at George Mason University and author/editor of several books including, "The Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict," explores the "paradox of repression," - efforts by elites to repress a movement that often end up strengthening a civil resistance movement rather than weakening it. Examining key historic cases of "repression management" by activists, he shows how repression can erode an oppressor’s pillars of support, promote questions if not outright defections among power elites, and often become a turning point in leading toward a movement's success. 

[i] Brian Martin, Sharon Callaghan and Chris Fox, with Rosie Wells and Mary Cawte. Challenging Bureaucratic Elites (Wollongong: Schweik Action Wollongong, 1997).


Putting the gov't between a rock & a hard place

Thanks for pointing out the beauty of 'backfire', Shaazka!  This is indeed, on of the great benefits of nonviolent civil resistance.  I have a great example, written by Philippe Duhamel, of creating a situation where the government of Canada had to give-in to activists in order to prevent backfire.  We have an in-depth case study (tactical notebook) on this campaign that Philippe was involved with in Canada.  This notebook, titled Dilemma Demonstration: Putting the government between a rock and a hard place, describes the strategy and tactics behind creating a lose-lose situation for the government forcing them to uncover and share public data on an trade agreement:

In this notebook you learn how Operation SalAMI created a situation that placed the Canadian government in a real dilemma regarding their position and actions in the negotiation process of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). When the government refused to make public the draft documents, hundreds of its citizens showed up at the Ottawa headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade holding "Search and Rescue Warrants" for the release of these draft documents. When the government responded by arresting one hundred citizens for requesting their right to information, the media and general public demanded to know what the government was trying to hide. Behind the success of the campaign was a strategy that included a number of common tactics, including petitions, letter writing, etc., but with the added twists of an unequivocal ultimatum, civil disobedience training on the premises of the Canadian parliament and the drama of the Search and Seizure Operation, a type of nonviolent direct action. Operation SalAMI’s dilemma demonstration tactic, as part of a broader nonviolent campaigning strategy, pressured the government to act according to its professed values and at the requests of its citizens.

What tactics have you used to put your opponent in a lose-lose situation?  How have you held those responsible, accountable for withholding public data?

Mission impossible

Fight corruption?! Eliminate bribes?!
Sometimes these slogans are heard everywhere, but seems to be nonsense in Kyrgyzstan. Why? Because everything and everyone seems to be corrupted, taking and giving bribes, including civil society. In Kyrgyzstan majority of NGOs and civil society groups became a fashionable small business for some NGO leaders, who are hiring mainly their relatives, sons, daugthers, husbands and wives.
One such an example would be a well-known human rights organization 'Kylym-Shamy, which all the time criticized ex-power Bakiev for family ruling, who put his brothers and sons to key state positions. Well, doesn't the same NGO do the same- by hiring for grant positions in most of the cases the relatives. Well, the issue of competence and openness of a vacancy for all people should be on the first place, rather than kin-based relationship. It is not only the organization that do it, there are also bunch of such organizations.
That is why, sometimes I am so pessimistic, while looking at Kyrgyzstan. The issue is not only with local NGOs, the similar situation is with International NGOs, and International Organizations. Seems that not international experts and staff would teach how to fight corruption, rather 'we' - Kyrgyzstanis would teach them how to become corrupt and take 'presents'. Sounds like a joke- but it is reality.
Outcry of the soul

Difficult environments

Your comment highlights once again the difficult environment many of us are working in and how important courageous individuals are that continue to stand up. In some countries it is easier than in others, in some, as you state, it even seems a mission impossible.

I hope that this forum has given you the certainty that you are not alone in believing that integrity is possible. So finding allies, in the country and outside of the country can the first step to continue together. As an anti-corruption movement, we need to show solidarity to those who work under these difficult environments you mention.

And the second step that I have seen many of our chapters working under similarily difficult circumstances do, is to find a good place to start, for example a local polititian, who understands that corruption destroys business and the lives of the people he governs, and who then can become a champion for reform.

Maybe just to mention as well: It is clear that for every one the same rules need to apply, so I understand so very much your frustration. The issues you mention, conflicts of interest, fair procurement and recruitment are crucial and have to be managed in an open and transparent form. Especially organisations that fight corruption, or non-governmental organisations, that we believe should adhere to higher standards, need to lead by example.

Challenges& Risks in Civic Initiatives

From the Kenyan perspective, the challenge in rooting out corruption  lies in the people.Many a times citizens  have the attitude that even if  we shout , nothing will happen, this is especially the case  where there is grand corruption.


The other  major problem is  there are very many commissions set up to make inquiries on various corruption related issues but sadly , the people involved in grand corruption are never brough to book,  my view is that  in this case there is selective application of the law

Given that corruption is intricate , it becomes difficult to address is  at the onset, the other problem is that  before a corrupt deal is hatched there are very many people involved and it becomes difficult  to identify at what point exactly it started and in many cases its the small time corrupt person eg a clerk who is caught while the  intricate maze protects the brains behind the corruption

Defective laws are also a problem , eg the Local Authorities Act  in Kenya in my view is very lenient on punitive measures  on officials who are corrupt,  this makes corruption go on with impunity


Risks and how to address them

Other risks   include personal injury especially when one is deemed to be too inquinsitive on corruption related issues.

Collussion among officials who deal with monetary matters is also an inherent problem such that  an outside will never be able to decipher  how much money comes in and how much goes out especially with regard to  funding allocated for local  development projects.The  other problem is  putting up billboards for " completed " projects while in essence the projects have stalled, this is also  a form of corruption.

Addressing the challenges would include:

Performance contracts for each  elected leader  and re-election period reduced to 2 years, this will ensure that the elected officials  are on track and  that they  have less time in office, it is their performanc  that will make them be re-elected.

Citizens should be empowered on   ills of corruption continously, this should not be something only done when a sensational case is on the news such as was the Kenyan case during the Goldeberg scandal , but empowerment should be continous and the media should use the local radio stations to empower people on ills of corruption  from the rural villages to the urban areas.This will also enhance ownership among the citizens  in that  they are part and parcel of development in their localities because they are tax payers

Review of defective laws would also help  in that  corrupt people irrespective of their social status should be made to feel the impact of their corruption by  first of all being made to pay for what they have stolen as well as a jail term

Are there international dimensions to civic campaigns?
  • Are there international dimensions to grass-roots, civic campaigns and movements to curb corruption?
  • Share examples of local-international citizen mobilization tactics. 
  • Share examples of international solidarity with citizen-based campaigns. 

Please share your thoughts, ideas and stories by replying to this theme-comment.

Monitoring the 2010 Burma Elections

The Alternative Asean Network On Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) is providing background information, analysis, and up-to-date information on the Burmese elections that will be held on November 7th, 2010. The site was created as a platform for activists, media, researchers, diplomats, legislators and policy-makers around the world to ensure that the election is carried out in a free and fair manner.

The website offers detailed information on important issues of the election (reforms, ceasefire groups, the constitution, military, human rights, etc.), the structure of the Burmese government, the electoral system, previous election results, and  registered political parties. There is also a section that monitors election related events as they happen, such as civil and political rights, freedom of information, repressive laws, and disenfranchised citizens. There is also a multimedia library and research database for those seeking more information.

ALTSEAN-Burma has created their online resources to engage the international community in monitoring the 2010 elections. By launching the website ahead of time, the organization has created a valuable resource that will be readily available when international interest peaks around the time of the elections. Pro-democracy groups inside and outside of Burma, as well as the international community and the United Nations, have repeatedly called for the 2010 elections to be free and fair. Hopefully ALTSEAN-Burma's website will serve to educate and mobilize the global community.

Monitoring the 2010 Burma Elections

Ali, thanks for telling us about this very important campaign. You not only point to a real, unfolding situation regarding free and fair elections and political corruption, but also the roles of international civil resistance and international solidarity. Do you have more suggestions about international civil resistance or the kinds of international solidarity that would be helpful?


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