In celebration of International Anti-Corruption Day and as a follow-up to the inaugural Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Town Hall “Inclusion, Justice, and the Global Civil Rights Struggle,” YALI hosted a virtual program titled “Fighting Corruption Through Social Inclusion” on December 8, 2020. Nearly 100 young leaders joined from across Africa to learn from three panelists about the what civil society, governments, and youth can do to help root out public corruption and promote inclusion in their communities.
“People don’t always connect the importance of inclusivity in the fight against corruption,” began Elizabeth Liu, moderator and Special Coordinator for YALI, “but, in reality, as U.S. development firm Chemonics asserts, every anti-corruption program is also a social inclusion program.” Corruption drains resources from marginalized groups, limiting their access to political participation, public services, and justice. To combat corruption, each speaker focused on different players – from empowering everyday citizens to mobilizing multinational organizations.
Ibrahima Kalil Gueye discussed his on-the-ground efforts to fight corruption in Guinea. A 2020 Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Impact Award winner and Founder of the Nationwide Program “Open and Transparent Guinea,” which focuses on peace, education, and good governance promotion. The program trains citizens to denounce corruption practices in front of civil servants through guided discussions and to post about everyday acts of corruption on his Facebook page, Stop Corruption Guinea, and Twitter. This program has reached over 10,000 citizens so far.
“Wherever you can find corruption, there is inequality,” he intones. According to Gueye, corruption is the biggest exclusionary factor in society, allowing groups to prosper on the backs of the poor. Marginalized community members are often excluded from opportunities and public markets and must compete against nepotism and favoritism. The most effective way to combat corruption, Gueye emphasizes, is to provide information and education to citizens. When people are aware of their rights and the correct legal procedures, they are less susceptible to corruption and can protect themselves from deceptive practices. He also remarked that it is important that local communities receive the resources they need to thrive.
The next guest speaker was Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo, Director for Africa and Lead for Accountable Governance at PartnersGlobal. She discussed the methodology of PartnersGlobal, and the importance of civil society organizations and technology in addressing corruption.
PartnersGlobal, a not-for-profit based in Washington DC, invests in civil society organizations to consolidate democratic practices and create hubs for conflict resolution, helping organizations lead at the local level. The organization’s approach to anti-corruption focuses heavily on inclusion of communities and ordinary citizens. Partners’ FAIR methodology is a four-step process in which credible civil society leaders with experience in anti-corruption meet with governmental officials to diagnose gaps and vulnerabilities within institutions, create integrity plans to address vulnerabilities, and implement these plans together. The FAIR method relies heavily on building trust between civil society organizations and the government. PartnersGlobal has found that technology can promote inclusion of citizens in anti-corruption efforts and as such, has partnered with organizations based in Nigeria who serve as an infomediary. For example, BudgIT in Nigeria created a civic tech tool that tracks expenditures on public projects and generates data to inform citizens about the status of projects within their communities. As Kamuyu-Ojuolo explained, citizens use this data to mobilize around issues they care about, by specifically obtaining answers from elected officials about why projects are incomplete, poorly completed and in some cases never started. However, she noted that tech solutions should be designed to a community’s access to tech. If community members lack regular access to the internet, for example, use door-to-door mobilization methods instead.
Lastly, she emphasized that any anti-corruption approaches must be based on joint problem-solving and mutual interests between all parties.
The third speaker, Krystin Borgognone, U.S. Department of State Team Lead for North Africa and the Sahel in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), gave advice on fighting corruption on the multinational level. She explained how INL focuses on on-the-ground efforts to strengthen ability of the national government and its citizens to promote public transparency, accountability, and integrity.
She advocated for INL’s place-based strategy, which calls for maximizing resources to focus on specific geographic areas where INL has 1) the ability to collect accurate information; 2) regular and unfettered access to the national government; 3) invested partners at local, state, and the federal level; and 4) additional partners such as other U.S. government entities or United Nations. She emphasized these multinational efforts must be targeted, inclusive, and implemented from the bottom-up. Ideally, success at the local level translates to a Minister of Security or Justice seeing the initiative and instituting new policies because of it.
When the U.S. works with local partners to ensure the targeted initiatives are inclusive, transparent, and truly represent the needs and interests of the community, the greatest success is achieved. These initiatives are also the most sustainable, as when people feel like their problems are heard, understood, and emphasized with, people will contribute and participate in changing a culture of corruption.
The whole discussion is free to view here.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.