Civil society and social media

Helping ordinary people to engage with anti-corruption efforts through civil organisations as well as online.

Tackling corruption is difficult; it requires long-term investment and cannot be fixed with more traditional approaches to other crimes such as fraud and theft. While training, policies and controls are vital, reductions in corruption can only be achieved alongside fundamental changes in culture, legislation and structures, which are outside the immediate influence of any single organisation.

Civil society and educational establishments must play a part in evolutionary change, as much as government or public bodies. Civil society includes non-profit or voluntary groups organised on a local, national or international level.

In the last three decades especially, many types of civil society organisations (CSO) have grown to fight corruption across the globe, at transnational, national and local levels. CSOs need to empower and educate citizens as well as simply acting as pressure groups. All too often, governments and regimes have undermined CSOs when their power seems to be threatened.

Much has been done internationally to strengthen relationships and legislation, addressing corruption from a risk assessment and preventative perspective and promoting unity. Transparency International (TI) is one of the leading organisations in the fight against corruption and is a ‘go to’ on the subject. Their resources help civil society organisations achieve a range of objectives from giving a voice to communities and strengthening services to monitoring public projects.

The United Nations High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) is part of the effort to ensure developing states will have sufficient resources to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under Goal 16, specific targets include the reduction of corruption and bribery (Goal 16.5) and the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions (Goal 16.6). These have been bundled with ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making (Goal 16.7), highlighting that anti-corruption efforts cannot be successful without meaningful participation.

Social media’s ability to reach and influence people cannot be underplayed. Social media platforms are able to mobilise with a speed never witnessed before and are increasingly used in combatting corruption. The World Economic Forum has reported on how anti-corruption efforts on social media include both commentary and advocacy, and investigation, sometimes via crowdsourcing or whistleblowing websites.

Examples and further resources

World Bank initiatives

The World Bank Group recognises that much of the world's costliest forms of corruption require institutions in wealthy nations: the corporates that give large bribes, the banks and other financial institutions that accept corrupt proceeds, and the lawyers, bankers and accountants who facilitate corrupt transactions. Such international financial flows highlight money moving from poor to wealthy countries, undermining development.

The World Bank Group works with the public and private sectors as well as civil society to support efforts to prevent corruption. By the end of 2021, they had publicly debarred or otherwise sanctioned more than 1,000 firms and individuals. The World Bank anti-corruption briefing lists many national and international initiatives that they support, including in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Somalia.

Ghana's data collection app

The Ghana Audit Service launched an app called Citizenseye in 2019 to improve public participation in audit activities. The app will enable the audit body to collect and analyse data that will feed into the planning and execution of public service audits in Ghana.

The public sector has become increasingly aware of the potential of big data for improving service delivery. Data collected from the Citizenseye app can be used to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector, in helping to understand the needs of the citizens. The app is supported by Good Financial Governance in Africa and the African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E).

The political aspects of corruption

The paper Tuning in to the politics of (anti-)corruption, published by the Chr Michelsen Institute, explains why corruption is an ‘intensely political phenomenon’. Rather than focus on political corruption – wrongdoing in the election process, or undue influence through party financing or political donations – it explains how a range of corrupt acts may be politicised, ie how they become embedded in how power is allocated, how decisions are made and how institutions operate. It also explores how coalitions can be built between different anti-corruption projects or organisations at a grassroots level.

The role of parliaments

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s report Combatting Corruption Capably looks at the challenges faced by anti-corruption agencies and how parliaments can support them to be more effective. While the agencies remain independent, governments have a role in establishing their mandate and holding them accountable. The report outlines a framework for assessing this relationship.