Hundreds of millions of people have to pay bribes when using public services. This situation has not
improved for more than a decade. There is a strong case for rethinking the current anti-corruption
approaches in which funding for anti-corruption and good governance programs is overwhelmingly
allocated to government efforts (supply side) with relatively little given to non-state actors (demand side).
Increasingly evidence has grown that civil society can make a meaningful difference in the furtherance of
anti-corruption aims. By virtue of their ability to act independently of governments and reach local
communities directly, they have helped reduce bribery in delivery of public services as called for in Agenda
2030 and Sustainable Development Goals.
There is widespread understanding of the benefits of engaging civil society to fight corruption as reflected
in policy statements by almost all major anti-corruption groups. However, PTF’s research concluded that
there remains no cohesive supranational approach to CSO-led anti-corruption initiatives focused on
targeting bribery and corruption in public service delivery. This is largely due to a lack of resources for CSOs
to engage in anti-corruption activities and reluctance on the part of national governments to allow
adequate civic space for such CSO engagement.
Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and an ongoing need for widespread social support, civil society
engagement could have an outsized impact on effective public service delivery. Through advocacy efforts,
monitoring of resources, and grassroots organizing, CSOs could play a crucial role in corruption free delivery
of public services. Moreover, due to their proximity to and familiarity with local communities, they can also
focus efforts on the eradication of bribery as called for in SDG Targets 16.5 to 16.7.
With this context in mind, the paper below proposes a supranational initiative to make a difference in the
lives of hundreds of millions of people, particularly who have to pay bribes when using public services. An
effective global approach to civil society engagement in anti-corruption efforts would involve the provision
of funding for eligible organizations in low- and middle-income countries, enabling them to engage in
activities for corruption free delivery of public services. For fast and sizable impact, the Initiative should be
designed to work with the existing International Financial Institutions funded projects to expand delivery of
a wide range of public services. In consideration of the evidence and understanding that government
cannot effectively eradicate corruption on its own, the timing is right for this initiative. The organization of a
supranational approach to civil society engagement in anti-corruption efforts, particularly in public service
delivery, will ultimately further the achievement of global development goals through a whole-of-society
approach to anti-corruption.