By:Vinay Bhargava, Chief Technical Adviser for PTF
Government accountability, right to information laws as a more effective tool than bribery, youth groups exposing use of sub standard materials in road construction, pregnant women getting the benefit of hospital services without paying bribes were just a few of the cases and ideas discussed when 38 CSOs from India, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nepal, and Sri Lanka met in the Jaipur, India during November 28 to December 2, 2011.
This gathering was sponsored by PTF in partnership with CUTS International, Transparency International India, and Public Affairs Centre and organized around the theme of “Engaging Citizens Against Corruption in Asia: Approaches, Results and Lessons”.
Throughout the course of the workshop participants exchanged views among themselves and with six invited international experts. Subjects ranged from overcoming political economy constraints to effective use of traditional and social media to obtain impacts. The importance of assessing and scaling up results as well as improving public service delivery and achieving corruption also weighed heavily on the proceedings. Workshop papers, proceedings, and other outputs are available at: https://sites.google.com/a/ptfund.org/sarc
A major conclusion from participants was that citizen-led anti-corruption programs worked best while collaborating with partner organizations and constructively engaging policy makers and other public sector entities. Causes picked up by media also proved to gain added impact. 31 case studies were submitted by the diverse array of participants which were then presented and discussed at the workshop. Evidence of impactful results were noted to be achieved through such strategies as: accessing and using information to monitor performance and demand accountability; forming citizen monitoring groups, building their capacity and taking collective action; constructive engagement with authorities; third party monitoring, evidence collection, and data evaluation used to demand accountability and responsiveness of government officials. A major constraint highlighted by all CSOs was the scarcity of domestic and foreign donor funding for anti-corruption work.
Now let me end by relaying a few things that I have learned in Jaipur: (1) the meaning of ‘rude accountability’ by way of a picture of citizens beating officials to enforce accountability; (2) the power of right to information (RTI) law in light of the fact that an estimated 6-8 million applications have been filed (a Yale University study found that filing a RTI application in India resulted in faster service delivery as efficiently if not more efficiently than paying a bribe, and entrepreneurial parents used RTI to do background checks on criminal record of a prospective ‘suitable boy’); (3) youth in the Philippines that counted bags of cement and other materials used by road contractors then used the information to initiate investigations; (4) and perhaps most inspiring of all, I found that a PTF funded CSO helped pregnant women in Orissa to not only stop paying bribes in hospitals to delivery their babies, but also received their entitled allowances from the government! Well what more can I say- engaging citizens against corruption works. Thank you.