Voices & Views

Citizens Become Actors in the Fight Against Corruption

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The European Commission's support to Transparency International's Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres provides an encouraging example of capacity building of civil society organisations and an imaginative approach to how citizens can play an active role in the fight against corruption.

Gabriela, an inspector in a child protection agency in Bucharest, Romania, was fired after reporting frightening abuses within the organisation. Two women in Baku, Azerbaijan, were detained by police officers and forced to pay a bribe for their release. While Sinisa, a musician in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, dedicated years of his life to uncovering corruption and mismanagement he observed at the philharmonic orchestra where he once worked.

These varied stories of corruption have a common bond – they are just a few examples of the kinds of cases handled every day by Transparency International's Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) around the world.

Operating as walk-in or call-in corruption complaint offices, ALACs are open to any citizen who may have become a victim or witness of corruption. They offer free and confidential legal advice and assistance in pursuing corruption related complaints.

Most ALACs have a toll-free telephone hotline and citizens can always get in touch viaALAC hotline email or post, or by visiting the ALAC office. Transparency International’s National Chapters established their first ALACs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Macedonia. Some seven years on, there are now almost 50 centres in some 38 countries in all regions of the world. Thirteen more countries are already planning to open ALACs in 2010-2011 and more national chapters of TI are studying the possibility of opening ALACs.

Conrad Zellmann, Transparency International’s ALAC coordinator, believes ALACs provide the necessary support that enables citizens to become involved in the fight against corruption.

"Our objective is to create a more sustainable demand for good governance and that would be on the basis of involving citizens to a larger degree," says Zellmann.

"ALACs use the solid statistics gained from hundreds or even thousands of corruption cases to advocate for strategic systemic changes so as to - ideally - prevent certain cases of corruption from recurring in the future", he adds. To watch a video interview with Conrad Zellmann, click on the icon.

ALACs have driven a number of campaigns to translate citizens’ concerns on corruption into structural changes for better governance. In Croatia, the local ALAC backed a campaign to promote access to information and the right to know, while a campaign for protection for whistleblowers in Romania secured a change in the national legislation.

ALAC Zambia"The fact that ALACs have already received more than 60,000 contacts from citizens and helped so many of them in fighting the corruption cases they were facing, especially when it comes to access to basic services such as education or medical services, has made quite a significant impact and that is why we believe that ALACs are so successful,” Zellmann argues.

Transparency International is an international non-governmental organisation fighting corruption. Every year Transparency International publishes its Corruption Perceptions Index, a comparative listing of corruption worldwide, as well as other corruption related indexes, such as comprehensive National Integrity System assessments, the Bribe payers' Index and the Global Corruption Barometer.

The ALAC project receives funding from a number of international partners, including the European Commission which is backing the expansion of the ALAC programme into five French-speaking African countries (Cameroon, Niger, Senegal, Madagascar and Mauritius).

"With the support of the European Commission, we've just completed a successful project in Kazakhstan, we will be opening a new centre in Turkey this year, and we plan to open new centres in Finland, in Ireland, in Hungary and Lithuania in 2011," ALAC coordinator is happy to report.

The European Commission has recently restated its commitment to tackling corruption, both in partner countries that benefit from EU assistance and within EU Member States, as a recent report found that most Europeans consider graft (a corrupting form of a gift) a major problem in their country.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission.