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People power and anti-corruption

New anti-corruption initiatives pop up around the world every day. Right now, there are numbers of new wave initiatives happening which have two very distinct goals – to both empower people to stand up against corruption through various means and to raise awareness of anti-corruption as an issue.

These goals differ depending on a country’s existing relationship with corruption. In some countries, issues with corruption are obvious to all and sadly people see it as the norm, but in others such as the UK, corruption is less obvious. It is an often invisible force driving political and/or private organisational decisions the public will likely never hear about.

In our Corruption and Governance MA (online), you will examine these new wave initiatives and learn how you can create your own set of action steps to combat corruption in the context in which you face it.

Below are a few initiatives that are great examples of how a country may choose to embrace ‘people power’ when trying to tackle corrupt practice.

New wave initiatives in the fight against corruption:

1. Nepal’s hit show Integrity Icon

Nepal has had a tough history of corruption for many years and Accountability Lab, the NGO that pioneered the show, Integrity Icon, has found the perfect medium to discuss this issue openly with the public at large. The aim is to empower the public to reward good behaviour, in turn creating higher public expectations. To name and fame rather than to name and fame.

The show gives a confident summary of its agenda on the website:

‘A lack of integrity – which leads to corruption, inequality and insecurity – is a global challenge. Ordinary citizens often feel helpless in the face of graft and mismanagement. There is a need to encourage champions of integrity, which ultimately builds public trust. We ‘name and fame’ public servants who display exemplary integrity and make heroes out of ordinary people doing the right thing.’

The two goals are clear here, to first empower the people and to secondly raise awareness of corrupt activity in the country via a medium, television, which reaches a wide audience.

2. Porto Alegre’s ‘Participatory Budgeting’

Brazil, like Nepal, suffers from a long history of corruption in both the public and private sectors – with public expectation leaning towards corruption prevailing over what is ultimately right for the people.

In 1989, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul’s capital city Porto Alegre, modern participatory budgeting was born. It was an attempt by mayor Olívio Dutra of the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) to create a participatory democracy in place of the outgoing dictatorship – and it worked.

The city was seeing rapid population growth but lacked the financial resources to support new infrastructure. This model allowed the people of the city to join in large town gatherings and partake in deciding how the budgets would be spent. It was successful in mobilising (rich and poor) communities and improving access to small-scale infrastructure and services. This model was widely successful and was implemented across Brazil and indeed abroad.

However in Brazil today, politicians argue it is no longer fit for purpose and there has been widescale dismantling of participatory budgeting, despite its overwhelming long-term success. Too many politicians wanted to use the power that allocation budgets gives them and that led to a gradual scaling back of the participatory budgeting model. This means Brazil has taken a step back instead of forwards in creating a space where the people have a say on where the money is going (not into the pockets of the politicians and their allies) and how it’s being spent.

3. The UK’s Freedom of Information Act 2000

In the year 2000, Tony Blair’s government focused its efforts on the goal of giving people more information on what the UK government was doing. This rush to openness would not just raise awareness of corruption but also encourage policymakers to ‘do the right thing’. In particular, this act does one crucial thing; it gives the national public ‘right of access’ to information held by public authorities. This means that ultimately every penny spent by a politician should be searchable on the government database and anyone has the right to simply request it via the government’s database.

This Act has been widely criticised by politicians, including Tony Blair himself, with the general belief being that it provides journalists with ammunition for ‘fishing expeditions’ against Members of Parliament.

Despite this and other perceived flaws in this Act, it has shed light on many large-scale corruption activities, such as sexual abuse cases by foreign diplomats who prior to the act had ‘diplomatic immunity’.  The Act has also revealed discrepancies surrounding the personal expenditure of MPs, such as the recent enquiries concerning Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s home renovations.

Your opportunity to create new solutions

Initiatives such as these and many others will be analysed and evaluated in detail when you study our Master’s degree online in the ‘People power and anti-corruption’ module. You’ll not only discuss new wave initiatives in great depth, but also begin to form your own ideas on how to take actionable steps when creating your own initiatives and understand how you can apply this in your workplace.

You’ll be taught by Professor Dan Hough, who has worked closely with governments around the world to change the tone and strengthen initiatives to create an environment which both empowers the public and raises public awareness, where needed.

Visit our course page to learn more about our Corruption and Governance MA (online).