04 July 2019
Posteado en : Opinion
The Open Justice Strategy of the State Council of Colombia, supported by the ACTUE Colombia project, has received a stellar reform award.
Early last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the 6th Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership in Canada , a gathering that brought together two thousand people from 79 countries and 20 local governments who, along with civil society organizations, academics and other stakeholders, make up the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This year, the Summit revolved around three strategic priorities: participation, inclusion and impact.
During the inauguration, and to my surprise, the initiative that we supported in the ACTUE project – a project managed by FIIAPP with EU funding between 2014 and 2018 – was displayed on giant screens: the Open Justice Strategy in the State Council of Colombia as one of the “ Stellar Reforms” selected in the last OGP cycle. It was very exciting to be able to experience that tangible impact of one of our projects, something that we rarely get to experience. I was even more thrilled than when I saw the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau live, which is really saying something. And for good reason, too. These 12 commitments have been selected by the Independent Review Mechanism from among hundreds of others for showing evidence of preliminary results that mean significant advances in relevant and transformative political areas .
The Open Justice Strategy in the Council of State of Colombia has, for the first time, allowed the Court to begin publishing its previous agendas and decisions, as well as information on possible conflicts of interest of judges and administrative staff; essential aspects of public accountability, as well as enabling citizens and civil society to do their work of social control. In the long term, these changes can reduce corruption in justice institutions and allow them to regain the trust of citizens . Justicia Abierta is one of the political tendencies in open government that is gaining greater traction, given the major impact that its actions can have on citizens; In particular, access to justice makes it possible to exercise other rights. In addition, this sectoral action contributes directly to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda through goal 16, Peace, Security and Solid Institutions.
The ACTUE Colombia project was supporting the Transparency Secretariat of Colombia in the preparation of its OGP action plans, as well as civil society organizations, by using specialized technical assistance to promote the creation of a space for dialogue between administrations and civil society to define their own priorities in open government .
This is a good example of the positive impact that delegated cooperation can have, thanks to the flexibility and innovation they bring to our partners and the technical assistance on demand that we carry out.
About the ACTUE-Colombia project
The Anti corruption and Transparency Project of the European Union for Colombia (ACTUE-Colombia) has supported Colombian institutions in the implementation of key measures for a Open Territorial Government with the aim of making progress in the prevention of and fight against corruption both at the national and territorial levels. To this end, the project supported the creation of conditions for the fulfilment of international commitments, the strengthening of social control, the promotion of the co- responsibility of the private sector, and the generation of cultural and institutional changes .
The project is financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP in coordination with the Secretary for Transparency (ST) and Public Function (FP). It has assisted three regional governments, six city councils and two hospitals in areas such as applying the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information, drafting Anti-Corruption and Citizen Information Plans (PAAC), fostering accountability and promoting public participation. It has thus helped officials to understand that the right to transparency and access to information is an essential right on which other rights depend. It has increased their awareness by institutionalizing advances in active transparency and their knowledge of how to identify and manage the risks of corruption.
Carolina Díaz, legal technician in the area of Justice and Security at FIIAPP and, between 2014 and 2018, member of the ACTUE Colombia team
11 October 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
The Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme, managed by the FIIAPP in Ghana, supports the fight against corruption in the African country
Earlier this year, the World Bank published its forecast for global economic growth for 2018, a forecast that featured Africa prominently. With an estimated growth of 8.3%,Ghana led a ranking in which sub-Saharan countries held the top positions. In addition to Ghana, Ethiopia (2nd), Ivory Coast (4th) and Djibouti (5th) were among the five countries with the highest growth forecasts. This aspect of the Ghanaian economy does not come as a surprise. With 34 years of uninterrupted growth (the last recession dates from 1983, when its economy shrunk by 4.5%), Ghana has one of the most diverse and dynamic economies in sub-Saharan Africa—the eighth largest in terms of GDP and the second largest in West Africa after Nigeria—and has a fairly balanced trade balance, which places it as a low-middle income country.
Inequality versus macroeconomics
However, these macroeconomic data cannot hide other indicators that are not so encouraging. Although the population living in extreme poverty has halved in the last 25 years, from 52% in 1992 to 24% today, Ghana is one of the 50 most unequal countries in the world and, as Oxfam points out in its latest reports, “inequality [in Ghana] is increasing, undermining the reduction of poverty, slowing economic growth and threatening social stability.” According to data from this NGO, in Ghana the 10% of the richest population consumes almost a third of the resources (32%), the same amount consumed by the poorest 60%. At the other end of the scale, the poorest 10% only has access to 2% of the resources.
This problem is compounded by two important gaps. In the first place, the gender gap, which causes women to have very restricted access to resources and wealth. As Oxfam points out, this group is “half as likely as men to own land”. In addition, “only 6% of the richest people in Ghana are women”. Second, there is a territorial gap. Ghana’s development pattern has accentuated the north/south and country/city divisions, with poverty fundamentally located in rural areas (almost four times more than in urban areas); and in the three northern provinces (the Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions), which have development indicators similar to countries such as Mauritania, Madagascar or Benin, according to the 2015 Human Development Report.
Regiones de Ghana de menor a mayor IDH y país equivalente Región IDH País equivalente Northern 0,483 Benín Upper West 0,506 Madagascar Upper East 0,508 Mauritania Central 0,535 Angola Brong Ahafo 0,571 Santo Tome y Príncipe Eastern 0,575 Santo Tome y Príncipe Ghana (nacional) 0,578 – Volta 0,581 Zambia Ashanti 0,588 Laos Western 0,609 Bután Greater Accra 0,647 Marruecos Fuente: Subnational Human Development Index de Global Data Lab
Anti-corruption in the face of inequality
To enable government action in countries affected by inequality to reverse the situation, emphasis should be placed on three aspects, as indicated in the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index: social spending, tax policies and workers’ rights, and corruption is a phenomenon that negatively impacts these three aspects. Firstly, by detracting from public resources, corruption significantly affects social policies, which have less spending capacity. Secondly, since it is an opaque economic circuit, it is not taxed. In addition, on many occasions, large-scale corruption and tax evasion are interconnected phenomena that involve political and economic elites. Without forgetting that the social perception of corruption is a great disincentive for compliance with tax obligations by citizens, who think that their taxes will end up in the pockets of the rulers. Lastly, corruption encourages informal employment, where it is more difficult to adopt regulations that promote respect for workers’ rights and the establishment of decent minimum wages.
In short, as Transparency International pointed out in the presentation of the Corruption Perception Index 2016, “systemic corruption and social inequality reinforce each other, creating a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society and unequal distribution of wealth”. This is exactly what happens in Ghana. The perception of corruption in the country, measured by the aforementioned index, yields a medium-high score of 40 out of 100. This index indicates the degree of corruption in the public sector according to the perception of the business sector and country analysts, on a scale from 100 (perception of absence of corruption) and 0 (perception as very corrupt). But there is a more alarming fact, namely that Ghana´s result has been deteriorating in recent years, from 48/100 in 2014 to 40/100 in 2017. Quite probably, this worsening is largely due to the revelation in recent years of important corruption cases that affected the judicial system and the football federation.
Tax evasion, which, as we pointed out, is a matter closely linked to corruption, is also an important challenge for Ghana. In fact, for Ghana’s Business Development Minister, it is the biggest challenge the country faces. All of this means that the fight against corruption in Ghana is a powerful tool for inclusive development, which goes beyond mere macroeconomic growth and considers the most disadvantaged groups. And that is the goal of Ghana’s Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (ARAP), which is managed by the FIIAPP in Ghana with funding from the European Commission: to reduce corruption and improve accountability in this African country. This project begins at a time when the government of Ghana has been intensely involved in the fight against corruption, creating Ghana´s National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) within which the project is framed.
Ángel González, technical coordinator of the transparency and anti-corruption support project in Ghana
16 August 2018
Posteado en : Entrevista
Delia Ferreira is President of the NGO Transparency International and in this interview, she tells us about some advances against corruption as well as challenges that are still pending
How can we bring about a cultural change in our societies regarding the phenomenon of corruption, so that it stops being seen as a natural phenomenon?
The fact that corruption is normal is a central problem in our societies. Corruption appears when it is installed structurally as the normal way of doing business or to get aid or whatever you need from the State in the way of services. This is a problem that has to do with rebuilding certain agreements about the basic values of a society. For years these agreements have been broken as has the understanding about what was good and what was bad in societies. Even if one analyses what the perception of a very small child is about what is fair or unfair, it is much clearer than the perception that this child is going to have when he (she) permeates social criteria over the years. We must work hard on education and discuss again what is acceptable and what is not, because, when corruption becomes the norm, there is no longer an effective antidote, because in the fight against corruption the partner that we really need is a society that is mobilised, citizen by citizen, aware of what should be allowed and what should not. Conditions must be created to promote or channel that social energy.
What are the challenges for international coordination in the fight against corruption from examples of global institutionalised corruption like the Lavo Jato case?
Large-scale corruption, like the Lava Jato case, poses different challenges for the justice system than the corruption cases seen previously, however big they were in monetary terms, because this is a global phenomenon and, therefore, requires a global response and cooperation, not only at the country level but also between all agencies. This is one of the problems faced by the justice system when it wants to investigate these cases. Not only access to banking information, tax information, information on money laundering organisations, which should be made far easier for the judges and prosecutors who are investigating, but also the need for international cooperation.
This is why the procedural rules must be changed in many countries and the international conventions on fighting corruption must be altered, because we continue to face this type of problem in a situation in which money is moved from one country to another with a mouse click on a computer, in a matter of seconds, and it disappears off the radar. Here, we are confronted with the same mechanisms for dealing with the government as we had in the 19th century: the judge prepares an official letter that goes to the government, the government sends it to the government of another country, which sends it to a judge, and that judge says that he lacks a detail and returns it, and months go by, if not years, before the information is obtained. Also, if the money moves from one country to another, or from one social structure to another, or to another fiscal paradise in a matter of seconds, it is impossible to follow its trail, which is essential for investigating corruption.
Recently , an Anti-Corruption Legal Aid Centre (ALAC) was inaugurated in Chile, with the support of EUROsociAL+ , a programme managed by FIIAPP. What is the value of this centre for allegations of corruption and how will it serve as a link between the State and citizens?
ALACs already exist in our chapters in over 60 countries. The idea behind these centres is to support victims of corruption or those who know of cases of corruption and want to report them and do not have the legal or judicial support needed to do so. ALACs have allowed us to trigger allegations of corruption in many countries around the world, because it is no longer an individual citizen but an organisation that is linked with the Public Prosecution Service and can channel the complaints and follow them through.
In many of these countries what we have are agreements with their bar associations that allow us to have top-level legal advice from lawyers who work on the cases pro bono and provide, through ALACs, contact with those who want to go to court and do not know how. Also, these ALAC centres have provided us with a great deal of information on how corruption operates in the countries, direct, first-hand information that would have been difficult to gather otherwise, since corruption operates in total secrecy, receipts are not handed out for corruption except in exceptional cases in which a record was kept of the accounting, as happened with Odrebrecht, which had a section of the company devoted to these structured operations.
To what extent does corruption have different effects on women?
An important sector in which to find a gender difference is in relation to access to services and allowances that are linked to petty corruption. This is because women are responsible for care-giving tasks and, therefore, we are the visible face that is requesting the aid, because poverty has been feminised and the poorest sectors are those that need the cooperation of the State in the provision of those services.
Another factor that specifically punishes women, or does so in a more substantial manner, is the area of exchange currencies. In many petty corruption cases, sexual favours are demanded or they give rise to situations of harassment in which women are victims twice over.
The corruption barometer, which is one of International Transparency’s measuring tools, shows that in the region, areas of public policy like health, education and social plans are perceived as being the most corrupt or the most prone to corruption, and these are the areas clearly linked to care-giving tasks and requesting allowances. So, corruption has a different effect on men and women.
The other two areas of the state in which different effects can be observed are the police and the courts. When the police and the courts are affected by corruption, the women who have to resort to them in cases of discrimination, domestic or gender violence, femicides, rape or harassment face the fact that, when they defend their rights in an area dominated by corruption, instead of finding protection and a guarantee of these rights, they end up being victims.
28 September 2017
Posteado en : Reportage
To date Ghana does not have a Freedom of Information law but it has made some positive strides to ensure transparency and accountability
In the past years, Ghana has made some positive strides to ensure transparency and accountability within its governance reforms. Some concrete commitments include the development and roll out of a 10 year National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) as well joining in 2011 the Open Government Partnership.
As part of these efforts, there is also the five-year EU funded Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP) currently implemented by FIIAPP. The objective of the programme is to contribute to current reform processes to reduce corruption and improve accountability, and compliance with the rule of law, particularly when it comes to accountability, anti-corruption and environmental governance. It does so through support key institutions, while at the same time increasing the ability of the public, civil society organizations and the media to hold government to account.
On one hand the programme works with state institutions to improve and strengthen the services to report, prosecute and adjudicate corruption cases. On the other, it strengthens state institutions, civil society and the media to create the conditions for citizens to demand accountability from the government and report corruption cases.
Against this backdrop, access to information is a critical stepping stone for anyone who wishes to hold the government to account. It is no surprise therefore that access to information has become a cornerstone of good governance and an important anti-corruption tool. Information is fundamental to make informed decisions. Information is also power. Where it is not freely accessible, corruption can thrive and basic rights might not be realised. People can hide corrupt acts behind a veil of secrecy. Those with privileged access to information can demand bribes from others also seeking it.
Today, 28th of September, is the International Day for Universal Access to Information. Citizens and organizations across the world call on their leaders today to act upon the fundamental premise that all information held by governments and governmental institutions is in principle public and may only be withheld if there are legitimate reasons, such as typically privacy and security, for not disclosing it.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information was declared just over two years ago by UNESCO. Not many know however that this UN initiative has its roots in Africa, and is an outcome of advocacy of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI). This is a concerted effort to remind us all – regardless of our job and daily life – that accessing information held by government officials and institutions is a fundamental human right established under international Law, covered by Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Over the past 10 years, the right to information has been recognized by an increasing number of countries, through the adoption of a wave of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. In 1990, only 13 countries had adopted national FOI laws, whereas there are currently more than 90 such laws adopted across the world.
To date Ghana does not have a Freedom of Information law, despite it has been debated in the country for almost 20 years: the actual bill being drafted in 1999 and then reviewed in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and is currently in Parliament. There are however, positive signs from the government affirming that the bill will be approved in the coming year together with the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Corruption.
Riccardo D’Emidio, Civic Education Expert – Accountability, Rule of law and Anti-corruption Programme (ARAP)