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Empowering Civil Society in the Fight against Corruption in South East Europe
 
SPAI regional conference
September 27-29, 2001
Dubrovnik, Croatia

Conclusions and country action plans

In a bid to counter the malign influence of corruption in South Eastern Europe, the Stability Pact Anti-Corruption Initiative (SPAI) held its first regional dialogue on civil society in Cavtat, Croatia, on 17-19 September 2001.

Some 100 senior government officials and leading business, trade union, media and civil society representatives from SPAI countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FRY, FYROM, Moldova and Romania), as well as representatives of the donor community and of major international governmental and non-governmental organisations shared views and ideas on developing collaborative partnerships to combat corruption at the national and regional level.

Partners in the conference included the American Bar Association (ABA-CEELI), the Balkan Human Rights Network, the Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute (COLPI), the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the Integra Foundation, the International Organisation of Employers, Medienhilfe Ex-Yugoslawien, the Office of the High Representative (OHR), The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Soros Open Society Institute, the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, Transparency International (TI), the United Nations Center for International Crime Prevention (UNCICP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank.

The conference was sponsored by the US Government and hosted by the Government of Croatia. It was chaired by Judge Giuseppe di Gennaro, Chairman of the SPAI. The conference reflected a strong consensus to further involve civil society organisations, businesses and trade unions and the media in the fight against corruption.

The objective of the Conference was to take stock of civil society capacities in the fight against corruption, encourage the strengthening of collaborative arrangements between SPAI governments and their civil society in the framework of SPAI, and promote donor support at the country level in accordance with those arrangements.

Conference participants:

  • Agreed that civil society is a key political ally of governments in designing anti-corruption strategies and that building private/public sector coalitions is critical to developing and sustaining reform measures.

  • Noted progress made by SPAI governments to greater involve civil society in the fight against corruption and to enhance the enabling environment for civil society participation.

  • Stressed the importance to further involve employers and employees organisations in that fight and promote ethical standards in business and good corporate governance.

  • Recognised the need to address the regional dimension of corruption and therefore to promote a regional approach to strengthen the involvement of civil society.

  • Identified priority measures to fight corruption including:
    - empowering NGOs, media and business organisations to galvanize community action, generate political commitment and create a pattern of honesty in business transactions;
    - enabling independent investigative journalists;
    - building public/private partnerships and networks to monitor anti-corruption activities and underpin reform efforts;
    - establishing participatory and proactive strategies to enhance anti-corruption efforts of all parties concerned;

  • Recognised the value-added of the SPAI in supporting the active involvement of civil society in the fight against corruption.

  • Encouraged donor organisations to organise support at the country level for operationalizing reform efforts.

Implementation strategies: Civic and government interaction

Participants reached a consensus on the need to:

  • Develop strategic action plans for fighting corruption in co-operation with civil society organisations (CSO)s;
  • Strengthen the legal framework for CSOs and involve CSOs in the process;
  • Strengthen institutional capacities;
  • Use new tools and instruments such as public hearings and roundtables in policy-making;
  • Exchange ideas and good practices at the regional level;
  • Build strategic partnerships between government and civil society whenever possible;
  • Start with pilot projects before institutionalizing;
  • Raise public awareness;
  • Focus efforts on increasing CSOs capacities.

Implementation strategies: Enlisting business and trade unions

Participants:

  • Noted the need for changing the business environment because corruption interferes with competition on the basis of price, quality, and service and erodes the integrity of managers and employees;
  • Stressed the importance of promoting ethical standards in business and supporting good corporate governance and transparency in the privatization process;
  • Encouraged the development of civil society networks that would encompass NGOs, business associations and trade unions;
  • Called for technical assistance to business associations and trade unions to strengthen their training capacity, in particular in the field of accounting rules and fiscal transparency, and to help them develop systems for monitoring tax and cash flows and sound appeal procedures in public procurement;
  • Encouraged the sharing of good practices, with particular emphasis on the role of business associations and trade unions in the fight against corruption.

Implementation strategies: Mass media and access to public information

Participants recognized the importance of:

  • Encouraging media to raise public awareness by organizing awareness campaigns, if possible in co-operation with the government;
  • Ensuring non-discriminatory access to public information;
  • Strengthening the independence of the media, in particular through reviewing the system of state subsidies to media, which can put such independence at risk;
  • Improving the legal framework concerning electronic media and ensuring continuity in the fiscal rules applicable to media;
  • Enhancing security of journalists through legal means;
  • Enhancing the employment conditions of journalists and their professionalism via training and the development of codes of ethics and developing networks of trainers.

Country action plans

Government and civil society representatives of SPAI countries agreed to undertake a number of actions during the next 12 months to promote the further involvement of civil society in the fight against corruption (see annexes). Commitments developed by governments and their civil society include:

  • Albania: raise public awareness: use media, pamphlets, surveys, and CSOs, and review results every 3 months;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: invite CSOs to participate in the development of a national anti-corruption strategy and organize regular meetings of the Anti-Corruption working group;
  • Croatia: develop a code of ethics for both the public and private sector and initiate a media campaign for the upcoming Conflict of Interest draft law;
  • FYR Macedonia: draft a Sunshine Law to provide access to Government's information and invite CSOs to join the Anti-Corruption team;
  • FRY/Montenegro: systematically involve civil society organizations in the implementation of the anti-corruption action plan, which includes, the drafting of an Illicit Enrichment law and the development of an Anti-Money Laundering Scheme;
  • Moldova: involve Transparency International in surveying, awareness raising and coordinating meetings with the Government, and develop film and media usage to raise public awareness;
  • Romania: re-write NGO laws to facilitate the registration and management of NGOs and provide means for NGOs to monitor the Public Procurement process and contract awards.

Follow-up

  • Participants agreed that the civil society country reports discussed during the Conference would be adopted by silent procedure.
  • Participants urged the conference organisers, partner institutions, and other donors and/or interested parties to actively pursue bilateral contacts, strategies and programmes of mutual assistance for supporting the implementation of the action plans developed during the Conference and therefore for advancing integrity and combating corruption in South East Europe.
  • Participants welcomed the offers for provision of support made by the international donor community present in Cavtat. Countries of the region will make known their specific assistance requirements to meet the policy objective of the country recommendations and action plans and will co-operate with the assistance providers in the elaboration, organisation and implementation of assistance and capacity-building programmes.
  • Participants noted that another SPAI meeting will be held within one year to review progress on the basis of country reports and action plans. The result of the review will be widely disseminated to all parties concerned with the fight against corruption.
 
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