SELDI was created by IDLO and the CSD through a Memorandum of Understanding dated 20th April 1999. The MoU did not create a separate legal entity, but rather provided a structured focal point for sustained action in support of the defined objectives.
The first SELDI initiative, similarly to the current one, also was an open process encouraging the participation of all stakeholders in the region.
The International Secretariat of SELDI, responsible for the overall coordination with international organisations and donors, was located at the International Development Law Organization in Rome. An Executive Secretariat for the purpose of operational support of SELDI projects was set up at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia.
An International Steering Board, consisting of prominent public figures and NGO and business leaders from the SELDI countries and EU member states and the US and representatives of international organisations, were responsible for establishing SELDI’s strategy and activities, is in the process of formation.
Launching conference (2000)
On April 7, 2000, the first conference of the Southeast European Legal Development Initiative (SELDI) with donors and international organizations was held at the headquarters of the International Development Law Institute (IDLI) in Rome.
Opening presentations by Michael Hager, Director of IDLI, Minister Giuseppe Cipolloni, Vice Coordinator of the Stability Pact at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and John Tennant, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, US Agency for International Development emphasized the importance of building the rule of law in the Southeast of Europe, in particular in the context of the Stability Pact. Speakers highlighted the key role to be played by non-governmental organizations in this process, specifically in the Southeast European Legal Development Initiative (SELDI). Minister Cipolloni reiterated the commitment of the Italian government to the stability and development of Southeast Europe, and expressed its support to SELDI. This support is the continuation of years of collaboration between IDLI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The relevance of SELDI’s focus on corruption is evident in the role of corruption in making possible cross-border organized crime and thus regional insecurity.
Speakers stated the important contribution SELDI with its focus on anti-corruption, judicial reform and the legal aspects of international trade will make to the development of the region. Speakers recognized the need for going beyond country-specific efforts towards region-wide cooperation networks, particularly as regards issues of democratic governance, and the pro-active role to be played by NGOs in such networks.
Coalition building (2000-2002)
The Coalition Building and Monitoring for Anti-Corruption in Southeast Europe project was successfully launched in September 2000 as part of the Southeast European Legal Development Initiative.
Purpose and premise
The overall objective of the SELDI anti-corruption project/component is to introduce aregion-wide institutional framework for public-private cooperation in countering corruption in the countries of Southeast Europe. The main premise of the project approach is that the institutionalization of corruption in the SEE countries cannot be explained by the national circumstances alone. A number of region-wide causes need to be taken into account if we are to comprehend the depth of the problem.
The gravity of the problem calls for bold and radical measures if corruption is to be stemmed. For this to happen, broad public coalitions need to be formed both within countries, and region-wide. Traditional bureaucracies – be they national or international – cannot muster the type of public support needed if these reforms are to be successful.
Thus a partnership between public and private institutions is the most appropriate anti-corruption model for the region. This approach has three main pillars – encouraging coalition building on a regional basis, enhancing public awareness and regular monitoring of corruption dynamics. In all three areas, the process is intended to be NGO-driven.
The importance of the latter is premised on the fact that support coming from a cross section of society, involving major public and private actors could only be enlisted in this process if society has a clear view of the severity of the problem. This warrants the introduction of a new kind of corruption assessment which goes beyond traditional law enforcement methods. This new kind could only be successful if it is based on cooperation between the public institutions, involved in designing and implementing anti-corruption policies, and civil society institutions which are expected to generate civic support for these policies. For this to happen, the assessment on which these policies are based, needs to be carried out in a public-private partnership.
The project is supported through a grant from USAID.
Regional corruption assessment
A task force of experts was set up to draft a background document as basis for the development of an Regional Corruption Assessment Report (RCAR), to be implemented in phase two. The development of the background document is being achieved through the following steps:
– Country reports on the status and scope of corruption in the participating countries are being developed by using the inputs from local experts.
– The seven country reports (the report for Bulgaria is part of the Corruption Assessment Report (CAR) developed by Coalition 2000 annually since 1999) will be integrated into a single document intended to serve as background for RCAR in Phase II.
In order to adopt a uniform approach to the development of country reports and to enhance the capacity of participating NGOs, representatives of the network mobilizers participated in a corruption assessment training seminar in Sofia in December 2000. The training was based on the experience of the Coalition 2000 CAR. The trainees were introduced to the use of monitoring instruments for the purpose of implementing a corruption watchdog system. Production of regional corruption indexes based on the Coalition 2000 model was also included in the training workshop curriculum.
Regional corruption monitoring system
In the meanwhile, work progressed on the development of a regional corruption monitoring system. Experts from Vitosha Research, the sociological unit of the Center for the Study of Democracydeveloped a survey methodology for the corruption diagnostics in seven SEE countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro. A network of survey agencies and watchdog NGOs was established to carry out the surveys.
As a result, a report Regional Corruption Monitoring in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro was produced in March 2001. The main goal of the comparative analysis contained in the report was to show the public significance of the problem of corruption and the extent to which corruption has penetrated into the various sections of society.
The report is a unique effort which has not been undertaken in the region before. Its significance was underscored at the international conference Beyond Anticorruption Rhetoric: Coalition Building and Monitoring Impact, organized by Coalition 2000 in Sofia. Both Bulgarian and international media widely covered the report which was presented and discussed at the event. The conference was attended by representatives of non-governmental organizations and public officials from Southeast European countries as well as by representatives of international organizations, such as USAID, OECD, the World Bank, the European Union, UNDP and the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. Among the keynote speakers were Mr. Sten Ask, Ambassador of Sweden, holding rotating presidency of the EU and the US Ambassador to Bulgaria Richard Miles. In his opening speech Ambassador Donald Kursch, Principal Deputy Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, highly praised the achievements of the Southeast European Legal Development Initiative.
Preparation of phase two
It is of key significance to the overall project objectives that the momentum gathered during phase one is sustained through the second phase. To this end, preparatory efforts have already started. These include identification of additional partners –both public and private – in the target countries, identification of appropriate awareness materials for regional use, consultations with international institutions concerned with the issues of anti-corruption in the region, as well as consultations with potential donors. The Center for the Study of Democracy also started analytical efforts to identify regional “soft security” factors contributing to corruption in the region (eg trafficking in human beings and narcotics, commercial fraud, etc) as an additional contribution to the future development of a Regional Corruption Assessment Report (RCAR).
As the major challenge of the second phase will be the development and endorsement of the RCAR, it is paramount that networking effort started in phase one is expanded to include a wide range of public and private organizations from SEE as well as international organizations.
Regional Corruption Monitoring Indexes
The 2002 Regional Corruption Monitoring Indexes, produced within the framework of the Southeast European Legal Development Initiative, were officially presented at a press-conference held on April 4, 2002, at the Center for the Study of Democracy, SELDI Executive Secretariat.
The regional monitoring of corruption is being held for a second year in a row as part of the Coalition Building and Monitoring for Anti-Corruption in Southeast Europe project. The Regional Corruption Monitoring System (RCMS), introduced by SELDI in 2001, is based on the experience and methodology of the monitoring system of corruption developed and implemented on a quarterly basis since 1998 in Bulgaria by the anti-corruption initiative Coalition 2000.
The RCMS is the first ever region-wide corruption diagnostics carried out simultaneously in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Yugoslavia on the basis of a uniform methodology. The regional monitoring is a unique effort which has not been undertaken in the region before as it measures the link between public values and the actual spread of corruption in the countries. It allows a comparison of the public sectors most affected by corruption thus providing objective data for the design of regional anti-corruption policy instruments.
The main goal of the comparative analysis contained in the RCMS is to show the public significance of the problem of corruption and the extent to which corruption has penetrated into the various sections of these societies. This monitoring system allows citizens in the region to voice their concern about the corruption pressure exercised over them. Thus, as public support is an indispensable component in any anti-corruption campaign, the RCMS is a key instrument for empowering the public and generating civic involvement in anti-corruption efforts.
Areas in focus (2000-2004)
In consultation with the partner organisations in the region IDLI and the CSD have designed four specific projects, which support the overall SELDI objectives. They deal with corruption, judicial reform and trade, and the establishment of a distance learning center. Each addresses a specific set of problems, but are logically and substantively linked. The anti–corruption project seeks, through a number of related approaches to raise awareness of the potential for dealing with corruption and then to encourage specific actions including the establishment of new legal and policy norms. The judicial reform project seeks to build regional links between the judges, other court personnel and relevant ministries aimed at contributing to the building of the rule of law in the whole region. The significant contacts established under the project will also provide a forum for greater intra-regional cooperation in the control of corruption. The trade initiative seeks to help build greater opportunities for intra-and inter-regional trade, which will contribute to re-establishing economic stability and security. The trade project will help build transparency in trade and will diminish the opportunities for corruption. The distance learning center will create a“first node” cost-effective training facility for target groups in the SELDI countries for World Bank, IDLI and CSD training programs.
The success of the democratization and the establishment of a functioning region of Southeast Europe will depend on the existence of functioning institutions of pluralistic democracy and market economy in all the countries concerned. The effectiveness of local reform efforts and international technical and financial assistance requires the quality of public service and must be based on the best practices of good governance. SELDI’s activities in promoting these practices focus in two main areas:
Facilitating public-private partnerships in anti-corruption; and
Capacity building for the NGO sector as a factor for civic participation and accountability.
Regional anti-corruption efforts
As corruption is the negation of the Rule of Law and an impediment to efficient law enforcement and effective functioning of public institutions, non-governmental institutions need to find a common platform with the institutions of the state to work to prevent it. Reducing corruption requires not only the relevant institution-building measures but also creating the social preconditions for establishing the Rule of Law. In this context it is of decisive importance to foster a democratic political culture based on trust and respect of government institutions, transparency and openness of the activities of the administration, and an orientation towards stability and predictability. This task has become all the more pressing in the aftermath of the conflict in Kosovo whereby these issues have been effectively regionalized. Therefore, in the political environment of SEE where common formal institutions are yet to emerge, the innovative approach of Coalition 2000 consisting not in joining the stakeholders in formal organizations but rather implementing it as an open and transparent process, is particularly relevant. Not only do corruption pressures have certain cross-country roots in SEE (e.g. international criminal activities, migration, etc) but anti-corruption efforts, especially those aimed at promoting democratic values, could be implemented more efficiently in multilateral co-operation.
On the basis of the history of reforms in the region, it could be summarized that reform efforts will not succeed unless both governments and NGOs participate actively in the design and implementation of a common reform agenda. This is especially valid in areas such as the provision of public services and citizens’ rights. Corruption, therefore, should be a priority area where public-private co-operation needs to be established.
In this context, SELDI’s regional anti-corruption initiatives will focus on coalition building and corruption monitoring. These efforts seek to strengthen the role of civil society organizations in establishing partnerships with public institutions for the implementation of anti-corruption measures on a regional scale. In addition, a network of organizations will be established within SELDI to monitor the level and scope of corruption in the region based on the Coalition 2000 monitoring methodology on a regional scale.
Strengthening of the Judiciary
The judiciary as the third branch of power in a state governed by the Rule of Law – together with the legislative and the executive – is the one contributing to the legal certainty and stability of society. Thus the strengthening of the judiciary is one of the basic conditions for the democratization and economic reconstruction of the countries of SEE. The judicial reform process in SEE should aim to achieve a number of specific objectives:
- To strengthen the independence of the judiciary;
- To provide conditions for a speedier administration of justice;
- To increase the efficiency of the judicial process;
- To increase public confidence in the judiciary;
- To establish a system for raising the professional knowledge and skills of the magistrates and of the court administration;
- To enhance the collaboration between countries of the SEE region in judicial structures and the enforcement of the law.
In order to achieve these objectives, improved harmonized legislation, professional cooperation and organizational changes, including training and career development schemes are needed.
As there are a number of apparent common problems and topics of mutual interests for the countries of SEE, it is desirable to initiate regional cooperation and partnerships based on the ongoing national judicial reform activities. With regard to areas of law of common concern, the following stand out as crucial:
Regional challenges for the civil law, procedural law and commercial law;
Combating serious crime – corruption, trans-border and banking crime, money laundering, etc.
Cooperation among magistrates and judicial institutions is of primary importance for the effective implementation of legislation and the Rule of Law. SELDI seeks to provide regularity in the institutional as well as personal exchanges, important for developing regional mechanisms of cooperation. Professional associations’ involvement is important in raising the level of professional integrity and responsibility and playing a significant role in accelerating the judicial reform activities. Regular meetings and other contacts between national associations of judges, those of public prosecutors, and other magistrates will form the backbone of the cooperation process. The establishment of a SEE Judicial Network will be encouraged among the relevant competent judicial authorities and will be the mechanism for exchange of experience as well as a forum for discussion of practical and legal problems, possible legislative changes and joint/coordinated measures.
The project will IDLI’s training capacity and the experience of the Judicial Reform Initiative for Bulgaria to introduce a regional training facility aimed at raising the professional knowledge and skills of the magistrates and court administrators. Its overall objective is to contribute to the development of accountable, legislative branches and independent judiciaries. Notably, the project will also seek to enhance the collaboration between countries of the SEE region in judicial structures.
WTO and Trade Development in the Region
Increased international trade, conducted in conformity with internationally agreed rules, will greatly contribute to the economic growth and enhanced stability of the region. This is also recognized by the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, which includes as one of its objectives the creation of vibrant market economies, markets open to greatly expanded foreign trade, effective and transparent customs and commercial/regulatory regimes, fostering economic cooperation in the region and the rest of the world. Against this background, SELDI’s trade initiatives will concentrate on the multilateral (global) system of trade rules embodied by the World Trade Organization (WTO). All SEE countries are either Members of the World Trade Organization or are in the process of accession. SEE countries also engage in regional trade. The trade initiative will therefore also focus on issues of regional integration. The trade initiative would:
Create enhanced awareness and understanding of the WTO Agreements, of trade policy matters, the functioning of WTO and of relevant regional trade integration agreements;
Identify the main issues of law and policy in the on-going global trade liberalization;
List the main implications of the WTO Agreements domestically which may require amendment of legislation and policies to ensure consistency with WTO rules;
Understand the WTO Dispute Settlement procedures and determine their role in the domestic context for the enforcement of the trade rules;
Describe the evolving process of regional economic integration and their relationship to multilateral trade;
Encourage creation of (a) trade law center(s) in the region, which would in essence be dedicated to the needs of the region regarding regional and international trade; Provide training programs and undertake research; (b) endeavor to create a forum for intra-regional academic cooperation; (c) attract international expertise; (d) establish an infrastructure, a specialized library and documentation center
Through training seminars, setting up of advisory services and training of trainers, the project will create enhanced awareness and understanding of the rules of international trade, particularly WTOAgreements and of relevant regional trade integration agreements. The project will explore the possibilities of creating trade law center(s) in the region as a means of ensuring such accessibility and diffusion of knowledge. The project will identify the actually applied trade regimes (border and non-border measures) among the countries of the region and will make such information readily available for the region’s economic operators. As suggested during the conference discussions, strengthening the negotiating capacity of SELDI countries could also be a complementary target for the trade component of the Initiative.
Distance Learning Center
The Distance Learning Center will be part of a Global Distance Learning Network (GDLN) currently developed by the World Bank. In this way, the proposed DLC will have instant access to a global knowledge base. It will facilitate the simultaneous provision of courses, seminars, and discussions for a variety of global participants, linked by interactive video, electronic classrooms, satellite communications, and Internet facility. The DL Center will create a “first node” cost-effective training facility for target groups in the SELDI countries for World Bank, IDLI and CSD training programs, and will create an indigenous capacity to identify and access knowledge needed to improve legal development policies in Southeast Europe.
The SELDI initiative was re-launched in November 2012 with the support of DG NEAR’s Civil Society Facility, and currently has 39 members.
The objectives of the new SELDI initiative are carefully thought out to address the critical anticorruption policy and implementation gaps and priorities in the Western Balkans and Turkey identified in the European Commission’s Enlargement Strategy. The project’s monitoring and advocacy activities aim to inform and support the recalibration process of the Enlargement Package to increase its credibility, conditionality, and improve the attractiveness of the EU in the enlargement countries. SELDI also aids EC’s commitment to the principle of “fundamentals first” and to a “stronger role for civil society”.
SELDI utilises three main research tools:
- The Corruption Monitoring System (CMS), which combines significant research and powerful advocacy potential. CMS diagnostics have been applied in Bulgaria since 1998, in Southeast Europe in 2001, 2002, 2014, 2016 and 2019, and occasionally in Georgia and Moldova (before 2009).
- the Monitoring Anti-Corruption Policies Implementation (MACPI) – an innovative instrument for mapping and assessing the anticorruption policies implemented in public organisations. It ascertains whether the corruption vulnerabilities of a public organisation are adequately addressed by anticorruption policies and how effective these policies are. The structural and theoretical aspect of MACPI as well as the findings of its pilot testing are examined in the core publication Monitoring Anti-Corruption in Europe. Bridging Policy Evaluation and Corruption Measurement, whereas CSD Policy Brief No. 52: Refocusing Anticorruption: New Policy Evaluation Tool summarises the key features and uses of this innovative tool.
- The State Capture Assessment Diagnostics (SCAD) – the most recent tool developed by CSD, which has been piloted in the Western Balkans in 2019. The SCAD methodology: a) Verifies the existence of state capture practices in given economic sectors and specific regulatory/enforcement institutions; and b) Considers policy adjustments which close the opportunities for special interests to use the institutions of public governance for private ends.