SELDI and its member RIIVEST from Kosovo were regional partners of the Western Balkans OGP Dialogue 2015, organised by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Albania on 10-11 September 2015. SELDI hosted one session and was an active participant in several others, aiming to identify ways and tools to use open government data to help reduce corruption pressure and practices in the region.
Mr. Alban Zogaj, Senior Researcher, RIINVEST chaired the session Facing Corruption, which presented, analyzed and built a constructive debate upon the findings of the National Corruption Assessment Reports for each respective country and discussed the implications for anti-corruption policy in the region. Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, SELDI Coordinator presented the main findings from the SELDI regional anticorruption report, underlining the importance for the anticorruption community of focusing on SELDI’s three key policy advocacy recommendations:
- Effective prosecution of corrupt high-level politicians and senior civil servants is the only way to send a strong and immediate message that corruption would not be tolerated.
- An independent corruption and anti-corruption monitoring mechanism needs to be introduced on national and regional level in order to provide robust data and analysis and integrate both corruption diagnostics and anticorruption policy evaluation. The mechanism should be implemented through national and/or regional civil society organisations and networks, and should be independent of direct national government funding.
- Critical sectors with high corruption and state-capture risks, such as the energy sector, should be addressed with priority.
Mr. Munir Podumljak, Executive Director of the Partnership for Social Development (PSD) in Croatia and SELDI partner, noted the importance of using open data for government’s public procurement activities, including information about the price and the offers of all candidates. He cautioned though that open government is not equal to accountable government, with the latter requiring among others an active civil society and functioning checks and balances institutions, which are not present in the region yet. Mr. Borjan Gjuzelov, Expert at the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation provided an overview of the anti-corruption situation in Macedonia, pointing out to the lagging behind in terms of even basic availability of data. In this respect, he noted that there are notable differences with EU countries in the region. Mr. Agon Nixha, Project Manager, RIINVEST concluded the session’s presentations by providing a list of needed actions from the governments in the region to provide basic prerequisites for open data to reinforce anti-corruption policies.
On the second day of the conference Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, SELDI Coordinator and Mr. Stevo Muk, President of the Board, Institute Alternative, Montenegro, a SELDI partner, took part in a pioneering panel discussion on Countering Corruption and State Capture. Ms. Masha Djordjevic, TTF/OSF Program Manager chaired the panel, noting that the session aims to develop a discussion about the relationship and interplay between the phenomena of corruption and state capture. She underlined that especially in young democracies, corruption may not be a temporary imperfection on a path of transition towards pluralist democracy, but the main guiding principle of the governance system, around which public institutions, laws and their enforcement are designed and structured. Flaws and loopholes are written into laws and built into institutional arrangements with intent, skill, and efficiency. The panelists addressed the question of the adequacy of anti-corruption measures to counter both corruption and state capture, and explored the link of these measures with the OGP toolbox. Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, SELDI Coordinator reiterated the three key policy messages of SELDI and noted that one of the reasons for the countries in the region not to have progressed enough on anti-corruption seems to be the very complex web of stubbornly sustainable corrupt networks, which do not necessarily use corruption to win the state for their own private purposes. He outlined the similarities and differences between corruption and state capture, and noted that it is exactly open government data tools that can help tackle both. Mr. Stevo Muk, President of the Board, Institute Alternative, Montenegro, pointed out to some of the anecdotal evidence of the existence of state capture in Montenegro and what might be the possible ways to reduce its stronghold on the country. Mr. Jiri Boudal, Chief Campaign Coordinator, Reconstruction of the State Project, Frank Bold, Czech Republic showed a practical example of an effective campaign to confront state capture tactics in the Czech Republic, which points out at the very micro societal approach, which needs to be taken, targeting each nod of the captors’ network one at a time.