An International Conference "Coalition Building and Monitoring to Counter Corruption: Strategies and Impact in Central and Eastern Europe" organized by Coalition 2000 in Varna, Bulgaria, on June 19-20, 1999.
Dr. Ognian Shentov, President of the Center for the Study of Democracy and a member of the Coalition 2000 Steering Committee, presides over the plenary session at the International Conference Coalition Building and Monitoring to Counter Corruption: Strategies and Impact in Central and Eastern Europe organized by Coalition 2000 in Varna, Bulgaria on June 19-20, 1999."
Approximately 100 representatives of non-governmental organizations, including business associations and other interest groups, public officials from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, FYROM, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States of America and Yugoslavia as well as representatives of bilateral aid agencies and international organizations, such as United States Agency for International Development, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations Development Program, gathered in Varna on June 19-20, 1999 for the International Conference “Coalition Building and Monitoring in Anti-Corruption: Strategies and Impact in Central and Eastern Europe” organized by Coalition 2000.
The main objectives of the conference included:
- reviewing anti-corruption strategies in the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on those involving cooperation between the public and the private sector, as well as monitoring mechanisms;
- assessing the results and impact of the implementation of these programs and summarize lessons learned, and make an inventory of best practices;
- encouraging further cooperation among governmental and non-governmental organizations, especially in Southeastern Europe - within existing bilateral and multilateral instruments against corruption.
The conference discussions focused on existing strategic concepts of involvement of the organizations of the civil society in Central and Eastern Europe in the fight against corruption in the context of transition to pluralist democracy and market economy. Presentations emphasized the impact of NGOs as initiators/generators of partnerships with government agencies, as well as their role in exercising pressure and serving as watchdog of reform.
Three parallel workshops were conducted specializing in:
- Anti-Corruption Instruments and Reform Packages;
- Monitoring Corruption as a Policy Design Tool;
- Local Anti-Corruption Instruments and Best Practices.
The Anti-Corruption Instruments and Reform Packages workshop discussed the building of public-private anti-corruption coalitions and the development of anti-corruption action plans. The role of NGOs in this process was be examined in detail. Recommendations on designing and implementing anti-corruption awareness campaigns were provided. Techniques for influencing public opinion and producing social impact were be shared. Special attention was paid to the role of the Ombudsman institution in transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Effects from the functioning of local Ombudsmen were examined.
The Monitoring Corruption as a Policy Design Tool workshop discussed anti-corruption monitoring mechanisms both as a “thermometer” of the various aspects of corruption and as an instrument of change. The Corruption Indexes of Coalition 2000 and the results from the Coalition 2000 monitoring of the media coverage of corruption were presented. The impact of corruption surveys on society as a whole and on the interaction between citizens and administration at local level were examined. The workshop also discussed the political implications of corruption monitoring. Special emphasis was placed on the attitudes and perceptions of corruption by the elite.
The Local Anti-Corruption Instruments and Best Practices workshop discussed local anti-corruption instruments and best anti-corruption practices. The Coalition 2000 “Transparency Matrix” at Local Level was presented. Local level civic initiatives, such as launching hot telephone lines to collect signals of corruption and establishing reception offices to provide legal aid to the public, were shared. Methods to coordinate national and local anti-corruption efforts were examined.
In conclusion, the participants in the conference agreed that reducing corruption required not only the relevant institution-building measures but also creating the social preconditions for establishing the rule of law. In this context it was of decisive importance to foster a democratic political and economic 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 could be achieved through cooperation among the institutions of the state and civil society on the model built by Coalition 2000.
The participants in the Varna Conference also considered initiatives to promote transparency and accountability at regional level. The OECD had already provided one possibility in this respect by developing an Anti-corruption Network for Transition Economies. The next step could be the establishment of a Balkan Forum on Accountability and Transparency to facilitate the exchange of information on anti-corruption among the states in the region. Another avenue in the fight against corruption could be provided by the Southeast Legal Development Initiative (SELDI) conceived by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the International Development Law Institute. SELDI’s main objectives include strengthening civil society in the countries from the region and contributing to the building of the rule of law and democratic institutions in those states.