14 February 2011 - Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Civil society organizations not only act as watchdogs for governments but also support government efforts to provide services to all citizens in a transparent and democratic manner.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption is the first legally binding international instrument to acknowledge the contribution that civil society can make to combating corruption. In order to equip civil society organizations to contribute meaningfully to the implementation of the Convention, UNODC and the UNCAC Coalition recently organized a training event - the first of its kind - for some 35 civil-society participants from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. The event was held at the newly inaugurated International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) in Laxenburg, Austria.
During the three-day training event, participants became better acquainted with the key aspects of the Convention, including criminalization, law enforcement, preventive measures and international cooperation, and took part in practical activities relating to peer review, reporting and use of the self-assessment checklist on implementation of the Convention (the implementation review process helps States to identify challenges and good practices and to consider technical assistance requirements in order to ensure effective implementation of the Convention).
In addition, they were informed about ways and means to contribute to the country reviews undertaken by States parties and prepared to respond positively if invited by their Governments to participate in the preparation of the self-assessment checklist and country visits.
Speaking at the event, Pauline Apolot, a representative of the Uganda Debt Network, said that her organization was running a number of campaigns to raise the awareness of local communities and the general public in Uganda of corruption and the actions that ordinary people could take to prevent it.
"We air a weekly radio programme for community monitors to present their views on the quality and delivery of public services. The radio programmes are presented in local languages and have become a popular mechanism through which ordinary people comment on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery systems and on the competencies of service providers in the local areas based on their own experiences", explained Pauline.
"Local government representatives have been challenged to respond to the views of community monitors and to commit themselves to changing bad practices that have hindered service delivery at local government level", she added.
Gina Romero, the Executive Director of Ocasa, a youth organization that promotes efforts to combat corruption in Colombia, lauded the training on the Convention as timely. Although the Congress of Colombia ratified the Convention in 2007, much remains to be done to enforce legislation against corruption.
Gina explained: "We raise awareness on corruption by emphasizing individual responsibility, and use daily ethical dilemmas. We review real cases that young people face, and go beyond individual behaviour to collective action. We also use sports and other cultural expressions to engage with youth. Since 2005, we have been offering virtual courses where young people discuss corruption problems in their regions, and tools to fight these problems".
"I believe that youth, and all citizens, need to be educated about the Convention against Corruption as currently there is very little knowledge. We shall use the Convention as a tool to hold the Government accountable, especially as this year marks the start of the review process in Colombia", she added.
The civil society organizations will replicate the training in their countries or regions in order to ensure good understanding of the Convention and of the review process among civil society and will contact governmental experts to propose contributions to that process.
The UNODC civil society team will continue to maintain close contact with participants that have undergone the training in order to help them to contribute to the implementation of the Convention.