From the ground up. Assessing the record of anticorruption assistance in southeastern Europe
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PublisherCEU University Press
Place of PublicationBudapest
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractIn this policy paper, based on research findings from twenty case studies of donor-supported projects in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Macedonia, we assess the effects of five years of anticorruption projects and high-profile public awareness campaigns in the Southeastern European region. As a starting point, the paper posits that while projects seem to have succeeded in raising demand for reform, solutions to match that demand have yet to be found. The authors question both what reforms or change in particular the projects raised demand for, and what success the solutions applied thus far may claim. The donor community’s failure to meet the high public expectations that their projects fostered comes against a disturbing backdrop of falling trust in democratic institutions in the region. The paper underlines the urgency to respond to citizens’ needs. The authors argue that the impact of reviewed projects was mostly of short duration, if at all. Projects generally failed to create a self-sustaining constituency to further their work, and when success was achieved it often depended heavily on contingent factors such as the presence of a “champion” or an exceptional level of donor resources targeted for a single, receptive client. The most successful projects provided direct benefits to a well-defined constituency. In all cases, the projects listed reducing corruption as one of their core objectives; yet based on interview material and project reports, none of the donors claimed that their projects had effectively reduced corruption. In conclusion, the paper argues that donors should seek to build sustained public demand for a realistic, long-term anticorruption reform agenda. 6 Th is can be achieved by moving away from the fight against corruption per se—characterized by large-scale awareness raising and broad NGO coalitions—and towards mobilizing well-defined constituencies behind focused governance reforms that have a clear impact and benefits for those involved; and by encouraging citizens to fight corruption through the democratic, political mechanisms of representation by supporting, among others, political party reform. If anticorruption reforms are layered within the political process and meet public needs, the long awaited mobilizational potential of the anticorruption agenda might yet be realized.