Civil Society and its Role in Monitoring and Combating Corruption should avail an understanding of what civil society (CS) is and the relevance of its organisations (CSOs) in terms of their roles and functions (generally and in relation to anti-corruption efforts). Specific issues may relate to advocacy (in the context of lobbying, networking, litigation, creating public awareness (e.g. investigative journalism, workshops), etc) and monitoring corruption in service delivery (in context of decentralization (e.g. procurement, use of funds, etc.)
(a) To help participants/trainees appreciate and understand what civil society is and their place in civil society and CSOs.
(b) To help participants/trainees appreciate and understand the roles of civil society and CSOs in monitoring and combating corruption.
(c) To help participants/trainees appreciate and understand their roles of roles of various groups in society in anti-corruption efforts
Information for the Trainees
i. What is civil society?
Civil society (CS) is a now commonplace phrase. The phrase has been regarded as describing the sum total of those persons, entities and organisations and networks that lie outside the formal state apparatus. It therefore refers to the individuals or groups or communities that seek to address, through expertise and networks, issues of common concern, including corruption.
Civil society (CS) and civil society organisations (CSOs) mark the involvement and participation of citizen in the affairs of society, including combating corruption. Public participation and empowerment of citizens is in fact envisaged under the constitutional framework, in Objectives IV and X of the Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy under the 1995 Constitution.
CSOs have become significant actors in society in making demands on the state to act and in holding public officials accountable for actions. They act as intermediaries between the public and the state. CSOs include different kinds of organisations working to serve CS at community, district and national levels. They may be characterised by their legal status, the quality of their work, the nature of their membership, the scope of their geographical coverage as well as the composition, size and type of their governing bodies. The most visible CSOs are–
(a) Community Based Organisations (CBOs)
(b) Faith Based Organisations (FBOs)
(c) Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
(ii) Legal and Policy Framework in which CSOs operate
The legal framework within which CSOs in Uganda operate constitutes of the 1995 Constitution and the Non-Governmental Organisations (Registration) Act. Firstly, the fundamental rights under Chapter IV of the Constitution apply to CSOs, particularly the freedom of association (in initial formation of the CSOs), freedom of expression (useful in advocacy role of CSOs) and right to participate in civic affairs of the country – these are guaranteed under article 29 (1)(a) and (e) and article 38 of the Constitution.
Role of CS/CSOs in Monitoring and Combating Corruption
1. Lobbying and influencing Legal and Policy MeasuresThis entails mobilizing opinion against corruption and generating demand for action against corruption. As the main stakeholders in national governance and ultimate victims of corruption, civil society is a key sector in the fight against corruption. CS and CSOs in general and the media in particular as well as moral and religious leaders can help to create awareness, deepen appreciation of deleterious consequences, and generate demand for effective measures to reduce corruption. This is important for getting political leaders and policy makers to initiate reforms against corruption. CS and CSOs are also crucial for fostering public support and ownership of reforms and thereby enhancing their legitimacy and sustainability.
Indeed, CSOs, NGOs, trade unions and anti-corruption advocacy groups can help to make corruption a major issue in national and local elections and transform the electoral system into a veritable facility for throwing out corrupt public officials and motivating elected officials to keep to an anti-corruption agenda.
2 Networking Efforts to Monitor and Combat CorruptionThis involves civil society to civil society collaboration and support to combat corruption. Anti-corruption work is often a lonely project. Co-operation among CSOs, NGOs and other advocacy groups in their common efforts to promote transparency, accountability, and integrity in public administration as well as the private sector will increase their collective clout and produce positive results.
CS and CSO support can be crucial for transparency-promoting and anti-corruption crusaders and groups who suffer harassment and persecution at the hands of corrupt elements in government and private sector. Such elements will stop at nothing to protect the corrupt status quo and or to cover up their abuse of office. Mutual support among civil society organizations offers an effective antidote against backlash. For instance, Law Societies can provide pro bono defense for investigative journalists who are faced with judicial persecution. Moreover, since governments have no great incentive to unshackle the media, civil society agencies may be left with the responsibility to support the often, lonely efforts by journalists to expand their own freedoms.
Networking nationally, sub-regionally, and internationally is also essential for confidence and capacity building and for enhancing the profiles of the CSOs involved in anti-corruption efforts.
In Uganda, networking has been largely through the umbrella organizations such as Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU), UWASNET, Human Rights Network (HURINET) etc.
3 Support to anti-corruption Efforts of Oversight BodiesThis involves CS and CSO support for the efforts of the public and official over-sight and anti-corruption agencies. In this regard, CS and CSOs can help counteract the well-known tendency for public agencies and officials to connive with each other to undermine existing systems of checks and balances. CS and CSOs can provide oversight agencies and official anti-corruption institutions with the encouragement and support they need for the effective performance of official functions – support often not forthcoming from government. CS and CSOs, especially the media and society based-anti-corruption bodies, can liaise with and provide official anti corruption agencies with evidence and relevant information and testify at hearings. It can also help to monitor compliance with regulations and sanctions imposed against corrupt officials. This can help to bridge the gap between constitutional and statutory promise on the one hand, and on the other hand the realities of resource starvation and political marginalization that is often the fate of these public agencies.
Published 2009 in ACCU