Civil Society and Anti-Corruption: Experiences from Albania, Kosovo and Serbia

By Sadiku, Lejla | Romanian Journal of Political Science, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Civil Society and Anti-Corruption: Experiences from Albania, Kosovo and Serbia


Sadiku, Lejla, Romanian Journal of Political Science


Introduction

With the introduction of the good governance agenda in the 90s, corruption has been increasingly recognized as an impediment in democratic functioning and economic development. The rising salience of corruption (and anti-corruption) is demonstrated by the frequency of citations in world press: while in the beginning of 90s, corruption was mentioned approximately 800 times, by 2000 this number had reached 1200 (Bryane, 2004). Notably, a large part of the sector has been concentrated on the European post-communist countries.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Albania, Kosovo and Serbia have all had turbulent recent history with fervent changes and troublesome transitions--creating favorable conditions for breeding corruption. Kosovo has gone through decades of de-investment, a conflict, international administration and state-building. Serbia, on the other hand, has been at the center of the fall-out of Yugoslavia, having inherited the secret state structures of the Communist regime, and then suffered international isolation during Milosevic's regime. Meanwhile, Albania faced civil war as pyramid structures collapsed. Transitions have been difficult for all post-communist countries, but the political, social and economic turmoil after the fall of communism have put an additional strain on the already fragile institutions of these countries. While their experiences might be different (yet interconnected), Albania, Kosovo and Serbia have much in common, among which a post-communist past, widespread corruption and much donor and EU influence.

Despite a decade of heavy investment in anti-corruption, concerns about corruption have increased. In polls, 80 to 90% of respondents in Albania, Kosovo and Serbia find corruption and bribery harmful (Gallup International, 2008). An analysis of the civil society sector is not only necessary to understand its role in changing institutional behavior, but will also serve as a guide for policy-makers, donors and civil society practitioners. The experience of these three countries is insightful evidence into the elements that make anti-corruption projects successful or not.

The goal of this research is to explore the impact of civil society organizations in the field of anti-corruption, and compare these experiences to each other. Furthermore, it looks into specific projects within these countries looking for elements which make these projects successful and tries to identify practices which could be transferred to other organizations and countries.

The first part presents the theoretical grounding on the question why should civil society contribute to curbing corruption and what tools it has in its hands. The second part is the methodology and limitations encountered in the study. The third part diagnoses corruption in these countries, based on the typology developed by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi. Before diving into experiences of civil society organizations, the fourth chapter explores the strengths and weaknesses of investigative journalism in fighting corruption. The fifth part assesses civil society in Albania, Kosovo and Serbia, followed by impact assessment of the civil society in anti-corruption and experiences that organizations have had with their projects.

1. Civil Society and Anti-corruption

Nowadays, some authors argue that formal political institutions, such as administrative control and judicial structures, have had a small effect in CEE, whereas among the systems that work are the watchdog role of the press and NGOs (Schmidt, 2007). International organizations have increasingly sought civil society involvement in anticorruption since the 90s, leading to the establishment of civil society involvement as a central theme in anti-corruption (Schmidt, 2007). Nowadays, the Organization for Economic Community and Development firmly states "civil society plays a key role in fighting corruption" (OECD, 2003:8).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

A large part of the civil society sector in the region has, in one way or another, been involved in anti-corruption work.

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