Background to the creation of a poverty and development programme at TI
The Transparency International (TI) movement created a fifth global priority on poverty in 2006 to ensure that its anti-corruption work can become more relevant to the poor. It was recognised that many other actors work on issues of poverty reduction, rights-based approaches and the effectiveness of development efforts and that TI would have the challenge of identifying where to add value and have a distinct contribution.
Other CSOs had more experience in addressing the exclusion of the poor from public decisions than TI. Development NGOs were supporting disadvantaged groups through capacity building, community mobilisation and in their efforts to demand accountability. The India Chapter of TI through its project Pahal – Shasan Sudhar ki Ore is working with Below Poverty Line (BPL) population of three tribal states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa to raise awareness among them about anti corruption measures such as RTI, Social audit, Citizens Charter and e-Governance.
Development Pacts: A tool that brings TI’s comparative advantage to existing efforts on poverty reduction
Participatory approaches in working with the poor are recognized by the UNCAC as a powerful preventive corruption measure. They go beyond the right to information on skewed development decisions – to ensuring that priorities expressed by the poor inform public planning and execution and the design of accountability systems.
What then can TI India add?
- What is TI India doing that could be useful to the poor?
- What are constraints faced by donors and development NGOs?
- What are opportunities and constraints faced by political and administrative representatives?
TI India found that political will is the single most important issue that limits the efforts of other organisations and to which it could make a contribution. It is political will that ensures whether laws, regulations and accountability mechanisms go from paper to practice. It is political will and accountability that determines whether participation acts against corruption or is pro-forma. Political will is widely recognised as the centrepiece of efforts to fight both corruption and poverty.
TI India’s opportunities and challenges in the Poverty, Development and Corruption Priority
TI India’s access to the political level has been identified to be a significant comparative advantage. TI India has addressed the poverty–corruption link more successfully than others at the political level and in public opinion. However, TI India has also fallen short in converting political access into broad-based and sustained political will. To do so more effectively, TI India needs to partner more effectively with the poor. They are the main victims of corruption. Their numbers are increasing and they are powerful where they are given the opportunity to use their political voice.
‘Champions’ from political and administrative fields that demonstrate political will are equally dependent on the power of the poor to confer political power and legitimacy. Without sizable public constituencies to sustain them in situations of entrenched corruption, ‘champions’ rise and fall frustrating hopes of longer term change. This is also the case for public entities, a local governments or administrations keen to distinguish themselves through their performance.
TI India’s tools, Integrity Pacts and MoUs have at times succeeded in effecting change by identifying mutual benefits and ensuring the fair and transparent mediation of competing interests. The proposed tool, the Development Pact, includes the poor as partners and thus improves the chances for sustainable change. The Pact offers a space for partnership between the poor and public representatives or organisations with the political will to fight corruption.
The pact has high mutual benefits for both partners. It provides a set of incentives strong enough to overcome existing incentives for public representatives to gain or retain their public office through corruption. It thus addresses the lack of alternatives to corruption – by making anti-corruption commitments to the poor a viable path to power. The poor provide public reputation and a power base to their partners in a pact when they provide evidence to the public of corruption-free services, transparent and inclusive public decisions and improved livelihood opportunities. The poor are intrinsically motivated to do so because they have most to gain from corruption-free societies.
What does a Development Pact look like?
It is a public agreement between a committed administrative or political representative or a body, such as a local elected council, and organisations of the poor. Depending on the political and cultural context, it may be a written agreement or a publicly displayed text similar to a manifesto or citizen charter, but with binding features for both partners.
What does the Pact contain?
The content of a pact is determined through a process of negotiations. It will include the development priorities expressed by the poor and measures to ensure the integrity of decision-making processes by which these are delivered. Promises can be on access to food, land and water, safety/security, employment, roads, credit, communication, electricity, health centres, schools etc. Securing the integrity of decision-making can include the oversight or participation in decisions by the poor and agreements on incentives and sanctions for the failed delivery of promises.
What are the steps of setting up a Pact?
- Finding matching partners for a pact: State Chapters of TI India or may choose to start their search with either of the two partners, depending on their access and their assessment of opportunities. Alternately, TI India could identify a local grassroots NGO in the state where it wants to operate.
The two partners would be:
- Strong and vocal organisations of the poor that can be reliable partners to administrative or political champions and that can be identified in partnership with development NGOs.
- Administrative or political champions with a credible track record that can influence the performance of public services or the provision of public goods that are of relevance to the poor.
- Initiating of bilateral and public dialogues
- Facilitation of the Pact details – its substantive and procedural part
- Public advocacy to create public scrutiny in addition to the mutual monitoring of the Pact by both its partners
How is the Pact monitored?
- By those that have to gain from the pact materially – the poor on their identified wishes.
- By those that stand to gain a public reputation and advance in terms of their career – administrative champions, political representatives, local councils vying for central funding increases and re-election
How can this tool be made to succeed?
By starting small, starting with a success and creating public demand for replication. Besides working for bringing about systemic changes, the Pact starts with windows of opportunities trying to work with champions, using existing trends and momentum. It is critical to work with
- the most committed representatives with a track-record of integrity,
- the most well-organised and visible organisation of poor in their constituency,
- the highest level of media attention and public scrutiny possible.
To be attractive for a champion as a partner in a pact, three elements have to be given. There should be:
- an empowered organisation representing a section of poor directly affected by decisions or services influenced by the champion.
- a larger constituency of poor who listen and act upon the testimony of their directly affected peers
- the public support to the reputation and political or administrative career of the champion e.g. through voting or performance testimonies.
The incentive system of pacts, as an alternative to the embedded incentives for corruption, can create islands of integrity. Eventually, the pacts intend to strengthen trends for competition on the basis of clean and improved public service delivery. The pacts may also catalyse such a trend by setting widely noticed precedence. The replication of pacts may not be necessary but may be seen by competing public representatives as a more credible way of obtaining public trust on their promises.
Why could this tool work when TI India applies it to development and what are lessons to be learnt from previous failures and successes?
In Integrity Pact:
- TI India did not include in pacts the politically powerful constituency of the poor and their organisations.
- TI India did not link its anti-corruption concerns and tools in a tangible way to the livelihood concerns of the poor.
- As a CSO, TI India acted for citizens, without directly positioning them to have a stronger voice to drive change
- TI India did not follow up public platforms and election pledges consistently
- TI India did not consider the long step-wise transformation process, creating islands of integrity that could not be copied by other administrative or political actors without intrinsic commitment.
- TI India did not sufficiently cooperate with other organisations, working to empower citizens and communities through joint collective action on their priorities: security, water, land rights, health, education etc.
What are the risks?
Like many tools before, these pacts may also become as worthless as the paper on which they are written. Without a basic amount of freedom of expression – be it only at local level, the Pact does not work. Without fully organized groups of the poor that commit to each other not to get sold, the Pact does not work. Without direct incentives and sanctions, the Pact is not effective. Without initial successes that set standards for Pacts, it may be difficult to avoid misuse.
It is essential in all pacts to opt for political and administrative actors that in real life, e.g. after elections, can deliver on promises via tangible benefits to the constituency in the pact. It could be very important to offer potential allies also on this objective like media and civil society, like donors a stake in the success of the pact.
When the process, by which Pacts are initiated, takes the advice of both partners, learns from other organisations, includes feedback mechanisms and ensures active listening and learning, it can mitigate risks of failure.
Every country and region is different:
- In Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Senegal, the advice is to work with representatives of all groups, the well-to do as well as the poor, at community level, to set up separate citizen committees at local level in a neutral and inclusive TI framework to prevent being trapped in existing fractions.
- The choice of the partners to pacts will depend on the opportunities of the political context. They could be local councils or individuals, national MPs, sector administrations or public utilities. (Romania, Indonesia, Kenya).
- Political, social and cultural factors are critical to ensure compliance and identify strong mutual benefits and sanctions for both partners.
- In some contexts, new partners may emerge. Incentives for a new generation of political leaders wishing to have a corruption-free path to power can come from the constituencies of the poor (Kenya, India)
Moving from islands to the mainland – hoping for a lighthouse effect:
Integrity Pacts on clean procurement, a proven tool of TI, are used only in a few countries as a standard and at large scale. More frequently they have demonstrated that large tenders can be clean and have thus contributed to progress in procurement in other areas. Development Pacts would be worth the effort if they lead to a similar result. Few highly visible cases would demonstrate that political will for integrity and accountability renders success if supported by relevant groups of citizen. Pacts may thus catalyse a more contractual relation between public representatives and citizens, particularly those that are typically excluded from public benefits. In this case not the pact itself would be most important but the change that it triggers in the relationship between citizens living in poverty and those who serve them poorly.
A Pact needs to be set up in a way that its key features – greater oversight, participation and accountability to disadvantaged citizens - get emulated. By political leaders that seek to demonstrate credibility and commitment. By administrative officials keen to create a career based on performance and integrity. By communities that see the pacts as a tool that allows them to hold their representatives to account. Fighting corruption and poverty are among the most common commitments made by governments. It has been in the delivery of commitments where challenges remain. The pacts offer an accessible and tangible way to prove that it is possible to move from promise to practice.
Example of the political application of the tool:
TI’s Global Corruption Barometer consistently rates the political sphere as the most corrupt. Candidates, parties, votes – the safeguards are up for sale to highest bidder
What is the situation facing the poor? It is not uncommon for the poor sell their vote for little, because in any case they do not believe it can change election outcomes or bring them direct livelihood benefits. Pacts allow them to see that their vote has a direct value in getting their demands met. This works with organised groups that commit to not selling their vote – as a block.
For others – not directly involved in the Pact – it signals that their vote is worth more than what it is sold for. It can lead to a progressive change where a vote is sold not for 1 dollar, but 2, not for a school, but a school and a health centre, not for lost voice on budget allocations, but for a place at the table of decision-making on policy priorities, budget allocations, the execution of services and the setting up of stronger accountability mechanisms.
What is the situation facing by candidates? They need money for election campaigns to obtain or stay in power. Pacts are ongoing election campaigns between elections. Candidates do not have to pay for publicity and reputation but get them from the credible performance reviews conducted by their partners in the pact.
Pacts may set examples for a shift from powerful patronage systems to inclusive and transparent public platforms where political power is conferred on the basis of a larger public gain. Where entrenched corruption does not seem to offer credible political choices, TI intends to partner with organisations working with leaders emerging through service to communities that seek political office. In this case the pacts provide those that have no financial resources a corruption-free path to political power.