Speech by UNRC Fiona McCluney at the National Conference on the “Common Challenges and new pathways in the fight against corruption: digitalization as an anticorruption tool”
14 June 2022 (14:45 - 15:30)
Session IV: “It is the power held by ordinary people that will held the accountability” media and civil society role in corruption
Dear Excellences, Ambassadors, colleagues and friends,
First of all, let me thank Minister Milva Ikonomi for the invite to be a keynote speaker in this Session and for her role as the Minister responsible for organizing this very important Conference.
I am happy to be here with you today on this very important occasion to discuss the results and the necessity for joint work and partnerships in fighting corruption in the Albanian society.
I would firstly like to congratulate the Government of Albania for presenting a complete and encouraging picture of the progress made during 2021 and an honest and realistic situation of the challenges ahead.
UN is happy and proud to have contributed to in fulfillment of key measures related to the fight and prevention of corruption, noting that this contribution has been possible through the partnership with several development partners and close collaboration with central and local government level institutions.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly link corruption and peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.
SDG 16 and its targets of reducing bribery, strengthening institutions, and accessing information are not only valuable aspirations in their own right, but they are also necessary conditions for the achievement of all the 17 goals.
From a human development perspective, people’s freedoms, choices, and opportunities continue to be undermined by corrupt practices that distort income distribution and public expenditure decisions.
Corruption erodes people’s trust in public institutions, undermines the rule of law, impairs the systems of checks and balances, and contributes to violence and insecurity.
For Albania, the fight against corruption is a matter of urgency to strengthen the rule of law. Still, it is also a key priority in the framework of EU integration of the country. Moreover, maintaining integrity and adopting systematic anti-corruption measures are also vital in the context of public administration reforms.
I am glad that in this Session we have an opportunity to look at the specific role of media and civil society in the fight against corruption.
This is such a complex and multi-layered phenomenon; it is crucial to consider different actors and perspectives.
The promotion of an enabling environment is central to good governance and the rule of law. And as we heard from Nick Thus from SIGMA this morning the importance of upward and downward systems of mutual accountability and transparency.
And with enabling environment I also mean independent, free and pluralistic media, as well as active and engaged civil society.
Media and civil society can contribute to ensure transparency and accountability, promote participation in public and political discourse, and foster democratic processes.
They can play a key role in the fight against corruption, including by monitoring and reporting.
However, we should not forget that seeking transparency and accountability might also entail personal risk.
Last 3rd May, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, I issued a joint statement with the Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Vincenzo Del Monaco.
We particularly stressed the multiple ways in which journalism is endangered by surveillance and digitally-mediated attacks on journalists, and the consequences on public trust in digital communications.
The digital era has created a fast-evolving environment that while on the one hand has democratized access to information and increased exchanges across borders, on the other it has impacted on the right to privacy and in many circumstances put media workers and their sources at greater risk of being targeted, harassed and attacked.
Therefore, media professionals and journalists need to be protected in order to carry out their essential work freely and safely.
Since digitalization as an anticorruption tool is also a key theme of this Conference, I believe this is an important remark to make.
Now let me turn to a few concrete points regarding what we as UN Albania are doing on anti-corruption.
UNODC, UN office for Drugs and Crime, based in Vienna, in June last year, supported the Western Balkan, including Albania, in the developing and adopting a Regional Anti-Corruption and Illicit Finance Roadmap in June 2021. This strategic document focuses on three key goals/ priority areas for the region:
1) preventing and countering corruption in public procurement, something that was addressed earlier this morning.
2) strengthening understanding of conflict of interest and asset declaration systems and creating a regional network of specialized prosecutors, law enforcement and finally
3) financial intelligence agencies in response to corruption and economic crime.
The roadmap establishes a monitoring and goal setting framework and specific actions and training to further these goals.
The UN Development Programme, UNDP, support in the fight against corruption is particularly visible in the two initiatives, firstly, related to promoting Integrity Plans and secondly, conducting the annual Trust in Governance survey. This work links directly to the role of civil society as well as media, or as we are discussing in this panel, where the power held by ordinary people for accountability through role of civil society and media is considered as an important factor.
Integrity plans include a set of preventive measures against corruption that address identified risks that could favor the corruptive behavior of public servants. integrity plans are intended to establish a culture of public management that puts ethics and integrity as the cornerstones of good governance.
- The Institute for Mediation and Democracy from Civil society and the Ministry of Justice, in its capacity of National Coordinator for Anticorruption, were key partners during the piloting of six Integrity Plans and endorsing the risk assessment methodology.
- This experience evolved in 2020 with the adoption of the methodology for central public institutions and the development of the integrity planning for the Ministry of Justice, representing the first central institution applying this standard.
- UNDP have also supported the further expansion of this practice during 2022 in line Ministries including Education and Sports, Culture, Foreign Affairs, and EU Integration, Infrastructure and Energy, as well as Tourism and Environment and continues to work at the local level to extend the experience of integrity planning in 14 additional municipalities, creating a critical mass for a national standard and compliance.
- To date, 14 Municipalities have an approved Integrity Plan from their respective Municipal Councils, and 6 other municipalities are in the finalization phase of their plans.
In addition, UNDP and IDM are working on developing an Integrity Index, which potentially will serve as an instrument for monitoring the level of institutional integrity and anti-corruption performance.
The other UNDP relevant product is the annual Trust in Governance Opinion Poll. The Trust in Governance Opinion Poll carried out since 2013 is an instrument that gives voice to what people think, enabling the monitoring of public trust and perceptions on governance and citizen engagement in Albania on a yearly basis.
Through a well proven methodology it explores public perceptions and attitudes on the trustworthiness of public institutions, institutional transparency, and accountability, corruption, political influence, the level of citizen engagement in policy and decision-making, satisfaction with public service delivery, gender, and social inclusion. Regularly public information that should provide the evidence to see changes in attitudes and perceptions of corruption.
I had a quick look at the surveys, which are online, before completing this speech and interestingly, the media and civil society were perceived to be the main institutions holding the government accountable. The 2021 survey will be published shortly, and I encourage everyone to look to this source of information in highlighting how trends change in perceptions of performance by different institutions. The form of trend analysis, that the Trust in Governance Opinion Poll allow provides a useful source for reporting by media or a reference for civil society in reviewing policy, intervention planning, and implementation and assessing results on the ground.
Thank you for your attention in making these general points. Before turning to my fellow speakers I would once again like to highlight the key role of the media and civil society in progressing on anticorruption agenda noted both in SDG 16 as well detailed work related to Albania’s EU accession path. Indeed, like the guiding question of this session, it is the power held by ordinary people that hold its leaders and institutions accountable, the ‘voice of the ordinary person’ and the media’s investigative role, which are and will continue to be key factors going forward.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this meeting and I look forward to further enriching discussions during this Conference.