Minutes of the first meeting of the Working Group (WG): "Preventing Corruption by Engaging Civil Society"
(Note by Hugo Castelli Eyre, EN-RE : As a Spanish citizen, I add to the minutes, the GRECO Report on Spain of 3rd January, entitled : «Limited progress in measures to tackle in respect of MPs, judges and prosecutors». I have received the Spanish translation from the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary System (Consejo General del Poder Judicial)
I take this opportunity to inform my colleagues in the WG and the public at large that you can find the situation of the GRECO evaluations for all the member States of the Council of Europe.
I am the representative of Redes Cristianas, a Spanish member group of the INGO European Network Church on the Move EN-RE in the Plataforma por la Justicia Fiscal, mentioned below in the minutes).
And as a member of the WG Gender Perspectives in political and democratic processes, I insist on the inclusion of the Human Rights of Women and Children in the scope of this WG.
The first meeting of the WG took place on January 24, 2018.
Participants expressed their concern about the negative impact corruption has in the democratic process in their countries by highlighting the pressures put on justice, or on critical NGOs and the shrinking space for civil society’s action and freedom of expression. Corruption might endanger countries ‘development process'.
The participants also mentioned situations when European financial aid became "a passive or active corruption’s vector". "Civil society should keep a vigilant eye on the briber, as well as on the bribed," said one of the participants.
Participants stressed the need for the group to work in cooperation with GRECO, the Council of Europe ‘structure engaged in fighting against corruption.
The members of the working group expressed the need for a definition of corruption, taking into account that manipulation of public opinion might be considered a form of corruption, too.
The group highlighted the important role international NGOs can play in warning about the gravity of corruption and its negative effects on concerned countries ‘economies and their political systems.
Participants expressed their interest to identify:
-How can NGOs who are victims or witnesses of acts of corruption alert the responsible institutions?
-How to protect people /organizations who denounce corruption?
Following the discussions, the participants identified two main types of objectives: concerning the fight against corruption:
1) To decrease corruption at national level (national and local government structures)
2) To decrease corruption of international institutions
These two general objectives, included more specific objectives, such as, to:
-Educate citizens in order to prevent corruption
-Identify measures to fight corruption
-Identify tools to pinpoint corruption indicators
-Use the platform for tax justice (Plataforma por la Justicia Fiscall) created by a group of NGOs who would be interested to get involved in the activities of the WG
-Reduce incentives for international governmental and non-governmental organizations to corrupt or practice / comply with corruption
The participants considered international NGOs should play an active watchdog role in the process of reducing corruption and they considered beneficial to organize an international forum to reflect on a common document and to create a tool that could facilitate the decrease of corruption.
Other activities proposed by participants to be considered by the working group were:
-To inform / ask international NGOs to initiate warnings about corrupt practices
-The set-up of an NGO network to highlight examples of corruption for greater transparency and protection of whistleblowers
- Use IT tools to fight/lower corruption
- Education from an early age
-University networks to do research activities to define corruption
- Create policy papers
-Create a catalog of tax measures in favor of NGO action, country by country
-Organize youth education campaigns in youth centers
- "Building" a Code of Good Conduct within the Conference, taking into account the GRECO Report
-Networking with NGOs in Brussels who run advocacy campaigns for European companies with an international activity, in order to bring down corruption
As expected results, the members of the working group identified the following:
-Developing a guide of good practices for the reduction of corruption (suggested by several participants)
- Workshops to raise corruption’s awareness by organizing field actions (set up on university campuses, high schools, colleges)
- Creating a tool-box to facilitate the identification of corruption practices
-Implement alert mechanisms
- A grid of criteria to see if an aid, a transaction represents an act of corruption or not, and the gravity of the fact.
-The protection of whistleblowers who report acts of corruption.
The group agreed on the need for an analysis of the situation in each represented country and the identification of on line tools to facilitate the Group work on line between sessions.
We have decided to make an inventory of NGOs working against corruption in each country and to present it during June 2018 session. In the near future, we consider to organize a Forum in which NGOs can share their experiences on the fight against corruption.
We mentioned the need for a short-term calendar to start the working group activity:
February 6: Send the minutes of the first session of the working group on the reduction of corruption to the group members. The present document contains the proposed activities, as well as the expected results
March 1: Send a message to the group members asking them to recommend NGOs working against corruption in each of their countries, or in the region.
April 10: The deadline to receive the list of NGOs fighting corruption.
23 April: During the Standing Committee Meeting we will present the list of local, national and regional NGOs in order to select the most significant and to invite them to the June 2018 session.
This report was written based on the discussions during the first meeting of the Working Group
“Preventing corruption by engaging civil society" as well as on suggestions received from the 15 participants who expressed their opinions on the objectives of the group, the planned activities, the expected results, and the schedule of activities on the forms they received during the meeting. A document that includes their suggestions and information / contacts from their organizations, is attached.