The focus on political personalities, as opposed to the corrosive effect on government institutions and policymaking, has made it easier for populists to co-opt the fight against corruption, argues Eguiar Lizundia, a senior governance specialist at the International Republican Institute.
“The appeal of exclusionary and illiberal forms of populism and nationalism will continue to flourish if holistic anti-corruption measures are not prioritized by governments, citizens, and activists,” he writes for The American Interest. “Reactive, top-down and law-enforcement solutions must be complemented by preventative, bottom-up methods,” Lizundia adds, citing examples of cost-effective local interventions that could be further scaled:
Using websites and other platforms to report the payment of bribes, publishing official information in ways that are easy to understand by all constituents, advancing e-procurement, and facilitating direct citizen participation in government decisions have all succeeded in reducing graft and triggering appropriate corrective actions. Providing independent journalists with the training and resources they need to conduct their investigations has also helped to unmask corruption, as the International Republican Institute (IRI) recently did in Guatemala.
Convening elected officials and constituents to implement transparency and accountability mechanisms opens up channels of communication and reduces incentives and opportunities for politicians to take advantage of their authority. In Mongolia, Ukraine, Indonesia, and Cambodia, IRI identified reform-minded local leaders who are willing to partner with citizen groups to implement concrete strategic actions to address vulnerabilities to corruption.
IRI is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.