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Project Blog Corruption Prevention: Strategic Challenges, Tactical Solutions

February 2017 update: Innovations for Successful Societies

Princeton University

Professor Jennifer Widner

Professor Widner and her team have now published six case studies, and they can be found in the following locations:

The Sum of its Parts:  Coordinating Brazil’s Fight Against Corruption, 2003–2016 click here

Corruption from the Bottom Up: Decentralized Graft Prevention in Mauritius, 2009-2016 click here.

Cementing the Right of Ownership: Land Registration in Kyrgyzstan, 1999–2009 click here.

Putting Rural Communities on the Map: Land Registration in Mozambique, 2007–2016 click here.

Forest-Friendly Palm Production: Certifying Small-Scale Farmers in Indonesia, 2011–2016 click here.

A Drive to Protect Forests: Introducing Sustainable Cattle Certification in Brazil, 2009-2016 click here.

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January 2017 update: Innovations for Successful Societies

Work on our program began in early 2016. First we developed launch papers—more fully elaborated research designs—as well as interview scripts for each of the three projects we had proposed.  During June-July-August, staff developed background research for the cases for which they were responsible and began the field interviews.  By mid-December 2016, we had published one case study, completed the research and first drafts of five additional cases, completed the field research for a seventh case, and started the background research for an eighth. Thus, in year 1 we completed exactly half of our proposed research/action plan.  

1. Land registry management  

Two of the case studies in this seriesare currently in draft. The first profiles Mozambique’s Community Land Initiative (Iniciativa para Terras Comunitárias, iTC), which aimed to protect communities from land grabs, and the second centres on Kyrgyzstan’s innovative cadastral system, GosRegister.In January 2017, we will begin field interviews in Malaysia for the third case in this series. Field interviews in Tanzania and Rwanda will follow in March and April of 2017.

2. Implementing national anti-corruption strategies.

In early 2016 we updated a Harvard data set prepared for the UNODC on adoption of national anti-corruption strategies when we found the dataset was not completely reliable and threatened site selection. The first round of field interviews in Ghana took placein July 2016, and revealed some specific challenges not evident in published accounts and a lower level of progress on implementation than official sources stated. We reframed the focus of the series slightly so that each of the remaining cases would show how another country had dealt with at least one of the specific strategic challenges that had caused trouble in Ghana. In essence, the series now offers lessons for Ghana and other similarly situated DfID priority countries on how to overcome some of the harder implementation challenges. Along with the shift in focus, we proposed to adjust the selection of sites to improve cross-country comparability. Instead of Bangladesh and Malaysia, the series will cover more effective anti-corruption strategies in Mauritius and Indonesia. We may also propose to replace Botswana with South Africa.

3. Supply-Chain Certification Systems

Our third series focuses on an important element of natural resource management systems: voluntary supply chain certification. The particular focus is on commodity certification in the service of forest protection. The question is how to improve supply chain monitoring, gains from certification, and rates of participation so that it becomes possible to discourage forest destruction. These systems are central to changing patterns of land use, and without them, laws to protect the forest are ineffective. 

The first case in this series, on Brazil’s livestock certification system, was published in November 2016. A second case study, currently in editing and quote clearance, examinesa roundtable initiative to certify palm oil production in Indonesia. Smallholder certification is a major issue in both cases. 

We want to adapt site selection to enable tighter comparisons on the industry characteristics that pose special challenges. We propose to substitute Kenya’s SAN certification system for the Plan Africa Canada case study in the DRC-Rwanda (mineral industry characteristics proved too different to enable useful comparison). We may also propose to replace Ghana with an alternative, as Ghana has made less progress than anticipated in the last 18 months. Field interviews in Kenya are planned for January 2017. Two further case studies in this series will begin in late March and in May.  

This project is one of eight British Academy-funded anti-corruption research projects, and you can see the main project page with full details of all awards and award holders here.

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September 2016 update: Innovations for Successful Societies 

Under the auspices of DFID and the British Academy’s Anti-Corruption Evidence program, Princeton’s Innovations for Successful Societies (ISS) program is addressing three anti-corruption challenges: enhancing security of land tenure, implementing national anti-corruption strategies, and improving the effectiveness of natural resource certification schemes

ISS case studies are useful tools for generating insight into effective design and delivery, in particular understanding what types of anti-corruption tactics are translatable from one context to another. They are also useful for sharing experience among practitioners and for teaching.

Enhancing security of land tenure.

Insecure land rights reduce willingness to invest in maintenance, conservation, and improvements. They limit ability to use land as collateral for loans that finance new enterprise. They are a source of conflict, especially in peri-urban areas in developing countries, where manipulation of registries means citizens cannot rely on the rights they believe they have. In this series we focus on ways to improve land registry management and on introduction of incremental or provisional tenure systems that provide occupancy certificates, but are short of classic fee simple ownership rights. We are working in part with DFID’s LEGEND program and with the Omidyar Network, which has financed an expansion of this project. The subject matter is highly technical and we invested in amplifying our research team’s skills before launching the fieldwork.

             a)  The DFID-BA and Omidyar are on the same schedule, and we decided to begin with two Omidyar-funded cases, one on Jamaica’s creation of a semi-autonomous land agency to improve registry management and one on the introduction of occupancy certificates in South Africa’s shantytowns. These two cases are reference points for the other cases in the series and we were able to use them as a learning vehicle, sharpening our understanding of the issues with tutelage of Omidyar-supported technical mentors. 

             b)  The DFID-BA-funded part of the series began in October with a case study of Kyrgyzstan’s innovative cadastral system, GosRegister, and its reorganization of its land registries.  Land administration is a prime area for corruption. Following independence from the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan rapidly privatized approximately 75% of state-owned land.  At first, the administration involved multiple agencies, and poor coordination often led to inefficiency, delays, and confusion about procedures. In 1999, the government created GosRegister, a single agency to streamline the process of mapping, privatization, and parcel registration as well as reduce opportunities for graft.

Implementing national anti-corruption strategies.

Countries that have signed the UN Convention on Anti-Corruption are obligated to produce national anti-corruption strategies and participate in regular peer review of implementation progress. Many countries’ strategies quickly become stuck. It was one thing to put ideas on paper and another to overcome the many obstacles to passing enabling legislation and improving enforcement.  We have adapted the series slightly to focus on five markers of success, of which the first two are comparatively easy while the other three are serious indicators of progress:

1) setting up (and using) a tracking system to coordinate implementation,

2) winning stakeholder agreement on a code of conflict that defines conflicts of interest,

3) winning passage of enabling laws,

4) putting into practice at least a pilot asset declaration system

5) creating a functional monitoring and evaluation program (a compliance program and in the best instances monitoring of outcomes). 

The first case study shows how Ghana struggled with each of these elements, while the other cases show how other countries successfully dealt with three or more of the same challenges. In essence, the series helps Ghana, and similarly situated countries, learn how to meet some of the harder implementation challenges.

We revisited site selection after discovering that the available data were unreliable. We have amplified a dataset created by Harvard Law School students under the tutelage of Mathew Stephenson and Richard Messick. Using this dataset we tentatively matched cases on the indicators above. Then we dug in more deeply to try to ascertain actual levels of achievement. We aim to propose a slightly reworked site selection shortly, upon completion of this second “deep dive.”

In Ghana, various governments have launched several waves of anti-corruption reforms since 2000. Our case study analyzes how the Mahama administration set about implementing the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan starting in 2014. In Ghana, CHRAJ had responsibility for coordinating across 120 government offices and civil society groups to implement and monitor compliance with an action plan.  Ghana achieved the first two, relatively easier, benchmarks, but it has struggled to win passage of enabling legislation, make its asset declaration system functional, and introduce outcome-monitoring (or coordinate with the Auditor General’s office, some of whose work generates this information). 

Improving the effectiveness of natural resource certification schemes, with a particular focus on those that protect forest cover. 

With limited government capacity to uphold natural resource management laws, third-party certifications systems based on voluntary commitment by producers and NGO monitoring of compliance have the potential to help promote a transparency and accountability. These supply chain monitoring systems can potentially limit diversion of natural resource revenues to arms purchases and narrow one route for money laundering while also helping to generate public goods, such as carbon sequestration or biodiversity. However, to work effectively they require close alignment with private economic interests, solutions to a variety of collective action problems, and a number of other features that vary across industries.  The series begins with a relatively new, weak system—sustainability certification for beef raised in Brazil’s Amazon Basin—and uses the experience of other efforts to illuminate ways to increase effectiveness.

Our initial case study in Brazil focuses on the effectiveness of livestock certification systems in monitoring and encouraging compliance with forest conservation laws. Brazil has been engaged in a decades-long struggle to design a governance system that can control illegal clearing in the Amazon rainforest and other sensitive regions. Much of the illegal activity is driven by the expansion of the country’s lucrative and politically well-connected cattle industry. Our research looks at the efforts of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) to partner with government, producers, and buyers to implement a livestock certification system. Despite enormous challenges, SAN has certified five producers to date, and both the supply and demand for certified beef – marketed with a little green frog, the Rainforest Alliance-certified seal – is steadily increasing. 

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Initial thoughts

Good ideas for reducing corruption abound. But even the best innovations sometimes fail to have impact. Implementation is often the sticking point.

Princeton University’s Innovations for Successful Societies program is working with the British Academy and the Department for International Development to help overcome barriers to anti-corruption reforms in three important policy areas.

Land tenure security is a critical concern everywhere. Ineffective land registries imperil the success of policies ranging from investment to credit access and forest protection. Even when a registry works well, inability to identify legitimate claims can promote unfairness and generate other problems. Although new technologies, incremental tenure systems, and new management structures can enhance security pushback is common. Limited staff, training, difficult geography, and pressure from those who benefit from dysfunction are some of the many strategic challenges that often block improvement.

Certification schemes for managing and protecting natural resources pose another kind of challenge. When resource prices are high and the point of extraction is difficult to monitor, bad things can happen. Sensitive forests may disappear overnight. Revenues that poorly paid workers thought they would receive may flow to those who want to buy arms. Certification schemes aim to diminish such problems by eliminating the market for commodities that are produced illegally. Successful schemes require major commodity buyers to purchase only legally extracted or harvested goods that meet specified production standards and to show proof of provenance. Certification schemes require the capacity to monitor or track goods, identify responsible agents or landholders, and impede the sale of commodities that lack the requisite documentation. Ultimately success depends on the ability of private companies to solve a collective action problem.

Our third focus is on national anti-corruption strategies. Countries that sign the United Nations Convention against corruption are obliged to develop and implement anti-corruption strategies. Asset declaration, capacity to freeze assets, repeal of immunities, and administrative reforms are common elements. Many plans are little more than pieces of paper, however. Successful implementation rests on feasibility, having a stable leadership team, mustering the political clout to command coordination across institutions, and engaging the public to support enforcement.

In the coming months, the ISS program will chronicle the work of reform leaders in each of these three areas in several different countries. The aim is to draw insights from the experiences of these public servants, to distinguish between what works and what doesn’t, and to share guidance about incentive design and implementation strategy across countries and with a rising generation of leaders.

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