About a month ago two colleagues (Greg Kisunko and Steve Knack) posted a blog on “The many faces of corruption in the Russian Federation”. Their post, based on the elegant analysis of the 2011/2012 Russian BEEPS, underscores a point that many practitioners and researchers are now beginning to appreciate because of the availability of new, disaggregated data: corruption is not a homogenous phenomenon, but rather a term that encompasses many diverse phenomena that can have profoundly different impact on the growth and the development of a country. If we delve deeper into this disaggregated data, we observe that within the same country can coexist significantly different sub-national realities when it comes to the phenomenon we label “corruption”.
Over the past two decades, citizen-led initiatives to hold power holders to account have taken the world by storm. The promise embedded in such efforts – that more enlightened and engaged citizens demanding greater accountability around issues that they care about can have a decisive impact in improving development effectiveness, the quality of (democratic) governance and the nature of state-society relations – has led to a mushrooming of transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs). TAIs operating at the domestic, regional and/or international levels now cover a plethora of issues ranging from corruption, access to information, and budget processes, to natural resource management, service delivery, and aid.
With preparations for the G8 Summit in June in full swing, British Prime Minister David Cameron has made clear that transparency will be a key theme and within that a focus on transparency not just in the extractives sector but around land more broadly. This is in large part a response to concerns around the proliferation of large scale land acquisitions – the “land grab” phenomenon. Certainly that topic dominated discussion at the World Bank’s annual Land and Poverty conference this month.
A well-held belief in development circles is that, in broad terms, transparency leads to greater accountability and often, as a result, reduced corruption. Yet when the Institute of Development Studies recently looked at the impact and effectiveness of transparency and accountability initiatives that aim to improve governance in various sectors, it pointed out that “growing evidence exists that transparency alone is insufficient, and only leads to greater accountability in interaction with other factors.”