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A Gecko Challenging A Crocodile: Anti-Corruption Agency vs. Vested Interests

Fumiko Nagano's picture

The New York Times recently published an article about the experience of Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, whose existence is being threatened precisely because it is so very good at doing its job of fighting corruption. Sound like a conundrum? Hardly.

Tackling corruption can be a thankless job; it definitely is not for the faint of heart. Anti-corruption agencies are tasked to deal with a tricky challenge head-on, often having to stand up against powerful vested interests within state institutions that would rather keep the status quo. It is hardly surprising that these agencies can end up being the only genuine champions for the anti-corruption struggle with not so much political support, much less support of any type whatsoever.

Which is why CommGAP feels so strongly about the importance of building coalitions and generating public support for reform. This is true for any reform effort, but particularly relevant when we talk about delicate, tricky reforms that would likely face strong internal resistance: the fight against corruption is one of them. Implementing a sensitive reform would be challenging without political will and coalition-building efforts could help address this issue. In addition and maybe more importantly, reform needs to gain broad public support to be successful, especially if we are interested in its sustainability in the long run. For an anti-corruption agency tasked to lead this reform initiative to not only succeed for a limited time frame, but also create space for itself to continue with its mandate, it needs to have a strategy to generate public support both for the anti-corruption cause and for itself as an agency. So that it can protect itself from political backlash. So that the public would come to its rescue when it gets cornered against the wall.  So that it can continue doing its job.
The Times article quotes an official likening the anti-corruption agency’s battle against corrupt practices as “a gecko challenging a crocodile.”The image illustrates the rather bleak and insurmountable odds facing the anti-corruption agency and its prospect of success. Or maybe not. With the right strategy to enlist the support of the masses, thousands of geckos, together, should stand a better chance of facing off against the crocodile.

Photo credit: Flickr user swh

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