On 29-30 October 2015 the EU FP7 ANTICORRP project, together with the SELDI initiative organized a conference in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro bringing together researchers with local and regional stake-holders in anti-corruption initiatives. The participants discussed ways how to use up-to-date anti-corruption and good governance research and turn it into efficient policy and advocacy tools. Participants focused in particular on the role of civil society in driving anti-corruption initiatives. They especially highlighted the need for a stronger collaboration between public institutions, the media and the general public with civil society initiatives in the field on anti-corruption. Milivoje Katnić, Chief Special Prosecutor of Montenegro, for instance, stressed the need to inform the public about indictments and convictions in the field of anti-corruption in his opening remarks to the conference.
The first panel of the conference looked at the result of different research projects on anti-corruption policies. Dr Andreas Bågenholm from the Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg presented the Quality of Government 2013 Survey. It showed key factors for the development and sustainability of anti-corruption regimes, amongst them social trust and strong government institutions. His presentation highlighted what many other participants confirmed in the course of the panel: the need for strong data in order to evaluate anti-corruption measures and in order to uncover corruption risks in different sectors. Ágnes Czibik, researcher at the Government Transparency Institute, presented DIGIWHIST, an initiative that collects data on public procurement to detect specific corruption risks in this context. The other participants reiterated the growing importance of digital tools in the fight against corruption and also the need to translate data into effective policies.
In its second panel, the conference participants focused on the energy market. It presents a special case as it is not only prone to corruption, but is of strategic importance for every country and is prone to security risks. Import dependencies and monopolies in the energy market can lead to strategic risks and inefficiencies. Again a need for better data could be identified in this context, for instance on oil imports and consumption, as Đorđije Brkuljan of the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) pointed out. A greater need for efficient regulation and protection against mismanagement was recognized by participants across the Western Balkans region.
The second day of the conference looked in more detail on the role of civil society organisations (CSOs). Panelists presented different ways how CSOs can work in advocating for transparent governance. It included, for example presentations on the importance of financial transparency for CSOs and think tanks: Hans Gutbrod presented Transparify, an initiative rating the fiscal transparency of think tanks and other CSOs. Different participants shared their experience using online tools for advocacy and sharing data. One example was Integrity Observers, a platform functioning as a public procurement database. Dr Matthew Braunwasser, a journalist from Belgrade, stressed that it is how crucial it is for journalists to question statements from the government and do investigative work.
Overall the conference was successful in bringing together key stakeholders in the field of anti-corruption. It represented a productive exchange between government representatives, civil society activists, journalists and researchers. It showed how research can be successful in informing the work of anti-corruption practitioners.