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The Experience on Civil Society as an Anticorruption Actor in East Central Asia

May 17, 2011, 3:27 p.m.


The Experience on Civil Society as an Anticorruption Actor in East Central Asia by Alina Mungin-Pippidi looks at the role of civil society, economic factors, and good governance in promoting democratization and curbing corruption.  Mungin-Pippidi provides two explanations for the low levels of civil society found in Eastern Central Asia despite the strong showing of civil society which helped lead to the end of the Soviet Union.   These explanations are the decrease in civil society participation once their goals had been achieved of a democratic government and with the need to focus on personal survival once capitalism was introduced, no longer having the time or incentive to participate in civil society.  The importance of civil society in curbing corruption comes from the role civil society plays in inflicting normative costs to participating in corruption.  The paper finds that civil society is a strong predictor of governance quality and lower levels of corruption.

The celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in East Central Europe was accompanied by the usual soul-searching customary at such moments. After successfully completing their EU accession, most countries in the region experienced the full brunt of an economic crisis and their politics after EU accession reflected some disappointment. While their overall democratization seems incontestable, particularly in comparison with the less successful eastern half of post communist Europe, many of the expectations of 1989 were not fulfilled. Among the disappointments, the persistence of corruption and the underdevelopment of civil society are perhaps the most surprising, seeing that the great popular movement of Solidarnosc started in Gdansk as a protest against local corruption and in due course reached such proportions as to undermine the whole Polish regime. This paper addresses precisely those two interconnected issues. Why, despite their most remarkable progress on democracy, have most East Central European states retained modest levels of governance? Is civil society still able to play any significant role in improving governance, even after its institutionalization at low levels of participation, after its initial high mobilization in the early years of democratization? Does the impact, or lack of impact, of civil society do anything to explain the quality of governance? To answer those questions, this paper will analyze the association between civil society and good governance (section 1), put it to the test (section 2); and propose a model to explain the difficulty of establishing ethical universalism as the normative basis of governance in democratic post communist countries (section 3). Finally this paper will draw on a database of ‘good governance’ projects in civil society to understand under what circumstances the impact of civil society materializes (section 4). The database used for the project was constructed during 2009-2010 by the Romanian Academic Society for the Open Society Institute and includes 471 projects from sixteen countries. The period examined runs from 1998, the first year of assessment of the whole post-communist region of by Freedom House Nations in Transit which examined both governance and civil society in depth.

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