Transparency and Good Governance: A #YALIChat with Nancy Boswell, Jessica Tillipman and Ken O. Opalo

After teaching a course on Responsible Leadership Transparency and Good Governance, Nancy Boswell, Jessica Tillipman and Ken O. Opalo joined the YALI Network to answer questions and further the discussion on what individuals and communities can do to promote transparency in their country. While transparency and accountability are not easy to achieve, the instructors were able to highlight the best ways individuals can make an impact and inspire their communities.

Nancy Boswell is the Director of the US and International Anti-Corruption Law Certificate Program at American University Washington College of Law in Washington D.C. Ms. Boswell was named among Ethisphere’s “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” and is a member of the OECD Secretary General’s High Level Advisor Group on Integrity and Anti-Corruption.

Jessica Tillipman is the Assistant Dean for Field Placement and Professional Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. Dean Tillipman teaches a Government Contracts Anti-Corruption and Compliance Seminar and has published articles on anti-corruption, white collar crime and government contracts topics.

Ken O. Opalo is an Assistant Professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Mr. Opalo’s research includes political economy and legislative development and the electoral politics in emerging democracies. His current book focuses on the evolution of legislatures in emerging democracies and explaining the variation in institutionalization and the strength of African legislatures.

Start Small and Work Together:

The best way to begin tackling this issue is by starting small: educate yourself on the problems in your country and work with others who share your goals.

Implementing systemic change is near-impossible. That is why you should start small, with a focused goal that will allow you to record clear wins. These wins will then have a demonstration effect as well as serve as motivation for future reforms.

The use of media outlets, especially social media can be vital tools to shine the light on corrupt leaders. Sites like ipaidabribe.com and transparency.org are incredibly helpful in getting started.

It is very difficult to inspire hope for a better society and a fairer system in the situation you describe. However, in every society, there are some like-minded people who, when they act together, can inspire others to follow. In my view, transparency is only an instrument and not an outcome. The outcome is a better fairer society now and in the future. Transparency is an important element of the battle to get to that desired outcome. So, first you have to convince them life could be better. There are many examples to cite to --even if none is perfect! We should all be striving to make our communities better, if not perfect. For those who would like to learn more about fighting corruption and the legal basis for transparency, accountability and good government, American University offers courses during a one week period or customized for groups.

Education and a network of individuals can make a difference.

There is a saying that "a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single" step. Thus, even in the worst of circumstances, we must start from where we are and continue until the next generation takes over. The issue of those in office using that office to stay in power is one which vexes many nations. Education and transparency are important antidotes. Education: People in the provinces as well as in the cities need to know that they should vote for the best candidate, not those who use public resources -- the public's resources -- to buy the generators, motorbikes, etc used to buy their votes. Transparency: Elections and campaign financing should be transparent. Where the money comes from and where the money goes should be published in a timely and accessible manner so the public can know before the election. There should be an independent body responsible for collecting and publishing this information and to impose sanctions if rules are violated. Until such an office is created or there is a system for publication, citizens can monitor what candidates are doing and seek media coverage so the public can know what is happening.

Protection for Whistleblowers:

Protection for those who speak out against corrupt systems is a vital component to change. There should be laws in place to protect whistleblowers in order to create an environment where the people can speak freely against systems that lack transparency.

Whistleblower protection is vital to good governance and fighting Kenya has a National Whistleblowers Center which has a website with information on Kenyan laws and other resources. Protecting whistleblowers is very challenging, especially if laws are not adequately enforced. The media can play an important role in making sure the government is held to account and citizens can do the same by voting for honest candidates.

If laws are not in place, whistleblowers need to take caution in protecting their identities.

Tackling these issues is no simple task but there is hope for change. Communities need to come together and use the tools at their disposal to hold their governments accountable.

Practice is the only way through which a society can develop the institutional structures and political culture required to guarantee transparency and accountability. That means always demanding for transparency and accountability at all times under all circumstances; and accepting that sometimes you will fail.

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