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Youth against corruption: Inspiring stories from Indo-Pacific

Photo: Transparency International Cambodia

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Transparency Int'l

Engaging young people in the anti-corruption advocacy is crucial. They have the potential to drive lasting change due to their innovative perspectives, technologically savvy approaches and passion for social justice. A mobilised youth can create a culture of integrity, prevent future corruption and ensure more accountable societies.

In this collection of stories, we explore how Transparency International chapters and partners in the Solomon Islands, Cambodia and Fiji are creating change through youth-led initiatives. From organising democracy camps and integrity networks to speaking out against corruption, these three stories show how young people can drive transparency, accountability and good governance.

Building a ripple effect: Solomon Islands youth democracy camps

Photo: Transparency Solomon Islands

In the Solomon Islands, 70 per cent of the population is aged between 18 to 34. This means young people are effectively the ones shaping public life. But to make a difference, young people need to know their political, legal and civil rights, and have the platforms to speak out – and Transparency Solomon Islands is doing just that.

To support young activists, the chapter hosted four week-long youth democracy camps between July 2021 and July 2023.

The camps were attended by over 100 people from all provinces of Solomon Islands, with half of them being women – university graduates, post-graduate students and community youth leaders – who left feeling empowered to speak up for transparency. They also strengthened their leadership skills for engaging peers and organising awareness activities for good governance and had discussions with government officials and other representatives who offered advice for achieving impact.

The camp participants formed the Youth for Democracy Network. The network successfully ran its own outreach programme with other young people in ten schools and their own communities. On 3 July 2022, drawing from insights gained at the camps, network members also voiced their concerns over a secretive security pact with China during a live radio discussion organised by Transparency Solomon Islands. In September 2022, they became election observers when the country’s electoral commission invited civil society to observe provincial elections.

The chapter’s mentoring and guidance also enabled the network to make a submission to Parliament’s Bills and Legislation Committee over the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2022 – they were the only youth group to do so. The bill sought to postpone the next general election until after the Pacific Games, therefore extending the parliamentarians’ term from four to five years. Although the bill was enacted within a week, bypassing parliamentary procedures and preventing the committee from completing its hearings, the network’s submission shows how young people are making progress to ensure their demands for better government are heard.

I feel privileged to attend the workshop. I learned many things about our government. Now I’m fully aware of my rights, I can inform my people so they can understand how their voice and leadership choices are vital for our constituency.
Participant Youth Democracy Camp

In 2023, Transparency Solomon Islands is expanding its impact with an additional democracy camp reaching 30 more participants. The effort is important in preparation for the upcoming national, provincial and local elections.

Youths for Integrity Fiji: Advocating against corruption through arts and social media

Photo: CLCT Integrity Fiji

Grace Konrote is a well-known face of Youths for Integrity Fiji (YFI), an anti-corruption advocacy network of Integrity Fiji set up to reach out to young people through arts and social media. With a team of over 150 young Fijians, YFI aims to equip individuals with tools and knowledge to report corrupt acts they witness or encounter.

As an integrity champion in high school, Grace helped run workshops, produced videos, posters, contemporary dances and songs on integrity and anti-corruption themes. Together with other young leaders, she gained skills in event organisation, corruption research for presentations and collaboration with partners like the Ministry of Finance Procurement Division and Fiji National University. In 2021, she started working as a youth officer for YFI.

Grace and her YFI network gained national recognition when, in 2021, they opposed a draft bill expected to replace the Police Act of 1965. The bill aimed to allow the police to search homes without a warrant and increase their surveillance powers by imposing severe penalties for withholding passwords to electronic devices, permitting eavesdropping, the recording conversations and recruiting informants through payment incentives.

After meetings with the board and staff, these young advocates adopted a strategy using Fiji's largest mainstream media outlets, including the Fiji Times newspaper and Fiji Village online platform, to advocate against the bill. Their press release, highlighting key points against the bill, was also submitted to the government committee handling public responses. In March 2021, former prime minister Bainimarama announced the withdrawal of the bill, a move credited to efforts by civil society organisations like Integrity Fiji. This was particularly important considering the increased closing of civic and democratic space observed in the region.

The YFI network also collaborates with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption to raise awareness about the severe financial losses caused by corruption, amounting to millions of dollars for the country. Their objective is to empower citizens to combat corruption and protect public resources. By employing social media posts, songs, dances, videos, posters and banners, YFI is expanding its outreach to create anti-corruption materials in the Fijian language for rural communities, such as their newly composed Fijian song ‘Cakacaka Savasava.

Engaging youth in the anti-corruption fight for sustainable change in Cambodia

In 2022, Rin Thea attended Transparency International Cambodia's capacity training session on local procurement and budgets in the northwest province of Battambang. During the training, Thea realised the importance of citizen engagement: “I used to think local development and budget plans were only the responsibility of the commune council to develop, but now I seek to attend meetings with the council whenever possible in order to raise my voice.”

With support from the Cambodian chapter, Rin organized a local forum to facilitate discussions between the commune council and citizens about the commune's budget, development and procurement. He also continued participating in meetings with local councils to amplify citizens’ voices in budget and procurement processes. His efforts paid off when the council finally included a proposal in the local development plan from a fishing community to restore a nearby lake.

Rin's story, along with the broader success of the chapter’s youth initiatives, highlight the impact young people can have as multipliers and drivers of change. Empowering young people to play an active role in local governance ensures that they, as well as their communities, continue to demand good governance and transparency for the next generation.

Since 2020, Transparency International Cambodia has supported over 2,000 young people across five provinces – Battambang, Kampot, Prey Veng, Siem Reap and Ratanakiri – through their youth outreach and training programs. Some have even formed informal working groups with local authorities to address and monitor issues related to commune budgets and local development.

In 2022, these young people reached out to more than 700 citizens through forums, meetings and leaflets aimed at promoting awareness of local governance, service delivery, gender issues and village safety. Thanks to the youths’ outreach efforts in their communities, more citizens are increasingly aware and involved in decision-making processes.

People even come into our office and ask for a copy of the commune development plan, as opposed to before when they either showed little interest or dared not ask.
Local Councillor Battambang Province

The Transparency International Indo-Pacific Partnership for Strong, Transparent, Responsive & Open Networks for Good Governance (TI IPP STRONGG) 2020–2023 aims to contribute to reduced corruption in the Indo-Pacific region by empowering a strong and independent civil society voice and network that can mobilise action in support of increased accountability of public and private institutions nationally and regionally. The project supports our chapters and partners based in the region to engage citizens, including women, youth, and vulnerable groups, as well as representatives from public institutions, private sector entities, and civil society organisations in anti-corruption initiatives.

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On International Youth Day, we celebrate youth around the globe and their power to help shape a fairer and more just world. For those who want to join us but don’t know where to start, here are 15 great ideas from our anti-corruption tool kit.

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