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Mission and vision
RAS aims to create an evidence-based policy-making framework by engaging with both the state and other civil society actors via informed debates, public policy analysis seminars, original research projects and contributions to the European integration of Romania, the Western Balkan countries and the Republic of Moldova. This is achieved through best practices transfer as well as enhancing the contribution of independent research institutes to the policy formulation process and the revitalization of applied social sciences in Romania and South-Eastern Europe.
General description of the CSO work in the anti-corruption area
RAS is one of the leading think tanks in Romania, with a proven track record as a watchdog organization and leader in a number of innovative anti-corruption initiatives. We are involved in two types of activities. First, we act as a watchdog and monitor vis-à-vis certain policy areas; such as the quality of governance and the rule of law, public administration transparency, public procurement, media freedom and policies, local government and, in general, policies that imply a territorial redistribution of resources. We have gradually developed original quantitative instruments to monitor the quality of governance, political and administrative integrity and have been local collaborators in well-known international monitoring projects. Second, we act constructively as an expert and advocacy group that not only formulates policy recommendations, but also promotes their incorporation into official state policies.
Specific description of the CSO work in relation to the UNCAC
RAS is not directly involved in implementing UNCAC-linked activities. However, RAS has a very long and rich experience in the field of anti-corruption that is closely related to UNCAC’s themes. For example, from 2005 onwards, an RAS-led coalition of CSOs addressed the issue of transparency of public contracts by advocating to make it legally binding that any public procurement contract, public-private partnership, concession, privatization etc. automatically be made public after it is signed; thus excluding any confidentiality clauses. We established in 2010 an informal, bottom-up, grassroots monitoring coalition and online dissemination platform entitled the Alliance for a Clean Romania (ACR) which includes a network of student and professional organizations, business communities and media outlets and constantly aims to aggregate local initiatives and promote anti-corruption tools for local monitoring. At regular intervals we assess, on the one hand, the level of transparency of websites of a number of national and local public institutions and, on the other hand, their degree of responsiveness, by sending FOIA requests asking for specific information. The latter activity has also aimed at a “naming and shaming” process in order to push the transparency agenda. As a result, the platform has seen a steady growth in both audience and influence in generating responses from public authorities. Another important component of RAS’s work is strategic litigation. In 2011, the ACR spearheaded a major success for civil society and transparency efforts in Romania by winning court decisions to fine public sector executives who denied access to dubious contracts. Our centralized watchdog activity continued, but we constantly encouraged local-level monitoring from journalists, (non)institutionalized civil society groups as well as citizens.
Specific description of the CSO work in relation to the review mechanism of the UNCAC
RAS has been an active participant in drafting Romania’s National Anti-corruption Strategies (NAS) together with other CSOs. Our contribution has been to provide statistical information and findings drawn from scientific research on the state of corruption in Romania, the success or failure of certain anti-corruption practices and to provide feedback and suggestions for improving public integrity. In 2016, RAS’s list of minimal transparency requirements for state owned companies was adopted in full as an annex to the NAS (2016-2020). Such information was obtained by RAS in the past only through lawsuits. Also, RAS is one of the CSOs involved in the Open Government Partnership and regularly attends meetings and debates on issues related to open data and transparency of public institutions. Our contributions thus far have included proposing open data commitments in sensitive sectors such as state-owned companies and energy, forwarding recommendations on which data should be publically and openly accessible, as well as recommendations and red flags, particularly in the area of public procurement. Furthermore, since 2007 RAS, together with other CSOs and student associations within the Coalition for Clean Universities, has been periodically involved in monitoring and assessing the degree of integrity and good governance in public universities, coming up with policy solutions and publicly exposing irregularities. Our evaluation activities in the higher education sector concluded that, even though there is a trend of increasing transparency, plagiarism and a favouritism-based system continue to prevent a normal development.