Calls to action in Madagascar: A civil society success story

2 February 2023 –

With support from the UNCAC Coalition, civil society in Madagascar is holding the government to account on anti-corruption commitments under the UNCAC and creating momentum for reform.

What creative approaches can civil society use to raise awareness among the general public about technical anti-corruption processes? How can we hold governments to account and demand transparent action? This story from our affiliate group in Madagascar illustrates ambitious efforts.

TI-MG supporters and civil society activists stage a peaceful march to advocate for the adoption of two laws in Antananarivo, Madagascar, September 2022.

Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar (TI-MG) pushed for  the adoption of laws on access to information and for the protection of human rights defenders and whistleblowers. Using recommendations from their own parallel report on the implementation of the UNCAC, TI-MG used targeted advocacy to remind leaders of the fight against corruption  in Madagascar. TI-MG’s initiatives to organize a public debate, film an advocacy video, launch a national petition and host a peaceful march were crucial to the heightened awareness raised among government officials and the general public on the need to enact legislation on these two issues.

More recently, TI-MG’s  Chair and Executive Director were summoned by authorities and face possible prosecution for investigations into and the denouncing of suspicions of corruption within the national lychee trade. Human rights defenders and whistleblowers face continuous harassment and intimidation through the misuse of judicial authority by politically-exposed people. The urgent need to adopt legislation on the protection of these individuals rests on the support of the international community, which can amplify civil society voices in pursuit of transparency, accountability and respect for human rights.

TI-MG supporters and civil society activists stage a peaceful march to advocate for the adoption of two laws in Antananarivo, Madagascar, September 2022.

While much of our work as a Coalition is internationally focused, having an impact at a national level is a top priority as an organization dedicated to fighting corruption. Our priority is to strengthen the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). These efforts are part of a new initiative from the UNCAC Coalition, funding civil society organizations to act on recommendations they developed producing a parallel report. Our new initiative enables our members and affiliates to advocate for reforms in their countries.

TI-MG identified key areas for improvement from analyzing the implementation and compliance (or lack thereof) of the UNCAC in Madagascar. Their research informed the development of a civil society parallel report, with the UNCAC Coalition’s support, providing a civil society perspective to accompany the government’s own report on compliance. TI-MG published its parallel report in August 2021, which contained detailed recommendations to address gaps in the legal framework and promote actual implementation on the ground (see summary of key findings). In the summer of 2022, they began follow-up activities to turn the recommendations into action.

Goals of the project

Drawing on its analysis of the state of anti-corruption and UNCAC implementation in Madagascar, TI-MG focused on two advocacy goals:

  1. Reminding the government and public officials that they have pending recommendations that require implementation in order to comply with international anti-corruption standards. Since the publication of their parallel report in 2021, TI-MG sought to assess what progress had been achieved, one year on.
  2. Pushing the government and members of Parliament to implement the parallel report’s recommendations by adopting the two pending bills on:
    1. Access to information – A missing pillar of transparency in Madagascar, this bill has been in the works for 16 years. The Ministry of Communications publicly promised to adopt it in September 2019, but did not follow through.
    2. Protection of witnesses and whistleblowers – In light of the judicial harassment of several human rights defenders and anti-corruption whistleblowers, and the murdering of environmental activist, Henri Rakotoarisoa in June 2022, and mounting pressure from TI-MG since 2018 to adopt this law, the goal was to convince the government and members of parliament to speed up the process.
Infographic shows that 17 recommendations to the Malagasy government laid out in their parallel report, 23% are in the process of being implemented, 54% have been partially implemented and 23% have not been implemented at all. Excerpt from TI-MG’s follow-up document to the parallel report (p. 17) in French: see the full document here.

Advocacy activities

To build support for these issues, TI-MG:

  • Produced a short follow-up document to the parallel report by conducting desk research, carrying out interviews and polls, and used it as an advocacy tool during conversations with public officials.
  • Organized a public debate, broadcast across national media, to push for the adoption of the two bills.
  • Filmed an advocacy video targeting members of parliament and sharing on social media, showcasing why the two laws are crucial for anti-corruption and what is at stake if progress is not made.
  • Launched a national petition (online and offline), aiming to reach 50,000 signatures from Malagasy citizens and other stakeholders to demand the adoption of the two bills.
  • Hosted a peaceful march, demonstrating public demand for the adoption of the two bills.

Success and results

Through its outreach and advocacy activities, TI-MG successfully advanced anti-corruption in Madagascar through this project, achieving the following results.

  • Revisiting the recommendations made in their own parallel report one year on, TI-MG’s follow-up document provided a largely negative overview of the status of anti-corruption efforts in Madagascar. In an attempt to understand this situation, interviews with members of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit and Committee for the Safeguarding of Integrity, among others, were held, and more comments and recommendations for the streamlining of existing structures were collected.
  • In September 2022, on the occasion of the international day of democracy, a conference-debate on the adoption of the two laws was organized with the participation of around 40 attendees. The event brought together speakers from civil society, the national assembly, and the ministries of justice, communication and culture. As a result, government representatives present acknowledged the urgency of these issues, promising to speak to their peers about taking action.
Event poster for the conference and debate on the adoption of the two laws, “Madagascar: Democracy in Question”, organized by TI-MG in September 2022.
  • In August 2022, an awareness-raising advocacy video for the passage of both laws was posted on Facebook. The video was produced and broadcast by a renowned influencer in Madagascar, ‘Joely Kely’, attracting wide reach with 3997 reactions, 159 comments and 431 shares. TI-MG continues to broadcast it regularly to keep up the debate.
  • With just over four thousand signatures, a great reluctance among the public to sign the national petition advocating for the adoption of the two laws was observed. This is partially due to the fact that petitioning is not a well-known strategy among the Malagasy population, who fear arbitrary arrests over a simple signature. However, the petition is still active, and TI-MG is working in partnership with an association of youth activists, as well as local churches and NGOs to continue spreading the word and raising awareness among the general public. It is planned to present the results of this petition to the National Assembly, Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister.
  • In September 2022, on the occasion of international day for universal access to information, a peaceful march was held in front of the City Hall in Antananarivo. TI-MG, civil society supporters and youth activists chanted slogans and held up signs and banners to call for an acceleration of the adoption process for the two laws. Ending with a press briefing, this activity was viewed by over 40,000 people on social media, generating greater public awareness and building momentum on the issue.

Next steps

Due to the great reluctance on the part of leaders to adopt laws that promote the fight against corruption, long-term advocacy in favor of these initiatives is needed. The law on access to public information is progressing; the text has been sent back to the Ministry of Communication after a second reading in the Council of Ministers. Regarding the law on human rights defenders, a draft has been submitted by a Member of Parliament to the National Assembly in October 2022 but still has to be examined by its Legal Commission before potentially being included on the Parliament’s agenda. TI-MG plans to continue to fuel the debate in 2023 through its social networks and communication channels.