Advocacy and Legal Aid Centers (ALACs)

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Advocacy and Legal Aid Centers (ALACs): Citizens' Voices Against Corruption

Ramallah and Gaza Strip, Palestinian TerritoryRamallah and Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory
Year Founded:
2009
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A victorious war against corruption demands bottom up and top down efforts. Empowering Palestinians to raise their voices against corruption through whistleblowing closes the feedback loop between citizens and government contributing to protection of public funds, and quality and equal services prov

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if Palestinians whistle blew for equal access and quality services like health & education for millions of citizens?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Palestine’s transition from Israeli occupation to state building receives donor funds for development and humanitarian aid of which millions of dollars are wasted to corruption impacting the most marginalized areas and vulnerable groups. Many citizens lack know-how to combat corruption missing out on engaging in monitoring and holding officials accountable.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

ALAC, a proven effective instrument unique in its directness with diverse citizens including the marginalized and vulnerable engaging them in combatting corruption via awareness raising, free legal advice, supporting victims/whistleblowers, confidentiality, follow up of corruption suspect cases with official parties responsible for investigating and verifying received information on cases. Citizens and organizations submit complaints via hotline, office visits, emails and fax. ALAC conducts investigative research on received public interest complaints, conducts advocacy and lobbies for adoption of anti-corruption legislations to meet AMAN’s strategic direction per structural institutional and cultural change.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Numerous citizen complaints at AMAN’s ALAC, involved corruption in public sector in appointments, hiring, firing, promotions, and permit requests claiming security safety checks conducted favored certain political affiliations. Complaints investigated by ALAC, findings and recommendations were shared in AMAN’s corruption report, conference, and pressure campaigns. It was announced that security checks were cancelled, and Cabinet decision No. 133 halted work on the condition of obtaining security checks. ALAC was a key contributor in this. Also, 1,000 harmed individuals and their families enjoyed what was rightfully theirs in terms of employment.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since its establishment in 2009, ALAC received 5,200 complaints suspect of corruption, followed up 327 individual and public interest corruption cases. It reached via awareness campaigns over 100,000s of citizens educating and empowering them on corruption and combatting it. Advocacy, lobbying and accountability sessions resulted in closing the loop between citizen/civil society and the government at the national level in terms of over 30 legislations as in cancelation of security check, modified traffic violation system that will prohibit public fund waste as in the case of the over 1.5 million dollars of uncollected traffic tickets due to corruption and nepotism.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

ALAC is at the core of AMAN’s work in anti-corruption, and not a marginal project. It will always be included in the organization’s fundraising efforts. Due to its need and success record, ALAC continues to be a wise investment for international donor organizations supporting anti-corruption. ALAC has been financially sustainable since 2009 and continues towards the latter part of 2015 and part of this is due to the competent core staff of ALAC.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

ALAC has and continues over the years to have an increased the number of public officials cooperating with AMAN in anti-corruption. AMAN's partner civil society organizations are increasing every year targeting wide audiences of citizens in whistleblowing.The Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PAAC), which AMAN contributed in establishing in 2010, investigates corruption complaints while AMAN validates the information in complaints with the officials. Both work together for ALAC empowers the citizen in preparing a solid file case that goes with the citizen to PAAC.
Team

Founding Story

AMAN continuously reviews its work and needs in Palestine for building a national integrity system and for anti-corruption. As citizens began to engage in anti-corruption, complaints started to come in by citizens who did not trust complaining to officials. At the time, it was clear in many countries around the world that ALACs and as a result of TI’s work were important and successful institutionalized free instruments receiving citizen complaints, offering free legal advice to complainants, and assisting them in preparing their case files. That was the “Aha” moment that took place in 2009 creating AMAN’s ALAC.

Team

ALAC's small team includes competencies of speaking & taking information from whistleblowers, a legal aid determining corruption cases, and a director who can pull all together producing statistical analysis with the team, design and implement advocacy campaigns. ALACs West Bank headquarter team consists of 1 full-time (FT) director, 1 admin assistant (FT). 1 part-time (PT) legal aid in each WB & 1 in Gaza branch
About You
Organization:
Coalition for Accountability and Integrity-AMAN
About You
First Name

Nancy

Last Name

Mahmood

LinkedIn URL
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Coalition for Accountability and Integrity-AMAN

Organization Country

, Ramallah and Gaza Strip

Country where this project is creating social impact

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Impact
Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward? (Please consider geographic spread, policy reform, and independent replication/adoption of the idea or other mechanisms.)

AMAN’s ALAC in the Gaza Strip is a replication of the one in the West Bank and replication is possible in numerous areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. AMAN plans on utilizing modern technology in its ALACs including social media for a wider outreach in the WB/GS, expanding the GS ALAC and further building its capacity, lobbying harder for establishment of whistle blowing protection law, and intensifying outreach visits to marginalized areas and vulnerable groups for their engagement in whistleblowing. ALACs will continue to contribute to anti-corruption legislation.

Barriers: What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Barriers include threats against AMAN, attempts to steal confidential information, and lack of cooperation by officials. AMAN has increased protection of confidential information, and taken safety measures protecting staff and property. ALACs work with different stakeholders in a non- accusing, or threatening manner. Findings and recommendations are based on research, and shared with officials prior to publicizing. AMAN gained trust of challenging public institutions and gained the credibility and trust of citizens through implementing result oriented strategy of citizen empowerment

Sustainability
Partnerships: Tell us about your partnerships.

AMAN, the national chapter of Transparency International, and called upon by TI as the lead in the MENA region in anti-corruption work to assist, transfer knowledge, and share expertise with 8 Arab chapters and country partners implementing regional projects. In partnerships with 25 local NGOs it built capacity in anti-corruption work outsourcing them reaching their target groups expanding its grassroots based work in anti-corruption and 30 LGUs

Closing the Loop
How does your project primarily ensure that feedback delivers results?

Help funders, governments, and other organizations to listen to and act on feedback.

Please elaborate on your answer to the above question.

AMAN a professional anti-corruption NGO empowers citizens in combatting corruption by building their capacity on corruption aspects, informing on it, providing free legal counseling, and providing anti –corruption solutions benefitting from the diverse information gathered from complaints . AMAN conducts research and follows up on corruption cases, carrying the voices of the citizens to officials, and sharing findings and recommendations to concerned parties. Thus, closing the loop between Palestinians and government resulting in fighting corruption, and better services by government

Languages: In what languages are you able to read and write fluently?

English, Arabic.

2nd Round Questions
Thinking about your feedback loop; what information are you trying to get from whom, to whom, and to bring about what change?

Palestinian citizens whistleblow on acts of corruption they witness by public officials contacting AMAN’s ALAC which completes a file according to a certain format and sends it to the concerned public officials for follow-up and validation of information. ALAC follows-up until they hear from the officials moving up the ladder of authority if no response is received in a reasonable time which depends on the complexity of the complaint. The objective of this process is to have a bottom-up monitoring by active citizens of public officials to hold them accountable. AMAN’s ALAC conducts advocacy and lobbies for adoption of anti-corruption legislations.

Engaging citizens in whistle-blowing involves raising awareness of their role as active citizenship through radio spots, outreach visits, capacity building of CSOs to reach their diverse target groups to get involved in anti-corruption. ALAC provides free services to citizens and civil society organizations to engage them in active citizenship in anti-corruption via awareness raising on corruption, its forms and negative impact on society, and the know- how to whistle blow process.

AMAN has established good rapport with officials through its solid successful work over the last decade. MoUs with all governmental agencies, ensuring the president the prime minister are on board with anti-corruption work which is part of the government’s strategic plan, and a participatory approach not finger pointing. Whistleblowers are offered protection through anonymity if desired, information is protected from hackers, AMAN’s premises are secure. AMAN continues advocacy for ratification of the law for protection of whistleblowers.
The voice of vulnerable populations ( youth, poor, rural, women… etc) and those in marginalized areas is captured through planned outreach visits informing all of corruption, its impact, ALAC’s free services offered to them in collecting their feedback and building the know-how of citizens on whistle-blowing when witnessing corruption as well as being victims of it.

AMAN ensures good governance via pristine internal systems ensuring that its practices promote values of integrity, principles of transparency, and systems of accountability. In summary, AMAN walks its talk it does about good governance and rule of law. AMAN makes it clear to citizen what it can do with their feedback ensuring that there is no exaggeration or broken promises in what they can accomplish.

AMAN through the media, its annual corruption report, and highly attended conference launching the report is attended by the prime minister and different ministers ensures communication of issues that were not acted on properly by certain officials after follow-up by AMAN, and typically the pressure results in action.

ALAC produces a statistical annual report including all the complaints coming in based on its database, and the software that allows analysis producing various data needed. The team keeps the database updated so that the effort is not overwhelming and analysis is possible anytime.
Scalability is significant especially when the whistleblowing is a public interest issue which is many a case that calls for modified/new legislation impacting producing impact at the national level for Palestinians.
The ALAC model can be implemented effectively in countries ridden with corruption if the government at its highest level is on board in the anti-corruption efforts of civil society, via MoUs, and citizens for a wide base of bottom up work in eradication of corruption and towards promoting values of integrity, principles of transparency, and systems of accountability in the public sector.

What is the purpose of your feedback loop?

Accountability to external partners

If other, please specify
What mediums or mechanisms do you use to collect feedback? (check all that apply)

Paper, Phone or voice, Website, Physical gathering.

If other, please specify
Could you briefly describe the way you collect the feedback?

The process starts with the citizen contacting ALAC via the hot line, fax, email or physical meeting to whistleblow on a corruption case. A form is completed appropriately with all the information taken by the team. The legal aid confirms whether this is a corruption case indeed. The corruption case file is completed and the citizen is directed to the concerned public officials. ALAC continues follow-up of the case with the officials until a satisfactory response is received by the officials.

What mechanisms are in place to protect people from retribution?

Other

If other, please specify

Anonymity, secured protection on information and AMAN offices

What are the immediate benefits or incentives for people to provide feedback?

Other

If other, please specify

active citizenship

How do you ensure new and marginalized voices are heard?

Specific targeted outreach efforts

If other, please specify
What are the incentives for the intended recipient to act on the feedback?

Other

If other, please specify

pressure via media, advocacy & lobbying campaigns, link btwn citizen & gov, desire for peace and stability of country

How does the feedback mechanism close the loop with those who provided feedback in the first place?

Meetings discussing results with providers

If other, please specify
How is feedback published/transparent?

Other

If other, please specify

website, media, written reports

Give two concrete examples of how feedback loops have brought a program or policy more in line with citizens’ desires.

Numerous citizen complaints at AMAN’s ALAC, involved corruption in public sector in appointments, hiring, firing, promotions, and permit requests claiming security safety checks conducted favored certain political affiliations. Complaints investigated by ALAC, findings and recommendations were shared in AMAN’s corruption report, conference, and pressure campaigns. It was announced that security checks were cancelled, and Cabinet decision No. 133 halted work on the condition of obtaining security checks. ALAC was a key contributor in this. Also, 1,000 harmed individuals and their families enjoyed what was rightfully theirs in terms of employment.

The second example is the modified traffic violation system which will prohibit public fund waste as in the case of the over 1.5 million dollars of uncollected traffic tickets due to corruption and nepotism.

If there was one thing you could change to increase the impact of your feedback loop, what would it be?

The presence of one government in Palestine versus the presence of Fateh government in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip. This will in turn end the paralysis of the legislative council, positively impacting anti-corruption in Palestine from every aspect.

What are your biggest challenges or barriers in “closing the feedback loop”?

Ensuring the quality of the data provided

If other, please specify

limited government responsiveness

Are you aware of The Feedback Store?

Yes, I am already on it

What are the main uses you can envision for the Feedback Store?

tools and ideas on how to close the loop between service providers and citizens for just and equal access.

What is the one thing you would most like to see changed to improve the competition process?

A bit more space to communicate the project submitted better.

What are you doing to make sure that feedback providers know that they are empowered by the information they can give and that they know exactly what the information they are providing?

There feedback is shared in the annual corruption report and then during the high profile conference for launching the report where the prime minister and the ministers of various ministries are present. Furthermore, civil society and a number of citizens have a platform to have their voices heard and findings are shared by AMAN which is based partly on citizen feedback.