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Graft-busting tours of Nepal and Liberia to showcase grassroots activism

by Stella Dawson | https://twitter.com/stelladawson | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 4 October 2013 09:31 GMT

Liberians pause at the Daily Talk news board to read election results updates in the Sinkor neighborhood of Monrovia, Liberia, in 2005. REUTERS/Stringer

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A small NGO experiments with “accountability tourism” as part of its innovative approach to making governments in Nepal and Liberia more transparent and free of corruption

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Civil society group Accountability Lab has come up with a new way to raise awareness of how to combat corruption – bus tours.

The non-profit is developing a series of tours of its grassroots work in Liberia and Nepal to give travellers a different experience of local culture, while helping to fight bribery, graft and promote transparent government.

“Instead of tourists visiting slum dwellers, I want to show positive things that people are doing to change the quality of their lives in their communities,” Blair Glencorse, executive director of Accountability Lab, said at an OpenGovHub luncheon in Washington.

Tour highlights will include a visit to rappers against corruption, a group of singers who are lobbying the Liberian government to provide strong copyright laws for their work. In Nepal, visitors meet Rajneesh Bhandari who is building a network of investigative journalists to fight corruption, using the newly passed Right to Information Act.

On the streets of Monrovia, tourists will get to read the Daily Talk, a citizens’ newspaper displayed on a big chalkboard at a busy city intersection. It delivers bold headlines, news updates and useful civic information for those who cannot afford a daily newspaper. The most-requested story recently was one giving instructions on how to use the newly installed traffic lights, a novelty for the city.

And Accountability Lab has a film school that puts cameras into the hands of Liberians. Their documentaries tell of child labour, electricity shortages, sexual exploitation in schools, water problems and maternal health. The winner at its first film festival in September was a young woman who exposed how teachers coerced sex from students in return for promises of good grades.

Glencorse said his goal through all these projects is to have people take responsibility for creating change.

“There is a lot of talk and shouting about corruption among public officials, but there is a sense of otherness about the way it is discussed. People say if someone else pays a bribe then its bribery, but if I pay a bribe, it is just me getting by,” he said.

“What I do is look at not only systemic and organisational issues around corruption but also personal accountability and responsibility. These are projects where people are doing something about it.”

Money raised from the bus tours will be shared with the groups the tourists visit and will go to support more work by Accountability Lab, Glencorse said.

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