End of November, the Alliance for Integrity hosted the fifth Regional Integrity Week in Latin America. Due to the ongoing restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was carried out entirely online, with Paraguay as host country. The Regional Integrity Week is a success story that started in 2016. It includes various panel discussions and exchange formats aiming to bring together representatives from the public and private sectors as well as civil society. Collectively, they seek to strengthen integrity in the region, initiate a discourse on compliance issues and disseminate best practices among all relevant stakeholders. For the first time, also partners from Ecuador participated in this year’s event.
Under the headline “Collective ReActivation in Latin America - Regional Cooperation for a Transparent, Integral and Sustainable Recovery", the fifth Regional Integrity Week in Latin America kicked-off. The opening panel focused on the social and economic impact of the global pandemic in the region. In recent months, Latin America has become the hotspot of the global crisis. In addition to health risks, the economic crisis worsened, particularly affecting local economies as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The first priority at the moment is undoubtedly to contain the virus and save lives, but following this, attention must be placed on the economic recovery. Sustainable recovery can only be achieved if integrity standards are maintained or even raised. To this end, the cooperation of all relevant actors of the private and public sectors as well as civil society is indispensable. In this context, questions arise about how to motivate companies and public officials not to neglect integrity standards; how to use Collective Action methods to achieve full, transparent and sustainable economic recovery; and how to turn regional cooperation into a tool to achieve more effective recovery. These questions were at the core of this year's Regional Integrity Week.
An example of Collective Action represents the Regional Working Group ‘Aliados por la Integridad’ that brings together compliance experts from the region to interact, share and exchange knowledge on compliance best practices in order to promote business integrity in the ecosystem. Over the past year, members have developed a variety of exchange formats and publications that provide guidance to SMEs on their journey towards higher integrity standards. These include the concept note for the Integrity Marathon, the infographic on ‘Integrity in Times of Crisis’ and the interactive guide on ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Times of Crisis’.
The second event day started with the official launch of the Alliance for Integrity in Ecuador. The global initiative is now active in 14 countries worldwide, including Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. In his opening remarks, Mr. Hubert Mukusch, Head of International Cooperation at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Quito, emphasised the importance of involving the private sector in the fight against corruption. “Only if companies are sensitised to the negative effects of corruption and given practical tools to improve their compliance mechanisms it will be possible to create a sustainable economic system in the long term,” he stated. Ms. Susanne Friedrich, Director of the Alliance for Integrity, and Ms. Fiorella Mayaute, Director of the bilateral programme Ecuador SinCero, which acts as the project's implementing partner in the country, outlined the history of the initiative and the cooperation in Ecuador. “Business integrity has become an increasingly important issue. We need to support companies in their efforts to implement effective compliance mechanisms to create a transparent business environment. Regional cooperation is key to success,” highlighted Susanne Friedrich. The official launch was followed by a panel discussion on “Challenges and Opportunities for Ecuador in Terms of Integrity in a Context of Economic Uncertainty and Reactivation”. As part of the session, representatives from Ecuador provided an overview of the regional perspective, gave an outlook on planned activities and promoted the exchange of local, regional and cross-sectoral experiences between the participants.
The launch of the first regional Working Group for Latin America was held on 15 June. The event had an innovative character because it was the first time that partners and stakeholders from the whole Latin American continent came together to foster compliance efforts on a regional level. The event focused on structural questions and possible cooperation between the different countries the Alliance for Integrity operates in in the region. Claudia Lorek, the Alliance for Integrity’s Regional Manager Latin America & Asia welcomed the participants.
At the end of the Integrity Week, the Alliance for Integrity invited to the third meeting of regional DEPE trainers on the eve of Thursday. The event had the aim to support cooperation between the countries where DEPE trainings are implemented and improve the training methods with DEPE trainers from region. In cooperation with the implementation partner CAMCHAL a DEPE training session for SMEs was realised on Friday and brought the first Integrity Week in Chile to a successful end.
The second event day closed with the Regional Trainers’ Meeting. Trainers of the DEPE (De Empresas Para Empresas - DEPE) corruption prevention training programme came together to share experiences and best practices on how to improve the newly adapted digital format of the programme. To speak in numbers, nine digital trainings have already taken place in six different countries in Latin America. Three of them were focused on specific economic sectors, which allowed for a deeper approach and better understanding of corruption risks for the participants involved. Following the open discussion, the trainers were prepared for the digital format. Ms. Carolina Ortega, specialist in digital learning formats, explained that the training material has to be adapted to the digital format. “To keep the participants' attention and motivation high, it is advisable to choose interactive and visual content,” she emphasised. Trainers should familiarise themselves with the participants and their individual needs in advance to adapt the material and communication. It is also important, despite the physical distance, to build a relationship of trust and a protected space where participants feel encouraged to communicate openly and participate actively in the session.
On the final event day special emphasis was placed on the two topics ‘Gender and Integrity’ and ‘Collective Action’, both in terms of economic recovery after the pandemic. The first panel recapped the gender activities promoted by the Alliance for Integrity in 2020, which will remain high on the initiative's agenda in the upcoming year.
Together with its partners, the Alliance for Integrity organised several exchange formats within the past months to explore the nexus between gender and corruption, especially in the private sector. In Colombia and Mexico, for example, we hosted the Integrity Coffee that provides an informal and protected setting for women entrepreneurs to openly discuss challenges related to corruption and explore possible solutions. In addition, the initiative implemented the Virtual Dialogue Series on Gender and Integrity in Latin America. In three online sessions, international experts discussed the gender impact of some types of corruption, such as sextortion, and the role of the compliance department in the scope of the gender strategy in companies.
To conclude the Regional Integrity Week in Latin America, the last panel shed light on the benefits of Collective Action in the fight against corruption. Experts from different sectors discussed what kind of anti-corruption alliances have emerged in the context of the pandemic in Paraguay and the region, what challenges organisations may face in building Collective Action initiatives, and how we can use alliances to promote integrity and transparency in the economic system. A summary of the key findings can be found here.
In her closing remarks, Ms. Susanne Friedrich highlighted the incredible work done by Paraguay as this year's host country and thanked them for their great hospitality. Mr. Tim Pieper, General Manager of AHK Paraguay, passed the baton to Colombia that will host the Regional Integrity Week 2021.
Author: Gabriela Faria