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U4 Guide

Supporting civil society during the Covid-19 pandemic

The potentials of online collaborations for social accountability

There are significant corruption risks during times of crisis. Civil society has an important role to play in ensuring funds to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic reach their destination. Donors and multilateral organisations should consider establishing digital accountability networks to support this effort. The current crisis presents challenges for civil society; however, there are also new opportunities for it to embrace digital civic engagement as an anti-corruption initiative.

Also available in Spanish
30 April 2020
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Supporting civil society during the Covid-19 pandemic

Main points

  • There are significant corruptions risk during times of crisis. Bottom-up accountability approaches are crucial for ensuring funds allocated for the pandemic reach their intended destination.
  • It is tempting to view the current lockdowns and restriction of movement as a global paralysis. However, whilst challenging for civil society, the current situation may stimulate creativity and offer new opportunities for it as a watchdog.
  • The present urge to participate, to share information and to organise assistance could be channelled into constructive support and alternative forms of civic engagement to combat corruption.
  • Development practitioners can support civil society by drawing upon the many existing – but untapped – resources to mobilise digital civic engagement. By establishing digital accountability networks, there is potential to increase awareness of corruption risks, build new alliances and promote accountability initiatives.
  • Online collaborations have the capability to contribute to anti-corruption initiatives. However, limitations and challenges faced by some countries include: poor technology infrastructures, lack of access to mobile devices or the skills to communicate, cyber security issues, misuse of data, and a reluctance to engage at a time when health is at risk.

Cite this publication

Mullard, S.; Aarvik, P.; (2020) Supporting civil society during the Covid-19 pandemic. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Guide 2020:1)

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About the authors

Saul Mullard is a senior adviser at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre and a civil society specialist with a background in historical sociology, development studies, and South Asian studies. His research interests include the relationship between corruption and climate change and the role of local communities and indigenous peoples in addressing corruption and environmental protection. Mullard holds a doctorate and master’s in South and Inner Asian Studies from the University of Oxford, as well as a BA in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.

Per Aarvik

Per is an independent writer on applied digital technology for humanitarianism, development, governance and anti-corruption. Social media data, satellite imagery, geographical information systems, and applied artificial intelligence are among his interests. He holds a Master's degree in Democracy Building from the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, Norway. His thesis focused on the potential of crowdsourced civil society election monitoring as a tool to combat election fraud. His background is from journalism, advertising, and higher design education – as a practitioner, educator, and in managerial roles. In recent years, he has led digital humanitarian work during disasters and in democracy projects.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Photo: Saraswat