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Brief information about the project MOCCA

Corruption has become, without a doubt, a buzzword in both academic and policy debates over the last three decades. The initial view that “corruption greases the wheels of economic growth” in the newly independent states of Africa and Asia has lost its validity in the light of the current ever-growing global coalition against corruption, spearheaded by Transparency International (TI) and the World Bank. According to these international bodies, this whole debate is now closed: Corruption, as they confidently assert, is “the abuse of public office/entrusted power for private gain” and thereby “sands the wheels of economic growth”. This rests on the understanding that corruption, primarily affecting weak states in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, is the main cause of poverty and inequality. It distorts public expenditures, increases the cost of running businesses, deters foreign investors and leads to social instability, the weak rule of law and bad governance. These ideas are reinforced by the frequent use of “disease” and “cancer” metaphors to describe corruption. However, despite the unrelenting global anti-corruption efforts, one thing seems clear: There is no such thing as a remedy to this “cancer”. Nonetheless, in theory, and in practice, it is generally agreed that all measures aimed at fighting corruption are mainly divided into two main areas, namely, taking measures to counteract external manifestations of corruption. This direction is aimed at fighting already-existing corruption with punitive measures. These can include, for example, bringing disciplinary responsibility, initiating criminal cases, and preventing corruption by eliminating the legislative and institutional prerequisites for corruption.

The MOCCA is a research and staff exchange programme that intends to contribute to the global and national efforts of understanding and counteracting corruption by conducting interdisciplinary research on the multilevel orders of corruption in five countries in post-Soviet Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). More specifically, MOCCA is constructed around three interlinked goals, which are to collect original empirical data (based on research solidly grounded in fieldwork) on the interplay between global anti-corruption norms, nation-state laws, and local meso- and micro-level (everyday) legal cultures in Central Asia and their implications for understanding corruption and its societal effects; to engage with and situate our research in relevant theoretical debates and thereby advance scholarly debates on (anti-) corruption by developing new conceptual and methodological approaches to study and understand it; and to provide strategic intelligence for EU-based political and economic actors interested or already working in the region, and to inform international organisations and decision-makers in the EU and Central Asia on ways to combat corruption and improve the business and investment climate, the rule of law and governance in the region.

MOCCA is a multi-sited, interdisciplinary and multisectoral research and staff exchange programme which involves 8 leading European universities, namely Lund University, University of Zurich, Vilnius University, Marmara University, University of Helsinki, Aarhus University, Charles University Prague, Istanbul Medipol University and 9 partners operating in Central Asian region, namely the General Prosecutor’s Office of Uzbekistan, Tajik State University of Commerce, Anticorruption Business Council of the Kyrgyz Republic, Transparency International Kazakhstan, OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kurultai Research and Consulting, Zhetysu University, Business-Ombudsman of Uzbekistan – Commissioner for Protection of Rights and Legitimate Interests of Entrepreneurs and Tebigy Kuwwat Public Association.

The implementation of the MOCCA project considers four phases. Each phase will focus and function in order to meet the research and training objectives of the project. Each phase has two major objectives: 1) Consolidate, complement and expand each fellow’s skills portfolio and expertise by means of secondments to another partner. Each researcher and team will be progressively exposed to different disciplinary perspectives, intersectoral experience and different sub-region contexts, resulting in the acquisition of novel expertise and knowledge on (anti-) corruption in Central Asia and the most-appropriate techniques to investigate it. 2) Ensure full consistency between the MOCCA’s training and research components. By building the capacity of the fellows and their teams, we intend to involve them in all the project phases, from project design to implementation and dissemination.

First, fellows based in Central Asia will be hosted by European partners for secondment, and they will conduct a systematic review of the (anti-) corruption environment in Central Asia since the early 1990s up to the present time. The training in this phase will include guidance on the relevant theoretical and regional debates and the main shortcomings of empirical research up to date. Capacity-Building will develop as in phase one, with a second cohort of researchers initially seconded from non-European to European partners, followed by the secondment of European researchers to non-European partners. In this phase, mainly qualitative data will be collected. Under the academic guidance of RS Leaders, fellows will conduct empirical investigations of corruption and anti-corruption laws, policies and measures focused on global, national and local (meso and micro) levels. The next stage of the project will concentrate on carrying out national surveys of corruption and legal culture in Central Asia. The survey questions will be formulated based on the findings of qualitative studies conducted in Phase 2 so as to gain a generalizable and quantifiable picture in relation to the multilevel orders of corruption framework. The final fourth phase will be the interpretation of the collected data and evaluation of implications, which will also include the dissemination of the project results.