DCM’s Remarks at the TechCamp Kosovo: Combating Corruption in the Balkans Opening

DCM’s Remarks at the TechCamp Kosovo: Combating Corruption in the Balkans Opening December 8, 9:00

Good morning everyone.

I am happy to be here today to kick off TechCamp Kosovo: Combating Corruption in the Balkans.

As you know, we are nearing the end of Anti-Corruption Week in Kosovo and tomorrow is International Anti-Corruption Day.

So this event is well-timed to highlight the critical role technology plays in combating corruption.  Fighting corruption and improving the rule of law in Kosovo are the U.S. Embassy’s highest priorities.

This year, the Embassy and USAID supported over thirty events for anti-corruption week.  NGOs – including some represented here – organized public hearings and round tables to shed light on corruption and build momentum for change.

TechCamp Kosovo is the perfect way to keep building on this momentum.  This program will give you new tools to improve accountability and increase transparency.  Whether that’s connecting online efforts with real world advocacy, using data visualization to make information more accessible, or learning how to use open source tools to improve investigative reporting, technology has extraordinary potential to advance the fight against corruption.

All of you are already doing critical work to increase transparency.  Those of you in the public sector are directly responsible for ensuring that the government of Kosovo is a responsible steward of public funds.

You have the ability – and the responsibility – to sound the alarm when you see corruption, malfeasance, nepotism, or a simple lack of transparency.  You are also in control when it comes to ensuring implementation of laws and procedures that increase transparency.

To the civil society and NGO representatives here, you can hold the government’s feet to the fire.  Civil society organizations like the Kosovo Law Institute and GAP are doing incredible work not only to draw attention to corruption, but also to facilitate dialogue and debate that will lead to real solutions.

Civil society groups held public hearings this week on issues ranging from monopolies in the vehicle certification process to the sale of academic papers.

Through events like these you hold public officials accountable on a range of issues that are holding back Kosovo’s economic and democratic growth.

And for the journalists here today, your work is key to exposing corruption and its effects on the people of Kosovo.  You are able to shed light on issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, and help civil society demand accountability.

We know your job is not easy.  But tough, honest, investigative journalism is crucial in the fight against corruption.  All of you are here today because you are committed to improving transparency in the Balkans.

You know that corruption is holding your countries back, whether from visa liberalization or from greater economic growth.  But more importantly, you know that you as individuals have the power to make a difference.  I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and dive into some of the new technologies.  You will have the opportunity to gain new skills, and also to think about how you can use these skills to solve a concrete problem in your country or community.

Corruption is not a problem unique to Kosovo.  It’s an issue throughout the Balkans, and it is something that we grapple with in the United States.  That’s why we have participants from around the region and trainers from as close as Pristina and as far away as the United States.  By working together, we know you will come up with even better solutions than you can on your own.  I know the trainers are eager to share their knowledge and help you find ways to put technology to work in our mutual fight against corruption.

I want to thank all of them for devoting two days to teaching and mentoring this weekend.  I also want to thank the IIP team from Washington, DC, Phil and Jessica, and FLOSSK for their great collaboration on the program.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for everything you are already doing to fight corruption here in Kosovo and across the Balkans.  It is committed individuals like you that have the power to make a difference.

I wish you all the best for a successful Tech Camp.