Bridging the Elite-Grassroots Divide Among Anticorruption Activists

Abigail Bellows
Content Type
Working Paper
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
The professionalization of the anticorruption field has produced a cadre of capital-based NGOs with the technical expertise to be formidable government watchdogs. But at what cost? Corruption-fueled political change is occurring at a historic rate—but is not necessarily producing the desired systemic reforms. There are many reasons for this, but one is the dramatic dissipation of public momentum after a transition. In countries like Armenia, the surge in civic participation that generated 2018’s Velvet Revolution largely evaporated after the new government assumed power. That sort of civic demobilization makes it difficult for government reformers, facing stubbornly entrenched interests, to enact a transformative agenda. The dynamics in Armenia reflect a trend across the anticorruption landscape, which is also echoed in other sectors. As the field has become more professionalized, anticorruption nongovernment organizations (NGOs) have developed the legal and technical expertise to serve as excellent counterparts/watchdogs for government. Yet this strength can also be a hurdle when it comes to building credibility with the everyday people they seek to represent. The result is a disconnect between elite and grassroots actors, which is problematic at multiple levels.
Corruption, Political Activism, NGOs, Political Movements
Political Geography
Caucasus, Armenia