Anti-Corruption Activist Included in Natalia Project
Vanja Ćalović, head of the organisation MANS that works on corruption issues in Montenegro, is the latest person to be included in the Natalia Project security system. In a culture where bribery is the norm and backhanders to Doctors, the Police and bureaucrats are commonplace the environment has become more and more dangerous for those battling corruption.
According to a 2011 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), entitled “Bribery As Experienced By The Population”, Montenegrin citizens rank corruption as the second most important problem facing their country today after poverty and low living standards. The country has been beset with corruption scandals, often involving high-ranking officials.
”Bearing in mind the nature of MANS work, the fact that we are investigating some of the most powerful criminals in the country, and their dealings with politicians, our security is a matter of concern. I find the Natalia Bracelet a useful security tool that will be especially helpful during my field work.” says Vanja Ćalović.
In 2013 the government took away one of the most effective tools to fight corruption, namely the unique 13 digit number that every citizen is given from birth. It is almost like an identity badge which documents who owns what in Montenegro. With this number NGOs like MANS could investigate if politicians or people in power were hiding assets or investing in companies where there was a conflict of interest.
”Montenegro is recognized by many international stakeholders, including the European Commission, as a country with serious problems regarding corruption and organised crime. Linkages between the executive and criminal structures were developed during the war and sanctions still exist. Therefore there is a lack of political will from the government to fight against mafia and corrupted politicians” says Vanja Ćalović.
Marie Månson, Director for the programme Support to human rights defenders at risk at Civil Rights Defenders, is pleased that Vanja has been included in Natalia Project so that she can continue her work with the knowledge off that she has a whole network of support behind her.
Vanja Ćalović is one of three persons to be included in the security system in the Western Balkans, bringing the total number of bracelet holders to nine. Preparations are currently under way to equip a group of human rights defenders from Southeast Asia with the safety alarm bracelet. The overall goal of the Natalia Project is to equip at least 55 activists worldwide by the end of 2014.