04 July 2008 USAID extends support for ORT IC programme in Montenegro The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed a further two years of funding for ORT International Cooperation’s work in the Balkans through the Montenegro Advocacy Programme (MAP). The $1.4 million grant is a vote of confidence in ORT ICs ability to develop the capacity of Montenegrin non-government organisations (NGOs) to participate, and be recognised as a valuable partner, in the countrys transition to an open democracy. Over the next two years we will work with local NGOs on anti-corruption initiatives, said the Director of ORT ICs Washington bureau, Celeste Angus. Its a very participatory approach, which is typical of ORT IC projects; we dont impose anything, we help them to address critical issues. According to Transparency Internationals survey of 180 countries last year, Montenegros public officials and politicians were perceived by businesspeople and analysts to be among the most corrupt in Europe: it scored 3.3, where 10 is highly clean and 0 is highly corrupt. Corruption is both a cause of poverty and one of the most serious obstacles to reducing it, according to Transparency International; it undermines democracy and the rule of law, it distorts national and international trade and it threatens domestic and international security and the sustainability of natural resources. The MAP will equip NGOs and independent media outlets in Montenegro with the tools they need financial and technical to address this issue at its root causes, Ms Angus said. The programme will include the following elements: NGO research on corruption in Montenegro, NGO advocacy and watchdog efforts towards key anti-corruption legislation, capacity building for NGOs to implement anti-corruption initiatives, and a multi-faceted public education campaign to mobilise citizens. As USAIDs implementing partner for MAP since 2002, ORT IC has provided training and technical assistance to a core group of local, public policy-oriented NGOs, achieving an increase in the capacity of Montenegros NGO sector as measured by USAIDs own NGO Sustainability Index. Among the programmes many successes are an HIV/AIDS organisation which worked with health authorities to shorten the waiting time for supplying retroviral drugs from three months to five days and an organisation which persuaded the government to abide by laws requiring disabled access to public buildings. ORT IC has also helped nurture local NGOs committed to fair, responsible media and public bodies implementation of freedom of information legislation. And it has assisted many NGO networks or groups to become watchdog organisations which hold the government and public institutions accountable for implementing the rule of law. One such group is the AHA Coalition of Herceg Novi in the south of the country. Founded by ORT MAP in 2006, it works to ensure that legislation protecting employees is enforced in the private sector. Thanks to this organisation, construction workers have gained the protection of health and safety rules, pregnant women can feel increasingly secure against losing their jobs, and hotel staff members are being paid for overtime. Our success is largely due to the close collaborative relationships and mutual trust established among the NGO community, the USAID Mission and our remarkable team in the field, especially the outstanding ORT Chief of Party, Claire ORiordan, Ms Angus said.