December 9, 2020, Kabul, Afghanistan—On the occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day, Integrity Watch launched its Progress Review of the National Strategy for Combatting Corruption (2017–2019). Integrity Watch’s research has found that the Afghan anti-corruption strategy was poorly designed and faced weak political will and under-resourced in its implementation that therefore led to very few tangible results.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, stated, “The Afghan government and its international partners have come up with a plethora of new anti-corruption laws, regulations and institutions over the past 15 years, but corruption in Afghanistan remains widespread, adversely affecting the ability of the government to maintain security for, and deliver basic public services to, its citizens.” He explained that the reason these efforts have not resulted in reducing corruption in the country is because there is a weak and at times no political will on the part of the Afghan government and politicians and the international community has had a inconsistent approach to state-building in Afghanistan.
The lack of progress in the fight against corruption, coupled with increasing pressure from Afghanistan´s international partners, led the Afghan government to make a series of high-level anti-corruption commitments in international summits, including the London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014, the London Summit in 2016, the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in 2016, and the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan in 2018. A significant number of these commitments were incorporated into Afghanistan´s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (NSCC) 2017-2019.
Sayed Ziafatullah Saeedi, one of the researchers of this report, stated, “Overall, a clear pattern has emerged: While benchmarks typically received good scores for diagnoses of the underlying problems and relevance to the core functions of the implementing institutions, they scored poorly with regards to consultation and monitoring and most crucially of all, the majority benchmarks received very low scores for achieving meaningful results.
Mr. Afzali stated that while weak political will and state-capture by corrupt political elite are major drivers of the failure in anti-corruption, operational and implementation level reasons and causes that led to the failure of the strategy including limited consultations with stakeholders including civil society, poor diagnoses, a continued lack of focus and prioritization, limited resources being allocated for implementation of reforms, little attention to international best practices, and limited focus on public participation in the fight against corruption and protection of civic space.
Mr. Afzali recommended that first and foremost there is a need to build political will of government and political elite. International community insists on zero-tolerance of corruption. In addition, the international community should abandon their short-term and inconsistent approach to state-building in Afghanistan. Both Afghan government and international community should then hold meaningful consultations with all stakeholders to identify priority areas and have accurate & results-oriented benchmarks which go to the core of corruption, avoid duplicity of benchmarks, and have a robust monitoring framework. In order to implement a well-designed strategy, there is a need for independent agencies not a politicized Anti-Corruption Commission which is what was set up recently by the government.
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Editorial: Corruption a great shame
Very confused how this ashamed practice of corruption finds its origin in the Afghan society. Once the Afghan masses were ashamed of taking bribes or to be involved in sorts of corruption. However, after passing each day, this has become normal practice, even for the high-profile politicians, elites, ministers, deputies, directors, and other low-level staff. Private sectors are no exception. So corruption is everywhere that has ruined the entire infrastructure. It could be more rational to see the link between different types of corruption with inequality – injustice, poverty, and insecurity is also due to corruption, even the worsening security situation has a direct link to this illegal act. The level of corruption could not be better explained rather than to see the recent data of the government which indicates 15 million population of Afghanistan are living under the poverty line. Sadly, half of the inhabitants are scrambling for daily needs. This is heart-wrenching. Despite the flow of billions of dollars in aid in the past 19 years, millions of people are still going to bed with empty stomachs.
The government must translate its promises to action and take immediate and extensive efforts to fight corruption in the relative organs. The ordinary Afghans want change in Afghanistan. They want an end to corruption and a commitment to security. This is not too much to ask; rather this is their right to ask. It strongly believes that the billions of foreign aids that come to Afghanistan are lost to corruption. This must be stopped. The government can deal with corruption if it introduces merit-based appointments of judges and independent judicial services commission, and also establish an independent and well-resourced anti-corruption agency that is based on the United Nations Convention against corruption framework and involves civil society. And the most important step toward elimination of corruption is that all senior civil servants, politicians and senior staff in executive, legislative and judicial sectors must publish asset declarations – it should be verified and monitored to ensure that no one is using their position of power for personal enrichment. This is the best and simple way to fight the menace of corruption.