50 Million people in the Middle East and North Africa paid bribes last year
When Kamal from Morocco urgently needed to get a brain scan for his partially blind daughter, he had two choices: either pay the exorbitant bribe the nurse demanded or his daughter would not be seen.
Unfortunately, Kamal’s story is not unique. Fifty million people in the Middle East and North Africa had to pay bribes to access the basic services that they needed. That is nearly 1 in 3 public service users.
These numbers are unlikely to improve if the current trend continues, as the majority of people (61 per cent) in the region believe that the level of corruption has risen in the past 12 months, according to our new report, “People and Corruption: Middle East and North Africa Survey 2016”, part of the Global Corruption Barometer.
The report, which is based on results from a survey of nearly 11,000 adults in 9 countries/territories, sends a clear message: governments in the region have failed to meet the expectations of their citizens who took to the streets en masse five years ago to stop corruption and oppression and demand their governments to be transparent and accountable. Sixty-eight per cent of those surveyed believe that their governments are doing poorly in the fight against corruption.
“It’s as if the Arab Spring never happened. Leaders who fail to stop secrecy, fail to promote free speech and fail to stop bribery also fail to bring dignity to the daily lives of people living in the Middle East and North Africa. Peoples’ human rights are seriously affected,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
Corruption can be stopped.
When Kamal went back to the hospital, he had back-up – in the form of two undercover officers. When the nurse asked for the money the officers arrested him on the spot, and after going to court the nurse was imprisoned for two months. In the meantime, Kamal’s daughter received the care she needed – free from any excess charge.
What needs to be done to stop corruption in the Middle East and North Africa today?
Based on the findings of the survey, here are our four top recommendations:
- Governments in the region must speak out immediately and publicly about their commitment to end corruption. They must also finally deliver on their anti-corruption commitments made globally and regionally, such as under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Arabic Convention for Combating Corruption.
- Governments must eradicate impunity and bring the corrupt to justice so they take responsibility for the consequences of their acts.
- Governments must create a safe and enabling environment for civil society and the media to fight and report corruption.
- Governments must involve their citizens in the fight against corruption and create the space to hold institutions to account and to help law enforcement institutions. This is especially important when the majority of citizens (58 per cent) believe they have the power to make a difference.