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Afghanistan: Setting a solid anti-corruption roadmap

An Open Letter from Transparency International to the Participants of the London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010

An Open Letter from Transparency International to the Participants of the London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010

To: The Rt. Honourable Prime Minister Brown, Hon. President Karzai, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and distinguished participants of the London Conference

Dear Honourable Leaders,

Widespread corruption in Afghanistan continues to seriously undermine state-building and threatens to destroy the trust of the Afghan people in their government and their institutions while fuelling insecurity. As the international community emphasises the need to counter corruption, the Afghan people agree: their worry about the devastating effects of corruption rivals concerns about security and employment. Corruption impacts their daily lives, especially the poorest.

It is therefore urgent for all those working on bringing stability to Afghanistan to establish an anti-corruption strategy and a solid plan of action for its implementation, in cooperation with the Afghan leadership and citizens, which embeds transparency and accountability into all facets of public life.

Credibly and effectively addressing corruption is essential to re-build trust in the institutions of the state. It is positive that there are changes already underway, such as the recent appointment of Dr Ashraf Ghani, which promises to strengthen anti-corruption efforts within the Government of Afghanistan.

It is also encouraging that this conference is being held with a focus on improving governance in Afghanistan, arguably one of the major challenges facing the country today. At the same time, the international community urgently needs to take a hard look at itself, the ways in which it contributes to the problem of corruption, and the real contributions it can make to future solutions to help strengthen all anti-corruption efforts and foster integrity, transparency and accountability in Afghan public institutions.

Increasing aid and military spending for development, reconstruction and peace will require an anti-corruption road-map agreed jointly with the Afghan people. This road-map must become a local priority with a strong focus on implementation. The success of any anti-corruption effort will depend on direct responsibility being assumed by the civilian, diplomatic and military communities. They must all become integral parts of solution efforts.

As such, future solutions will also depend on the effective integration of local and international efforts. For example, international reconstruction contracts should require transparency and local accountability, along with common frameworks to trace funding to Afghanistan from its origins to disbursement for local level projects to build new schools, roads and other vital services. The international community should also scale up its technical and financial support for anti-corruption work and training at all levels of the government, its ministries and the broader public sector.

There are many ways in which the international community can assist in creating a culture in the public sector that respects integrity, transparency and accountability. This includes scaling up training and support to full-time anti-corruption teams in each Ministry, increasing mentoring of senior officers and officials, provision of expertise in specific areas such as prosecution, and other vital areas.

Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption movement with chapters in over 90 countries, calls on the political and military leaders at the London Conference, to work with champions of integrity both within and outside the Government of Afghanistan to create an Afghan-led diagnosis of corruption in the country. The international community can help to identify corruption challenges that require primarily an Afghan-led solution and those requiring joint efforts.

Afghanistan is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world today, according to TI’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index. There is an urgent need for immediate action along with a sustained and comprehensive long-term plan and commitment; the scale of governance problems demands nothing less. Anything else may prove to be a cosmetic effort and ultimately will not benefit the Afghan people.

Supporting a credible, Afghan-run anti-corruption plan based on a collaborative Afghan-led diagnosis involves scaling up anti-corruption training and resources. It means developing transparent monitoring mechanisms for reconstruction projects, dealing effectively with corruption in public procurement, full transparency and accountability in revenues budgets and their disbursements both by the different levels of Afghan governments and by the international community providing assistance. It is also necessary to extend and support the good work done by local NGOs to stop aid mismanagement.

In addition, the police and judiciary must be fully functional and operate with integrity to regain the trust of the Afghan people.

This conference offers the chance to discuss and promote constructive and practical measures to push back the tide of corruption in Afghanistan. For real and lasting change we urge you to turn this opportunity into a long-term strategy backed up by commitment of the Afghan and international leadership.

Sincerely,

Huguette Labelle
Chair, Transparency International


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