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Corruption risks in Afghanistan’s humanitarian sector prevent aid from reaching those in need

Transparency International said today that corruption risks in Afghanistan hamper humanitarian aid from getting where it needs to go, and called on the government of Afghanistan, donor agencies and humanitarian agencies to strengthen transparency and accountability in the humanitarian response to ensure fair, rapid and corruption-free humanitarian aid.

In a new report, Collective Resolution to Enhance Accountability and Transparency in Emergencies: Afghanistan report, developed in partnership with Humanitarian Outcomes, the global anti-corruption organisation found that strengthening the role of local governance structures to promote transparency and investing in communication with affected communities would strengthen the response of humanitarian aid providers and the integrity of the aid they deliver.

Through in-depth interviews with affected communities and stakeholders, the study shows that corruption risks exist in a number of stages within the programme cycle of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. The most notable included during the negotiation of conditions for access and area selection for programming; inappropriate interference in the selection of beneficiaries; risks of nepotism and ethnic bias in staff hiring; a lack of means to reliably hold corrupt staff and organisations accountable; and a lack of transparent and effective communication and feedback mechanisms with aid recipients. Many people interviewed were unaware of the amounts and timing of aid entitlements and some had tried to complain about aid quality or corruption issues to no effect.

Corrupt practices were reported both within local government agencies at the provincial and sub-provincial levels, as well as within the contracting chain with national and international aid organisations.

Corruption is widely understood to be a major problem in Afghanistan, threatening people’s ability to trust in government, undermining security and pulling apart the fabric of society. An anti-corruption agenda has become a major focus of the Government of Afghanistan and of a number of partner donor governments. Focus, however, is on the ‘big ticket’ areas of the security sector and long-term, on-budget development assistance.

However, there is a significant need to create incentives to mitigate corruption in the humanitarian arena and to increase the openness and transparency generally on the corruption experience and challenges faced by humanitarian organisations in Afghanistan. In particular, Transparency International makes the following recommendations:

Humanitarian aid agencies should:

  • Be open, principled and supportive in addressing corruption pressure and threats and prioritise internal and external risk mapping.
  • Establish joint mechanisms to engage and effectively capture the perspectives of those receiving assistance.
  • Support and engage in inter-agency initiatives and invest in collective approaches to mitigation.
  • Develop more rigorous, and possible collaborative, approaches to recruitment, partnerships and contracts, and tendering at local levels.

Donor agencies should:

  • Take greater shared responsibility for risks and mitigation measures.
  • Increase dialogue with partners on risks, sharing experience and investing in good practice mitigation measures.

The Government of Afghanistan should:

  • Promote the integrity of humanitarian assistance and the impartial delivery of assistance to insecure areas.
  • Deepen the role of local governance structures, such as tribal elder’s councils, particularly where local elders have been observed as working with integrity and transparency in aid distribution and are recognised as being representative of their communities.

Note to editors: Click here to download the full report. Funded by the European Commission's humanitarian aid department, this report is part of a series of four case studies looking at corruption risks in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies as well as recommendations on how to prevent corruption. Case studies on Somalia and Guinea are available. A case study on Lebanon (Syrian refugees) will be published in mid-2017.

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