On August 16, Integrity Watch Afghanistan and Transparency International (TI) held a joint forum on fighting corruption through the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at Government Media and Information Center. Representatives from civil society, donor community including GIZ, Minister of Economy and other government officials participated.
Delivering his remarks, Mustafa Mastoor, Minister of Economy emphasized on the implementation of SDGs and said, “the current failure in security sector is directly related to the existence of widespread corruption in the sector.” According to H.E. Mastoor, ethnic discrimination and lack of ownership and leadership of Afghans are the primary reasons that corruption prevails.
Mr. Carsten Schmitz-Hoffmann, Country Director for GIZ regarded corruption as an obstacle to economic growth and development. Mr. Hoffmann highlighted the necessity of working together and stated that, “A vibrant and strong civil society is important in the fight against corruption. One cannot make it alone. We strongly believe in cooperation among all stakeholders in the fight against corruption.”
Speaking at the forum, Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, reminded the audience of the wastage of billions of dollars by the Afghan government and the international community in the last decade and a half. According to Mr. Afzali the wide-spread corruption questions the commitment of the international community against corruption and accountability to their tax-payers at home. “To ensure the trust of people and renew commitment in the fight against corruption, the international community along with Afghan government should ensure that the stolen money invested in Dubai, Istanbul, London and other cities are returned to Afghan people,” he added. He stated that all the three branches of the government not only did not fulfill expectations of people in the fight against corruption but benefited from corruption and they themselves were captured by corruption networks. He criticized the government for politicizing the fight against corruption and not creating an independent anti-corruption commission. Mr. Afzali accused the parliament of corruption and stated that members of Parliament stuffed a huge sum of money into their pockets. He emphasized that such people should be prevented from running again for the parliament.
The forum followed by two panel discussions through which speakers presented their views and answered questions by the floor on SDGs in Afghanistan and reducing the level of corruption.
In the first-panel discussion, illicit financial flow, recovery of stolen assets, substantial reduction of corruption, the effectiveness of anti-corruption institutions and access to information were discussed. Yama Turabi of Special Anti-Corruption Secretariat of High Council on Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption explained the five pillars of government anti-corruption and said, that remarkable actions have been taken in the security, justice sector, civil services, financial arenas and sound political leadership. In response to a number of questions that the government has not done enough, he urged the participants to manage their expectations. “In a country that is plunged by war and corruption is widespread we should wait for the impact of reforms.” Answering another question on complaint mechanisms, he added that Civil Service Commission and Attorney General Office hold hearing sessions every week while Ministry of Interior addresses the problem through the radio station.
In the second panel Mr. Ashraf Rasooli, Advisor to the Ministry of Justice criticized the government for rejecting the anti-corruption law despite the efforts of a group that worked on the law for two years. Further, he questioned the independence of the High Council on Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption and stressed on establishing independent anti-Corruption agencies based on international standards. Mr. Naser Timory, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Integrity Watch, stated that there is no independent anti-corruption agency in Afghanistan. He criticized the merger of all anti-corruption agencies into the Attorney General Office and stated, “The president can remove the Attorney General any time he wishes. That is why the Attorney General Office is not independent based on the global standards.”
SDGs are a set of aspiring goals set out by members of the United Nations to achieve peace and development all over the world by 2030. Goal 16 is focused on peace, justice and strong institutions that is dealing with reducing substantial amount of corruption, taking measures to stop illicit follow of financial assets and creating effective anti-corruption agencies.