Interview with Khwaga Kakar, one of the founding members of IWA and Advisor to Ministry of Finance.
My family emigrated from Afghanistan to the U.S. when I was very young. My family is originally from Laghman. I grew up in the U.S., studied bio-chemistry and received my master’s degree in public policy. During those years we were living in the U.S., my family and I always maintained our strong relations with Afghanistan, paying attention to its politics. In 2005, my brother who is very close to me went to live and work in Afghanistan and I followed him. After I arrived, I started working in ADS (??? )where I met Yama Torabi and Lorenzo, the founders of Integrity Watch Afghanistan. After we met and spoke about our common interest in Anti-corruption work they asked me to join them in establishing Integrity Watch Afghanistan. This is how the organization was created.
By establishing Integrity Watch Afghanistan, we aimed to focus on promoting a culture of oversight and accountability; Integrity Watch certainly pioneered this campaign. In those years, community monitoring was implemented in countries that had circumstances similar to those in Afghanistan. Integrity Watch adopted this idea and tailored it suit the needs and culture of local Afghan communities. I have to mention that community activity was not a foreign idea in Afghanistan. In fact, throughout history, we had witnessed that, given the need, people would get together to resolve problems in their communities–problems such as the cleaning of sewers or repairing roads, etc. I just want to make it clear that some of the groundwork was already in place in Afghan society. What Integrity Watch did was create a firm structural umbrella for these scattered community undertakings.
Of course, some hesitation existed in those first days when community based monitoring programs were being launched. We should bear in mind that community based monitoring can be effective only when the government and donors maintain a collaborative relationship with the monitors. Initially, such collaboration was minimal. Now things have changed; donors and government have considerably increased the level of their collaboration with Integrity Watch Afghanistan.
Another area in which Integrity Watch Afghanistan has made accomplishments is in the field of research. Integrity Watch has done comprehensive research into corruption in Afghanistan and is able to provide reliable information which can benefit Afghan policy-makers.
In my opinion, the greatest accomplishment Integrity Watch has made is in establishing a robust organizational structure that lends itself effectively toward fighting corruption in Afghanistan. Presently, the organization has put into place a young, ethnically diverse team whose performance and work ethics are exemplary.
There remain, however, particular areas which the organization must invest and develop in. Among these are research, communication and outreach, in-depth monitoring and evaluation of programs and projects. These days, the Afghan government is busy drawing up plans for the upcoming years. Integrity Watch Afghanistan must find ways to connect more closely with decision makers and push them to adopt and incorporate anti-corruption measures into their plans. Integrity Watch Afghanistan is in a prime position to do that because if its solid skill and knowledge base. Finally, Integrity Watch must further enhance its ties with other civil society organizations in order to boost the momentum for change and to solidify today’s campaign to create transparency and integrity in Afghan society.
Overall, I have to say that Integrity Watch Afghanistan has successfully identified itself as a promising force in the fight against corruption in Afghanistan. The organization has established a solid reputation in Afghan society. The variety of the projects the organization has undertaken, both in the area of policy-making and implementation has undoubtedly boosted its reputation.
These days, I am working as an advisor in The Ministry of Finance, focusing on the effectiveness of aid projects. I have chosen to stay in Afghanistan, despite security as well as other problems, because of my passion for this work. There are lots of moments that I have to struggle with disappointment; yet, I am sure I can serve my country with my creativity and through the ties I have maintained with my past.