Civil Society’s Concern over it Being Sidelined in the Fight against Covid19
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Friday, May 22, 2020- Kabul, Afghanistan; The Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee of the Civil Society Joint Working Group expressed its concern that civil society has been sidelined in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic. If civil society has only a weak oversight role in the fight against  this virus then the chances of corruption occurring will increase. The scourge of corruption which already exists in communities now combined with the new Covid 19 pandemic poses a double threat to citizen’s lives and will undoubtedly strengthen the corruption cycle.
Mr. Abdullah Ahmadi, Chairman of the Secretariat of the Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSJWG) said, “An effective fight against the COVID 19 pandemic requires cooperation between government and citizens. Such cooperation should not be limited only to the fight against COVID 19. There is a dire need to extend such cooperation to fighting the corruption that may arise as a result of this new situation.” He added that, “Afghan citizens and civil society have the right to oversee the planning, procurement and operational processes relating to the fight against Covid 19 and also the right to use all tools to allow maximum civic engagement and so decrease the chances of corruption. For this to happen, the following measures should be taken:  publish timely information on the National Procurement Authority’s website to fight & correct fake news, restructure the provincial committees so that representatives from civil society are fully involved in these committees, make sure civil society is involved in the oversight of the processes related to COVID19.” Mr. Ahmadi emphasized that the delivery process for emergency aid packages to needy families should be transparent and that all needful citizens should receive these aid packages.Like many other countries, Afghanistan is facing a very serious threat with the Covid 19 pandemic. On March 28, 2020 the Afghan government announced that the situation was critical in the country and it closed certain government agencies and put many cities, including Kabul, under lock-down as preventive measures. The government also allocated much of the discretionary funds for Kabul, Herat, Kandahar and Balkh which are the most affected provinces with 2494, 1345, 636, 622 confirmed cases, respectively. To contain the Covid 19 virus, the government has created committees comprised of government institutions, civil society groups, private sector and the media. Nonetheless, the minor role given to civil society groups is matter of great concern.Ms. Lailuma Nasiri, Chairperson of Afghanistan Justice Organization, said, “ Civil society has only a minor role in these committees but this minor involvement is being exploited as a tool by government to legitimize the process. This has set alarm bells ringing among civil society groups who are concerned that an increase in corruption will take place during the COVID 19 pandemic in Kabul and the provinces.” Examples of such cases have already been shared on social media. It is also worth noting that the government is currently reviewing the Citizenship Charter. Civil society’s role is not established or defined in this review process. Although the international community has supported efforts by some civil society, it has not conditioned its financial support to engagement and oversight by civil society.

Head of Advocacy and Communications at Integrity Watch, Mr. Mohammad Naser Timory said, “The government has been cooperative with our community volunteers in monitoring health facilities, but the lack of cooperation with civil society in the planning and procurement processes relating to the fight against Covid 19 is a major problem. This is a matter of concern and increases the chance of corruption and non-standard services delivery at such a critical time.”

With such concerns, Afghanistan’s civil society demands a reconsideration of the current approach of the fight against COVID 19 pandemic and instead demands an active role for civil society. Such a role is the only effective way to maximize the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic and the scourge of corruption . International organizations should also play a key role in ensuring that civil society is involved so that transparency and the oversight of all processes is much more effective.

Recommendations

  • Ensure that civil society is fully involved in oversight of all procurement and health processes of Covid19-related programs
  • Creation of a portal for proactive and timely publication of emergency procurement data
  • The Ministry of Finance should publish details of funding by the Afghan government for the fight against COVID 19 with full & sufficient details disclosed to the media and civil society to enable civil society to hold public officials accountable.
  • Take steps to ensure that all citizens receive fair & equal treatment in regard to aid distribution and also ensure there is full transparency in this process
  • Protection of whistleblowers of corruption in the procurement process of Covid 19-related projects
  • The government has established provincial oversight committees with civil society representation. We call on the provincial governors to stop picking a civil society to be a member of the oversight committee of Covid19 and instead allow civil society and community groups to choose their own most appropriate member.

Note to the Editors

  • Video of GACC’s news conference is available here
  • Established in 2010, Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSJWG) has more than 1300 members all across Afghanistan. CSJWG is known as the largest cooperation platform of Afghan civil society groups.
  • Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee is one of the committees of CSJWG and comprises the following members: 1)  Kilid Group 2) Integrity Watch 3) Afghanistan Justice Organization 4) Afghanistan Lawyers Union 5) Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization 6) Afghanistan Public Policy and Research Organization 7)Equality for Peace and Democracy Organization 8) Afghan Coordination Against Corruption Organization 9)Afghanistan Independent Bars Association 10) Women and Peace Studies Organization 11) Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation 12) Women’s Capacity Building and Development Organization 13) Feminine Solidarity for Justice Organization 14) Development and Support of Afghan Women and Children Organization 15) Development and humanitarian service for Afghanistan 16) Da Qanoon Ghoshtonki 17) Afghanistan Civil Society Forum 18) CORE 19) Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau
For more information and media inquiries, please contact:
Ziafatullah Saeedi | Advocacy Officer, Integrity Watch