UNODC 4th Session of the Review Group ( 27-31 May 2013, BR-D, C Building)
H.E. Ambassador Erfani, Statement
The Implementation Review Group was established by the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in its resolution 3/1 entitled ‘Review Mechanism’ as an open-ended intergovernmental group of states parties to operate under its authority and report to it. The Group is to have an overview of the review process in order to identify challenges and good practices and to consider technical assistance requirements in order to ensure effective implementation of the Convention.
A briefing for permanent missions to the UN in Vienna was held on Monday 18th of March 2013, on the requirements of the Mechanisms for the Review of Implementation of the UNCAC and arrangeents forseen for the fourth session of the Implementation Review Group. The Conference adopted resolution 4/1 entitled ‘Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the UNCAC’ at its fourth session held in Marrakech, Morocco, 24-28 October 2011. In that Resolution the Conference endorsed the guidelines for governmental experts and the secretariat in the conduct of country reviews and the blueprint for country review reports.
UNCAC and Afghanistan
Afghanistan became a signatory of the UNCAC in 2004, the Convention was then ratified in 2008. The government of Afghanistan undertook a series of measures to combat corruption. UNODC and other international bodies undertook studies aimed at providing an analysis of the prevalence and problems related to corruption. The UNCAC is particularly important for Afghanistan given its tumultous past and the transition period it has embarked on in recent years. Hence, the combating of corruption is essential for the country’s political and economic development, the strenghtening of the Rule of Law and the fair, even improvements made in the quality of living standards. According to UNCAC, corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. Therefore, any success in combating corruption will have a direct, positive effect in combating terrorism, the illicit drugs trade and organized crime.
The United Nations’ objectives against administrative corruption are aimed at the following targets:
1- Improving actions against administrative corruption in order to make them more sufficient and effective.
2- Spread, facilitate and support international and technical assistance in the prevention and fight against administrative corruption.
3- Dispersing of deposits, answering for or accountability and proper administration of public affairs and common property.
Definitions of Corrpution and Typologies:
Corruption can be encountered in various forms, therefore it can be defined in several ways. According to the Afghan Strategy for Anti-Corruption, corruption in the administrative sphere represents any acts which lead to the abuse of public properties for personal benefit and can often sometimes be construed as taking bribes. However corruption exists in many other forms in addition to the two above mentioned types. For instance, nepotism, cronyism, intercession, influencing actions to gain of personal benefits, illegal use of government income, not paying taxes, money laundering, theft of public properties, defalcation, embezzlement, the cultivation, production and smuggling of drugs, election violation, etc.
As administrative corruption is against the legal activities, it is also counted as national, cultural, economic and historical benefits violation of the society and country. Corruption is imposed on the people and society in an organized manner inside the structure of the government either by corrupt bands of individuals and separately by persons. Any type of corruption is a crime and deverves its punishment. Corruption hampers economic and social development and causes difficultiues in the law and social justice.
Corruption usually affects the life of poor people and disrupts the strategies of the government in implementing projects targeted at poverty reduction. Corruption creates dissatisfaction, distrust and causes distances between the people and governmental units. Although a decisive solution for this issue requires long-term efforts, taking measures and outlining an effective draft in the national strategic agenda has crucial value that can be achieved through public awareness and attraction of public cooperation so that an effective and gradual struggle can be launched.
UNODC Research in Afghanistan on Corruption
According to a study conducted by UNODC in Afghanistan in 2012 political corruption very often receives the greatest attention due to its visible impact on political decision-making and good governance. Still the pervasive and devastating impact of administrative corruption in the everyday lives of Afghan people receives considerable less publicity. A survey conducted in 2009 by UNODC in Afghanistan pointed out that corruption, together with insecurity and unemployment represent the main challenges facing the country, these having been listed ahead of poverty and extenal inteference in the government sphere. A survey conducted by UNODC in 2012 listed corruption on the second spot, behind insecurity and ahead of unemployment as the principal challenges facing Afghanistan. The findings also revealed that the delivery of public services remains severely affected by bribery, something which also has a major impact on the country’s economy. Furthermore certain worrying trends have emerged, such as an increase in the frequency of bribery and the vulnerability of the educational sector to corruption.
According to surveys the population of Afghanistan believs that corruption is a major problem in their country, furthermore this problem affects their confidence in the elected government. A large part of the people who had participated in the survey (UNODC lead project, 2012) have confessed to have paid bribery several times or regularly during a certain period of time. Corruption and implicitly bribery are encountered in all spheres of society, be it the government, the civil service, the health and education systems, and lastly, the economy. The process of contracting, administration and investment of international funds and development aid also represent spheres in which corruption unfortunatley is to be encountered as well and can potentially hinder the implementation of development prpgrammes and diminish delivery rates. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the USD 8bn of international annual aid pledged to the Afghanistan beyond 2014 can easily be robbed by the endemic corruption existing in the government.
In spite of existing legislation and adherence to international conventions and treaties aimed at tackling corruption, this problem persists and is considered to be one of the greatest afflictions to the country and its present government. When it comes to the illicit drugs and the cultivation of poppy fields, together with all the activities associated with drugs trade, consumption and smuggling, corruption represents the engine which fuells such pernicious activities.
The reasons for this state of affairs are various. In the case of civil servants, low pay is often cited as the motive for which individuals accept bribes and consider these to be harmeless and acceptable. A certain type of culture which tolerated these acts and favoured nepotism was aslo prevalent in Afghanistan during the past century. Because the government had often found it difficult in the past to extend its sphere of influence into tribal, rural areas, practices related to corruption could not be effectively scrutinized and properly addressed.
Efforts Undertaken by the Governmnet of Afghanistan against Corruption
According to the Strategy and Policy for Anti-Corruption and Administrative Reform (the first commission was held in 2006), corruption is mostly imposed in an oppressive manner and some corruption is based on unholy alliances between internal parties, therefore it happens based on unholy treaties between parties. Any type of corruption is prohibited and is in violation with existing legal regulations, national benefit and humanitarian values.
At present, the Ministry of Finance in Afghanistan, as the main collector of revenues and customs taxes find itself in a favorable position to combat corruption and create a good reputation for the government of Afghanistan. In this respect, an Anti-Corruption Programme was launched as a prevention and awareness raising method to tackle corruption. Additionally, it also provides a complaints mechanism with a telephone hotline and an online complaints form. A set of procedures were put in place so that all complaints can be dealt with consistently and legally. Generally speaking, in order to address the issue of corruption the Ministry of Finance also seeks to promote good governance best practices within the public sector. In August 2006, President Hamid Karzai gave a Presidential Decree regarding the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission and Reforms in the Civil Service. Following this procedure, a commission was established. This is responsible for drafting strategies, procedures regarding institutional reforms, and combating corruption through designing long –term, medium- term, and short- term plans in three months; and for reporting back their conclusions to the Office of the President of IRA.
Present Situation and a Way Forward
After three decades of ongoing war, the remaining framework for governance, their structure and administrative systems were obsolete and had a nepotism style that could not organize nor provide the kind of public services required by the existing situation. In addition, the assignment of persons and employees had no rational and appropriate basis which had caused further corruption and disorder. Structural expansion was subsequently identified as one of the significant factors in corruption.
Still, at present inappropriate appointments and selections take place based on relationships rather than regulation; its undesirable results are clear and obvious to all. Political and partisan relationships, tribal and regional relationships, family relationships, bribing in appointing and then continuously paying of bribes for appointments and transfers were often taking place. It continues to be mostly seen that people are appointed, transferred and promoted in the government administrations based on their tribal and regional relationships. Therefore this created an unhealthy social and work environment.
However I would also like to mention that as in every society, corruption and bribery are not exclusive to the employees of the public sector or to local inhabitants, and Afghanistan is no exception. Various different individuals, groups, entities and organizations external to the public administration of Afghanistan, such as the private business sector, may demand illicit payments in retun of certain favors or preferential treatment.
The government of Afghanistan are activelty trying to reduce corruption and punish those responsible using legal mecchanism which are in place. The UNCAC has provided us with a framework for operation and instruments that have helped our country deal with corruption. We are realsitic and I admit that any system infected with corruption can not change over night, furthermore, I doubt there is a country where there are zero levels of corruption. However, the government of Afghanistan is conscious that corruption is a highly serious matter for our country and our population, that is why reducing it is our primary goal. We consider that the upcoming elections in 2014 will represent a test for our government and our commitment to UNCAC and its improved effectiveness, one which we will pass, I am confident, demonstrating that fair and free elections can successfully be achieved.
Your Excellencies, dear friends and colleagues, thank you very much for your attention.