Tackling corruption crucial to Afghanistans future stresses UN envoy

18 December 2008The top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today called the fight against corruption one of the single most important issues for the future of the young democracy, and urged all of its citizens and its international partners to combat the scourge. “Every Afghan citizen and every international stakeholder must commit to fighting corruption,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Kai Eide, said during an event in Kabul that was attended by President Hamid Karzai and other senior members of the Government.“We must all demonstrate – every day and at all levels that we reject corruption. The example we all set will shape the future. It can restore trust. It can bring development. It can meet the most basic human needs. It can turn resignation into hope.“By loudly and stubbornly rejecting corruption, it is possible to remove an obstacle to the future that all Afghans want and deserve,” said Mr. Eide, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).The Special Representative emphasized that Afghanistan is not alone in facing this global scourge. “It can be seen in so many countries with weak institutions, countries in conflict or in post-conflict situations. And it can also be seen in the most developed Sates,” he pointed out.A survey earlier this year by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the average Afghan household pays an estimated $100 in petty bribes every year – this in a nation where around 70 per cent of the population survives on less than $1 per day. In addition, in only three years, Afghanistan has dropped from 119th out of 159 in Transparency International’s corruption perception index to the fifth last in the world. “In the words of a recent World Bank report, corruption has become widespread – even pervasive,” noted Mr. Eide. He stressed how important fighting corruption is for a country like Afghanistan which is trying to promote peace and development. “We all know that corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development. It means taking money away from the most needy, fuelling their frustration and anger. “It undermines the credibility of the State by damaging its ability to provide basic services. It undermines the building of much needed infrastructure and of strong institutions. It diminishes confidence in democracy. It undermines confidence in government and those who govern at every level of society. It keeps investors away instead of attracting them.“It is a matter of civic duty – and religious command – to contribute to the fight against corruption whenever and wherever we see it,” he stressed. Mr. Eide applauded the steps taken by Afghanistan so far to help it “turn the corner,” including ratifying the UN Convention Against Corruption, elaborating the Anti-Corruption and Administrative Reform strategy, and establishing the High Office of Oversight to coordinate national anti-corruption efforts.At the same time, he noted that real progress will require further efforts. “Only the first steps have been taken. More will be required – to ensure the confidence of Afghans in their future and the continued commitment of public opinion in donor countries.” read more