Afghan Students Shared Their Views on Corruption

Students coping with the essay questionTo celebrate the International Anti-Corruption Day 2013, UNODC and UNDP in Afghanistan organized a student essay writing competition on the role of youth and women in anti-corruption movements and advocacy on 5 December at Kabul University. The purpose of this competition was to inform youth and women of their roles in the fight against corruption. Twenty-four students from Kabul University's departments of Law and Sharia, the National Legal training Center and other universities located in Kabul, namely Salam, Tabish, Ibne-Sina and Dawat universities, participated in the competition. The competitors were requested to write their essays on the theme within 150 minutes. Among the essays submitted by competitors, the five best essays were selected and awarded prizes. 

Civil society members honored for their anti-corruption effortsOn 9 December, UNODC, UNDP and the Integrity Watch Afghanistan, a major Afghan anti-corruption NGO, jointly organized an event to celebrate the International Anti-Corruption Day at Kabul University. In the joint event, citizens who are committed to grass-roots efforts to fight against corruption from all the provinces in Afghanistan were honoured for their contributions. During the event, the five essay competition winners were also honoured. Prizes were presented by Gary Collins, Senior Adviser and Criminal Justice Programme Manager for the UNODC in Afghanistan. The first prize winner, Ms. Hamida Batory Hussain, a law student at Ibne-Sina University, read out her essay at the end of the event to the appreciation of the participants.

 

Below is the English translation of Ms. Hussain's essay.

"The Role of Youth and Women in the Anti-Corruption Movements and Advocacy"

Hamida Batory Hussain

Corruption is a phenomenon which exists in every country but in different scales and types. Therefore, we cannot absolutely echo that it is specific to one country or society, or label any country with it.

Since the history of corruption dates back to the creation of human societies, its emergence is directly linked to political relations of countries.  If the political system of a country is corrupt, its public officials will find opportunities to carry out something for their own favor using office facilities. So, in such a system, political, legal, cultural and social rights of the citizens and groups are unduly violated.  If the government system of a country is a centralized one, everything should go through the government channel. This will lead to creation of further opportunities for corruption.

Ms. Hamida Batory Hussain, the essay competition first prize winner, reading out her essay in the event on 9 December 2013Since corruption is a complex, hidden and challenging issue for countries, there are proven ways of how to fight against it and identify its depth and corrupt individuals. The Anti-corruption efforts should be durable, long term, coherent, subtle and comprehensive.

This essay will, firstly, focus on providing a definition for corruption. Secondly, it will concentrate on causes of corruption. Finally, it will discuss the effects of corruption which will lead to the conclusion of the essay.

There have been many definitions provided on corruption according to theories existing in this area of study. Corruption, literally, means destruction, disruption from gaining a goal. The term derived from the Latin "corruptia", which means to break or violate something. According to the law, corruption is defined as "illegitimate use of public power to gain private interest."

 

As per the above definition, in each and every office/administration there are a set of laws and regulations which set forth permissible acts, and any act which is in violation of those laws and regulations could be considered as corruption if carried out for private interest.

Types of corruption are different country to country. Hedden Himmer, a researcher on politics, has divide corruption into three categories which are as follows:

  1. Black Corruption - is the type of corruption still hated by people and political elites, for instance, bribery.
  2. Grey Corruption - This type of corruption is hated by the political elites but ordinary citizens have an indifferent feeling towards it. For instance, negligence of a public servant to implement those laws which are not popular among the people.
  3. White Corruption - an act seems apparently against the law but the majority of political elites and citizens do not consider it more harmful and importance. For example, violation of regulations which are no longer necessary due to some changes.

Therefore, corruption, as discussed earlier, is a big challenge faced by many countries of the world, including both the developing and developed ones. The contrast, however, is that in developed countries it occurs rarely but in developing countries it is very much rampant and widespread which concerns many countries including the United Nations.

Afghanistan is also a country where corruption is rampant. According to the annual corruption surveys conducted by Transparency International, Afghanistan has been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries.

In Afghanistan, the Law on Overseeing Implementation of the Anti Corruption Strategy lists the followings as acts of corruption:

  • Bribery
  • Embezzlement
  • Stealing of documents
  • Unauthorized destruction of official records
  • Exceeding the limits of legal scope of authority
  • Misusing of duty power
  • Impeding the implementation of justice
  • Using the government facilities and official works for personal affairs
  • Refusing and abstention to perform duty without legal justification
  • Concealing the truth
  • Forgery of documents
  • Misrepresentation of authority (falsely representing to have certain executive authority to grant or deny government approval
  • Receiving any kind of gifts in order to perform or refrain from performing official actions
  • Delaying the execution of assigned duties
  • Violating the code of ethics of the related office
  • Involving ethnic, regional, religious, party, gender and personal consideration in performing entrusted duties
  • Acting or refusing to act in violation of the Anti-corruption strategy.

As we know, corruption is a product of human societies and one can hardly find an office/administration where the work is done without paying a bribe providing the ground for connections to rule over the rules.

The main causes for corruption in many countries are poverty, low salary of public servants, existence of culture of immunity for corrupt people, lack of political wills, nepotism, and favoritism. And there are thousands of other causes which make the ground for corruption to happen.

Corruption has its own effects and implications in almost all of the countries which indicate to us whether corruption exists there or not.

In this part of the essay, I would like to touch upon the effects and implications of corruption. It should, generally, be mentioned that implications of corruption are so huge as to make a country paralyzed. It destroys the economic system of a country. It also disrupts a trend of development in a country. It further threatens democratic institutions; poses questions over rule of law and make people no longer trust the government institutions. It creates huge gaps between the rich and the poor in society in a way that the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. And finally, the country loses its international credit.

Thus, corruption is a negative act which might occur based on material or non-material motives. It requires a genuine political will to fight against it and it also requires a strong administrative system to be established in a way to remove any future concerns of employees. And this can only happen when the followings are met:

  1. Recruiting educated youth from various fields;
  2. Establishing a monitoring system and creating inspection offices to give further roles to the youth;
  3. Strengthening audit and inspection in state institutions;
  4. Utilizing update technology in state institutions in order to further build on monitoring system leading to lesser corruption;
  5. Punishing corrupt. If feasible, opening court trials should be established to give a lesson to others via punishing the corrupt ones.
  6. To give more and bigger roles to women in state institutions. This, I think, is very much important. Today, about 8.2 percent of the women in state institution hold positions in leading and decision making levels. From 10 up to 15 percent of the women, generally, working in state institutions in Afghanistan. We have not seen or hear, till today, of a women being involved in any corruption cases. This gives us a clear picture that we should increase the number of women employee in state institutions. According to Constitution of Afghanistan, women comprise 30 percent of the total number of employees in state institutions.

I hope one day we will have a country free of corruption, oppression, and injustices so that rights of none of our countrymen are violated and every Afghan citizen enjoys his/her genuine rights.