Corruption in Afghanistan: the status quo is not an option

By Maria Gili, International Defence and Security Programme, Transparency International UK

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Osama Bin Laden’s death has brought the importance of stability and success in Afghanistan into the spotlight. It is absolutely critical for regional and global security that a stable and safe Afghanistan emerges from this new transition process, with a government that delivers basic services, and which represents the legitimate political aspirations of the Afghan people. International organizations have been witnessing and helping shape the transition to Afghan Leadership since 2009, when President Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan.

Transparency International UK, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung believe success in Afghanistan is possible.

On Friday, 13 May, TI UK launched the report Afghanistan in Transition: Re-Shaping Priorities for 2015 and Beyond , putting forward 28 detailed recommendations resulting from a round of seminars with over sixty experts from the Governments of Afghanistan, the UK, Germany, NATO, the UN and other experts on governance and development. (for more info on the event, please contact press”at”

The seminars recognised that corruption is not in the culture of the Afghan people. Yet, ordinary Afghans are now paying bribes at twice the level of two years ago, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The current level of $158 per bribe is equivalent to 37% of the average annual Afghan income. In poll after poll, Afghans don’t rank the Taliban, terrorism or the economy as their highest worry. Corruption is their top concern and tackling it, their main need.

The public anger against corruption and the damage that it is doing to Afghan society needs to be harnessed and channelled into a force for change. Afghan citizens are well aware of many of the current injustices and would be ready to participate in efforts to promote change.

The status quo is not an option here. Both Afghanistan and the international community need to develop a stronger and more systematic approach to tackling corruption. Change will not require generations. Previous experience shows that significant progress in countering corruption is possible within a relatively modest timeframe of 5-10 years. NATO and the TI Defence and Security Programme’s initiative to train the Afghan Police and Army in counter corruption work is a good example of this, but further developments and resources are needed.

Measures to tackle corruption in Afghanistan should include the production of an annual assessment on total funds flowing into Afghanistan from nations investing in the country. Other suggestions from the report are increasing the country’s efforts to seize the assets of individuals found to be corrupt, and implementing declarations of personal assets by senior government officials.

The international community plays a key role in Afghanistan’s transition process. They must change the way they handle their financial flows, by directing more effort into contracting with Afghan companies.

The concerns raised by TI, RUSI, and KAS are clear and, overall, urgent. If the measures to curtail corruption, build integrity and reform Afghanistan are not scaled up immediately and dramatically, the current decline will continue spiralling to a point of no return.

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