The annual TI Summer School based in Vilnius (Lithuania) is aimed at inspiring young leaders worldwide in fighting corruption in innovative ways. Running for the fourth year in a row, the school this year saw students from over 60 countries across five regions being paired up with experts developing local and regional solutions in combatting corruption. Omaid Mahmoodi from Afghanistan and Hsiao Wren from China recount their experiences spending an intense week with their peers.
It is a rainy day the sky is full of dark clouds, the streets are full of dirty sewage and roads are damaged, people are stressed out from unemployment and inequality, university students are on hunger strike against corruption in Kabul University and other children are begging for food. Meanwhile, I am seeing something completely different. Some foreign employees are enjoying the rain sitting in the comfort of their Land cruisers and taking pictures of kids begging and on the other side of the street, loud horn sounds are coming from Chevrolets belonging to international diplomats that are attracting the attention of passers-by near the India Gandhi children’s hospital.
I am traveling from the ministry to my office and observing these two different scenarios in a Kabul street. It’s been a bad day for me. The civil servants in the ministry asked me to pay a bribe in order to get my education certificates. A number of thoughts are running in my head. What happened to those billions of dollars of funds and international donations? Why are we still suffering? Why is corruption increasing, why are the roads not built properly, why is unemployment so high and most importantly, why I should pay a bribe to get my certificates?
I came in my office and Googled four simple words ‘How to fight corruption’ I found many links but an important website attracted me more than all websites. I noticed happy faces, professional staff and good anti-corruption literature all of which appealed to me in my search for a tool to fight the big ‘monster’ in my society that is corruption. Moreover I saw call for youth from all over the world for a one week intensive program. I thought yes this is a perfect opportunity for me to learn techniques, methods and means of fighting the big monster in my country. I decided whatever it takes that I would attend this interesting summer school not only for myself but for the sake of my people and my country. It is my responsibility to be an agent of change in my society by fighting corruption!
I attended TI-Summer School in Lithuania from 7-14 July. It was outstanding. The lecturers were enthusiastic, the learning materials were relevant to my local context, the organisers and mentors were so kind and supportive that I never felt I was away from home.
I learned about many tools for fighting corruption, such as how to manage anti-corruption campaigns and posting anti-corruption stickers and posters in government offices and on police vehicles that say ‘I am not taking bribe’ to foster a culture of integrity among public servants.
Moreover I was inspired to use IT tools to establish an anti-corruption website in my country. TI-Summer School really changed my plans and career goals, the positive energy of the lectures, organizers and furthermore the attitude of the participants and intensive course program really motivated me to learn more and more about corruption and means of reducing it.
Last summer in 2013, I had the most enjoyable and intellectual time of my life attending the TI Summer School held in Vilnius, Lithuania. As a final year Global Studies major with a special focus on China studies at the University of Hong Kong and also a beginner in the studies of corruption at that time, the summer school gave me the golden opportunity and motivation to explore and study in depth the widespread corruption and abuse of power in China since the country’s economic reform in 1978. A brief study on some past major events in China, from the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre to the recent Bo Xilai scandal, will reveal to us that corruption and abuse of power are viewed as some of the greatest public concerns in the country. As the Chinese economic reform marked the country’s transition to a market economy, many policies of reform and opening have been implemented in a way that allows corruption to be carried out easily on many societal and institutional levels. These include political party organizations, business practices, and government institutions, just to name a few.
During the summer school, I found that the teaching modules, from “What can journalists do in the fight against corruption” to “political parties and corruption”, were in fact very thought-provoking. At the same time, these modules challenged me to ask so many questions in the context of the Chinese political and societal institutions. For instance, we were introduced to Artas Bartas and his web site, bribespot.com, which is an anonymous service for reporting and tracking bribes online. I believe the web site can indeed be an effective tool to identify and tackle corruption. Unfortunately, with a highly strict censorship regulation on the media and the internet, this tool would not be allowed to operate in China.
Many questions began to spring to my mind, what if this tool was allowed to operate in China? How can we make this website the premier online tool to track petty bribery? After an intense week of cramming all the information and having all the chances to discuss with renowned experts and lecturers in their respective corruption-related fields, I left Lithuania with a lot of questions to ponder. This is what I call a true learning experience.
Some of you may ask, how can you possibly benefit from just one week of the TI summer school? Well, my answer would be that I’ve learned to ask the right questions and resolve them based on principles of integrity, truth, ethical conduct and transparency.