As Afghans go to the polls tomorrow to elect their President, corruption has been a key issue: as a source of anger for voters, as a focus for the promises of the candidates and as a potential threat to the integrity of the elections themselves.
Whoever wins, urgent action is desperately needed against the lack of rule of law and weak governance which, despite a few areas of progress, continue to drive conflict, weaken the economy, and undermine the legitimacy of the Afghan state.
These elections are a crucial opportunity for renewing – and strengthening – the fight against corruption. Nowhere is this truer than in Afghanistan’s natural resource sector, where pervasive corruption and the widespread involvement of illegal armed groups including the Taliban and Islamic State has meant that the country’s mineral wealth has fuelled violence and abuses instead of benefitting the Afghan people.
The true test for any government will of course be results, not promises. Among the key areas we urge the new administration to act on are:
- Effectively prosecute corruption cases, including those involving high-level figures, and enforce the rule of law against armed groups and strongmen.
- Support a rational number of anti-corruption agencies with clearly defined roles, and fully empower them with independence, political backing and resources. It is particularly important that any dedicated anti-corruption commission be fully independent in line with international best practice, and select its members in a transparent, competitive and apolitical manner. The government and its partners should also fully support the Access to Information Commission, the key to achieving the considerable potential of Afghanistan’s well-regarded Access to Information law.
- Strengthen implementation of the Open Government Partnership by co-creating commitments for substantive, transformative reforms with civil society and other partners, and following through on current commitments, notably Open Ownership.
- Put in place an effective ombudsman, greater transparency, and provisions for community benefit from and ownership of Afghanistan’s mineral resources.
- Integrate the protection of key mining areas as a priority within overall security strategy.
A central concern for any government will of course be the peace process. Given the direct and important role of weak governance and lack of justice in fuelling the current conflict, we urge the government and its partners, in particular the United States, to put these concerns at the heart of the negotiations, and ensure civil society and other voices are represented.
Unless there is progress in these and other areas, it will be hard for any government to fulfil the promises of a better life for ordinary Afghans, or for the country to find the stability it so desperately needs. We look forward to working with the government to support their efforts as best we can.
Notes to editor:
- On the proliferation of anti-corruption institutions and the need for independence, see for example: https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/afghanistan-anti-corruption-institutions-too-many-and-with-too-few-results/
- On the ongoing issues with corruption prosecutions and the effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies, see for example: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/audits/SIGAR-18-51-AR.pdf
- On mining issues and the Ombudsman, see www.globalwitness.org/afghanistan
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