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Speech at the Launch of Review of National Strategy for Combating Corruption Report on the Occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day

Wednesday, December 9, 2020, Serena Hotel, Kabul

Ambassador Ole A. Lindeman

Excellency, Minister of Haj and Religious Affairs, honorable members of parliament, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Sayed Ikram Afzali, dear ladies and gentlemen,

Let me first of all congratulate Integrity Watch Afghanistan on the launch of the Progress Review. Let me also underline how glad I am to join you today – at the International Anti-Corruption day.

Corruption drains resources in societies, undermines trust in institutions, deepens inequalities between people, and prevents recovery from conflict and war.

Corruption undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to human rights violations, distorts markets, erodes quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.

We cannot allow the national economy to decay in this way. Corruption is gangrenous to all economic and social life.

Today, however, there are positive signs, attitudes on corruption are changing. Today there is growing intolerance towards corruption. More and more people in important positions finds themselves in the cross-hairs of the public eye, media and the judiciary, and are increasingly being tried and convicted.

Today is the 9th of December, the International Anti-Corruption Day. On this day, we want to raise awareness about corruption and how to fight it.

Let my underline that corruption is a global problem – no state, including my own, is free of corruption, and that the fight against corruption is a daily struggle. But as we know – this is a fight we can win!

Together – by building a global front against corruption.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Two weeks ago, we participated at the important Afghanistan conference 2020 in Geneva. Donors pledged new financial resources for the development of Afghanistan, and we agreed with the government on several principles and priorities of ultimate importance for the coming four years.

Article 8 of the Afghanistan Partnership Framework provides important reading, particularly today, at this event: The article says that:

“A meaningful, demonstrable fight against corruption is carried out, evidenced by measures and outcomes that are anchored in a clear, comprehensive and long-term national anti-corruption strategy, with a view to prevent and combat corruption.”

And furthermore:

“This strategy will need to be adopted following consultations with the civil society and international partners, and based on an independent impact-assessment of the previous strategy. In order to further support anti-corruption efforts and contribute to building more effective institutions, public administration must be improved at all levels and across all sectors.”

This paragraph communicates the importance of developing a comprehensive national strategy, and it underscores the role of the civil society.

Norway considers the role of civil society and the free media to be of ultimate importance. Politicians and decision makers need watchdogs; the civil society and a free press, who keep a watchful eye on how the country is run, and that are willing to disclose unpleasant truths – but at the same time are able to give suggestions for better national policies.

I congratulate Integrity Watch Afghanistan on their excellent work and welcome this timely and important conference.

Here, I would also like to present an idea for a Norwegian contribution – for future cooperation.  

A Norwegian resource centre: The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre that some of you may already know, runs workshops and other activities –providing learning opportunities by creating neutral spaces for different actors to meet, learn, discuss, and collaborate.

U4 is assisting in third party assessment of strengths and weaknesses of civil society engagement in national frameworks for combatting corruption. It is leveraging civil society for national change to reduce the harmful effects of corruption, and assist in building collaborations and alliances between state and civil society actors. The Norwegian embassy is planning a U4 workshop in Afghanistan in 2021.

We’d very much like to cooperate with Integrity Watch on this as we move along.

Ladies / Gentlemen

There are many challenges to address in Afghanistan: Establishment of a proper system for assets declaration, security for watchdogs and whistle-blowers, how to avoid nepotism in public administration, building an effective judiciary and how to avoid impunity are elements of a proper national anti-corruption system.

We’re here today to discuss a review of the National Strategy for Combating Corruption and to give input to new policies. This happens at the same time as Afghanistan is launching its Anti-Corruption Commission.

Let’s remember: The government has committed to listening to and cooperating with the civil society in these in these important endeavors. You, the Integrity Watch, are important partners!

And let us also bear in mind that as the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha are now entering a new phase – and that the people of Afghanistan are facing a historic opportunity for peace – let us remind ourselves of the huge value added of fighting corruption.

Herein lies a key element of the future peace dividend in Afghanistan.

Finally,

I seize this opportunity to congratulate you all on the establishment of the Afghan Anti-Corruption Commission. It has been in the waiting for a long time, even long overdue some would say, but now – since just before the Geneva Donor Conference 2020 for Afghanistan end of November, it is a reality.

It is very important the Afghan State has succeeded in establishing this Commission, and even more important that it is committed to its tasks. Needless to say, the quality of the relationship between the Commission and the Civil Society will be of key importance. As a Donor Country committed to the development of Afghanistan and as a funding partner of the Integrity Watch, Norway will be pleased to associate itself with this work in the time to come. 

I wish all a very successful day.