Douglas Alexander: Tackling corruption is critical to Afghanistan's future

A loss of faith in public officials has driven people into insurgents' arms

Share
Related Topics

Today's Afghanistan Conference in London provides the international community and the government of Afghanistan with an opportunity to focus on the priorities for securing the country and preventing it from again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.

Three months after the inauguration of President Karzai for a second term, this conference will provide a test for his administration's commitment to tackling the corruption that undermines that trust. In his inauguration speech, President Karzai declared a commitment to "bring to justice those involved in spreading corruption and abuse of public property." He must now turn those words into deeds.

Last week's survey from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime showed the true extent to which corruption affects Afghans. Six out of 10 people said that corruption was the biggest problem they face. The problem of corruption is not simply one of perception. In a country where the average annual wage is just over $300 per year, the average household pays as much as $160 in bribes a year. Altogether, the UN survey suggests that Afghans paid out $2.5 billion in bribes over the past 12 months – equivalent to almost a quarter of Afghanistan's GDP.

The loss of faith in public officials is forcing ordinary Afghans – who feel they have no redress – to look elsewhere for their security and welfare, driving them into the arms of insurgents. Corruption is also restricting growth in the Afghan economy, damaging the confidence of would-be investors. That is why the international community is looking to President Karzai's Government to show leadership and renewed determination to tackle this problem.

President Karzai has already committed to establish an independent anti-corruption commission with powers of investigation and links to prosecutors. That commission and all of the bodies responsible for tackling corruption – from police teams to judicial tribunals – should now be provided with a legal guarantee for their long-term independence from the government, to ensure freedom from undue interference.

To verify progress on tackling corruption, the international community and the Government of Afghanistan is expected to agree to establish a panel of international, independent representatives to monitor the Government's anti-corruption efforts. Such a panel would report to the Afghan government as a critical friend, to the Parliament and the Afghan people as an aide to calling their government to account, and to the international community to inform investment decisions.

In return for clear commitments from the Government of Afghanistan to tackle corruption, the international community should work together to support the establishment of an effective, enduring Afghan state. That means donors keeping their promises on investment, as the UK has done. While we have delivered on all of the aid pledges we have made over the past three years, close to a quarter of all international commitments previously given have not been met.

Donors should also work more through the Afghan government, rather than around it. While corruption creates a natural desire among donors to avoid delivering through the Government, evidence from around the world shows that doing so is more expensive and less effective. And we must remember that our aim is to support the people of Afghanistan to build a state that can provide basic services to its people – not to provide those services ourselves.

Even amidst real concerns about corruption, aid can be channelled through the Government of Afghanistan. Most of the UK's aid to Afghanistan goes through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which is managed by the World Bank and monitored by independent auditors.

Rather than provide aid money up front, that fund reimburses the Afghan Government when it shows legitimate spend on reconstruction projects. The fund has delivered real benefits for the Afghan people, including paying teachers' salaries, and helping to get many more children into school. In 2001, just one million children across Afghan-istan had access to education – all of them boys. Today, more than six million children, a third of them girls, are in school.

With clear and credible action on corruption, the Government of Afghanistan could safeguard the international investment it currently receives and begin a new phase of partnership with the international community. It can show the people of Afghanistan that it is the government – not the Taliban-led insurgency – that is committed to delivering a more prosperous, more secure and more just nation.

Douglas Alexander is the Secretary of State for International Development

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory