Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Citizens' Hope in Anti-Corruption

We wish we could say that being a citizen is enough to be taken serious. We wish we could say that Afghans believe that they are stronger than corruption. We wish we could say that corruption is decreasing. Sadly we cannot. When we go to villages, the stories that welcome us are those of abuse of power, nepotism and monopoly of resources. We are told how the nephew of a district governor got the latest PRT contract from a proposal he drafted in 30 minutes while having tea. We are told how members of parliament exchange aid projects for votes. Most discouraging of it all, we are told that there is nothing anyone can do to change the status quo.

But is the situation that gloomy or are there rays of hope? Despite feeling dis-empowered and small, most people want to have access to public services. They want to be part of the decision-making; they want to be included in their own development process. The desire is there but the space to bring change is elusive. The popular perception is that money and power are needed to be heard and few believe that their voice alone can make a difference.

Social associations, civil society, academia, youth groups and private sector, to mention a few, are actors that keep fighting for anti-corruption, that keep gathering the voices we all hear but that seldom get represented. We push for accountability, we ask for transparency and although we still struggle to be let in through the government’s doors; many more opportunities exist today than before. For the first time in Afghan history, civil society representatives are part of Afghanistan’s standing committees and the Joint Monitoring Evaluation Committee. For the first time, the Government’s Accountability and Transparency National Priority Plan got rejected. For the first time, space is being created for civil society to participate in upper level policy making.

The opportunity to change the status quo is here and although it is a steep curve and a hazardous climb, civil society and citizens alike, need to unite and get better at fighting corruption. We might lack some knowledge, some capacity but we have what others don’t. The desire to change that which harms us in our everyday life: corruption.

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