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Why I believe in the National Unity Government’s Fight against Corruption

Nov 22, 2016 - 20:01
Election Articles

This week, Afghanistaninfo-icon’s Anti Corruption Justice Centre (ACJC) successfully completed its first trial. In front of the media and Afghan civil societyinfo-icon, it held people in power to account for misusing their positions and stealing from the Afghan people. I believe we cannot underestimate the importance of the brave fight the ACJC has taken on, and I believe the National Unity Government has created a real opportunity for Afghanistan to tackle high level corruption. This is an opportunity which must be seized.

I was in Brussels last month for a global development conference about Afghanistan. I saw leaders from around the worldinfo-icon pledging $15 billion to support development projects and reforms in Afghanistan. I was proud that the UK pledged nearly $1 billion of this. Such resources should present a fantastic opportunity for Afghanistan. But these resources can only help the people of this country if they are used properly, and if people in power are held accountable for this.

For too long too much money, intended for improving the lives of the Afghan people, has been stolen by powerful people. For too long, we have all turned a blind eye, or made only a token effort to fight corruption while powerful people at the top have enjoyed impunity. In every conversation I have in Afghanistan, I hear that the people of this great country are fed up with corruption. 

I understand this. As a major donor to Afghanistan, we too demand that the money we have pledged to this country must be used honestly to bring real changes to better the lives of the many Afghan men, womeninfo-icon and children I regularly meet. It cannot end up in someone’s back pocket or in some foreign bank account. That’s why my country, the UK, has particularly supported the drive by the National Unity Government to establish the Anti Corruption Justice Centre. Because I believe an institution like the ACJC is the best chance Afghanistan has got to spearhead wider efforts and turn the corner to stop the rampant corruption which blights so many lives here.

Why do I believe in it? The Anti-Corruption Justice Centre is specifically designed to be insulated from outside interference. Its physical location, and the creation of one simple end-to-end justice process, make it difficult to infiltrate, lobby or interfere without detection. This certainly helps to minimise the threat of interference in the justice process.

The ACJC also benefits from some of the best professionals there are within the justice sector. They are thoroughly vetted, they are consummate professionals, they are doing an incredible service for their country. I know this as I have had the honour to meet some of these men and women myself. I give them my thanks as they are involved in a tough, challenging endeavour and they deserve our support.

Some people say that the ACJC is a parallel institution - that it merely brings together elements of institutions that already exist, follows processes that already exist or merely enables the system that already exists to work. Well, if these systems have existed for years but done not been able  tackle the endemic corruption which so many Afghans complain about, then it is about time for a new approach.

I have heard some people say that the ACJC was only established for the Brussels Conference to impress donors and that it won’t last. But do you know what? Brussels has come and gone, and we’ve just seen the completion of the first ACJC trial – a free and fair trial that was conducted transparently in front of the media, civil society and the international community.

Some people say that the ACJC won’t be able to tackle high level corruption. But the trial and conviction on Saturday of the former head of the Attorney General’s military prosecution unit demonstrates the Attorney General’s commitment to clear up his own house first. That sent a clear message that the ACJC is willing to hold one of their own accountable. As the ACJC has communicated, now that they have proved that they can and will do this properly. We all expect and will be pushing to see higher level cases heard very soon.

You know, we know, the Government knows, that failing to address corruption properly in Afghanistan is no longer an option. I believe the ACJC has given Afghanistan an opportunity for a good start to tackle corruption head on. To end the culture of impunity. To stop this stealing of the resources that Afghans so vitally need to improve their country.  

I promise you that as your government begins to hold those at the top accountable for the proper use of Afghanistan’s money, the international community will be watching very closely and doing everything we can to support those who are bravely taking on this challenge. I hope all Afghans, regardless of political background, will do the same. Because this isn't about politics; it is about the very future of Afghanistan itself.

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

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Author’s brief introduction

Dominic Jermey is the British Ambassador to Afghanistaninfo-icon.

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