Delegation of the European Union to Panama

EU Ambassador Speech at the 4th Annual EU Anti-Corruption Conference

24/04/2018 - 14:30
Annexes

Hon’ President, HE Mr Ashraf Ghani

HE the First Lady, Ms Ghani

Ambassadors, my dear colleagues of the diplomatic corps

Hon´ministers, members of the parliament, of public institutions,

Representatives of the civil society, the private sector and the media,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

A very good morning to you all!

 

It is for me a real privilege to welcome you to the Fourth Annual EU Anti-Corruption Conference.

This year again the inaugural session is graced with the presence of HE Mr Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

At the outset allow me, Mr President, to express my personal gratitude which is shared by all, for your participation in this conference and your commitment to lead the fight against corruption in Afghanistan.

You have also accepted that this conference be hosted within the presidential palace  which offers the best possible guarantee of safe and serene discussion on a matter of such pivotal importance.

Allow me also to thank all participants for having accepted our invitation to contribute to these deliberations which are in my view both timely and meaningful.

Timely since it takes place at a crucial juncture after a number of important initiatives have been taken -  the Anticorruption Strategy is definitely one of them - and ahead of key international consultations where efforts to fight corruption will be addressed. They include the NATO ministerial conference in July and the Geneva donors' conference in November.

Timely also since the Afghan elections due in October 2018 and April 2019 offer citizens of this country a golden opportunity to assess the candidates' records when it comes to corruption and the level of sincerity of their commitments in service to the people. It is not by chance that the third session of this conference is dedicated to corruption and elections.

Considering more precisely the substance of our deliberations, we have selected three topics that make additional sense in the present context:

  1. Corruption and Development: more than just a stocktaking exercise, it is an invitation to reflect on the abrasive impact of corruption on development programmes and how it could possibly be contained more effectively.
  1. The second topic, corruption and private sector, is inspired by your vision, Mr President, of an Afghanistan that would be less dependent on international assistance and more driven by trade and investment. This obviously will not happen until and unless vigorous action is taken to counter corruption that hampers the expansion of the private sector and the coming in Afghanistan of foreign buyers and invertors.
  1. And I have already commented on the rationale behind the third session on corruption and elections but I could add, having in mind the tragedy that occurred at an ID distribution center in Kabul just 48 hours that corruption in elections is nothing less than an insult to the citizens who risk their lives to perform their civic duties.

I wish to seize this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the devastating impact of corruption in the Afghan context.

While the scourge of corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, its impact on human dignity and economic development is much more acutely felt in Afghanistan.

The most vulnerable in society, already suffering more than others from the never-ending climate of violence and harsh economic conditions, are worst hit by the effects of corruption.

Corruption is a stab in the back of the front line soldier who doesn’t receive his food, fuel or ammunition because it has been pilfered along the supply chain.

It is a fatal blow on the poorest who can’t afford to pay a bribe when bribe is a pre-condition to access basic social services.

It discourages the entrepreneur confronted with an uneven playing field at a time when job creation is a huge part of the solution to the Afghan crisis. Of course here, I especially refer to illegal mining fed by corruption which drains precious resources from this country.

It is an outrage to the taxpayer in Europe, Asia and America, whose revenue is massively mobilized to bring Afghanistan on the way to stability and prosperity. We should be mindful that corruption doesn´t feed into a growing sentiment of "donor fatigue" that appears here and there.

And, not least, corruption is a blessing for the insurgents whose propaganda finds a fertile ground with disgruntled citizens already oppressed by many misfortunes.

For all these reasons, containing and combatting corruption is a cause that should continue uniting all of us till tangible results are achieved.

On that note, I wish to salute the combined efforts of both Afghan partners and the donor community. In October 2016, in Brussels, a number of firm commitments were taken. We can be pleased to observe that in many cases have followed words. Further initiatives are also in the making.

The establishment of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center was a ground-breaking move. So is the Anti-Corruption Strategy. Less discussed but equally significant are initiatives like Assan Khedmat, the one-line administrative service to citizens inspired by a successful experience in Azerbaijan. This comes in conjunction with the efforts of the civil society and of foreign partners, like SIGAR, or both coming together, like the MEC.

Talking of those who lead the fight against corruption is celebrating men and women of courage. The threat they are subject to is not only moral or psychological. A number of ACJC Officers, judges, prosecutors and civil society activists have been targeted, some of them assassinated. We salute their sacrifice and commend those who continue the fight.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this 4th EU annual conference is also a call to bring our anti-corruption efforts to at a higher level and make them a national cause for all citizens of this country. We will need to further mobilize the educationists and the media to strengthen a spirit of resistance against corruption, including that petty corruption that you find on the street. We need the forceful implication of the women of Afghanistan - HE the First Lady's Annual Women Symposium titled “responsible citizenship” will bring valuable contribution to this collective endeavor in a few days from now.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Nobel Prize Laureate Albert Einstein who said “Relativity applies to physics, not to ethics”. Let’s have in mind this wise pronouncement while ensuring that "zero tolerance for corruption" becomes a shared value of all the citizens of Afghanistan.

I thank you for your attention.

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