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May 19, 2014

Tackling Corruption in Afghanistan from the Viewpoint of Islamic Law
Anti-corruption seminar for Afghanistan uses the experiences of Singapore and Japan

photoCivil Service College was the training agency for the anti-corruption seminar.

The presidential election in Afghanistan, a historic first change of administration by election, is now ongoing. On May 15, the final results of the April 5 voting were announced and placed Abdullah Abdullah in the lead with 45 percent and Ashraf Ghani in the second position with 31.6 percent. The Independent Election Commission announced the final results together with the first-ever run-off, which will be held on June 14. The country is now at a turning point to steer itself and establish a corruption-free, efficient government.

Afghanistan is considered to be one of the most seriously corrupt countries in the world. Even now, 13 years after the collapse of the Taliban regime, the country is burdened with conflicts and development issues.

Since 2011, JICA has worked with the Singapore Cooperation Programme to organize the “Seminar on Anti-Corruption for Afghanistan: Experiences of Singapore and Japan” at Civil Service College.

The last session of the seminar was completed in October 2013. To respond to the participants’ request to learn anti-corruption measures based on Islamic law, workshops and an open seminar were held Dec. 21-22, 2013, in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and Mohammad Hashim Kamali, a world-renowned Afghan researcher in the field of Islamic law, was invited. The event capped the series of three-year seminars.

Supporting developing countries through JSPP21 – a joint partnership between Japan and Singapore

photoSeminar participants visit the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in Singapore.

Afghanistan ranks at the bottom of the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International (TI, 1) almost every year. While the Karzai administration has been working on anti-corruption measures as a national priority, achievements have yet to be seen. One of the reasons involves the mindset of the leadership, officials in charge of justice, prosecution and the like.

In this context, at the Kabul Conference in July 2010 (2), Katsuya Okada, then minister for Foreign Affairs, stated that Japan would provide assistance in improving governance in Afghanistan, including measures to address the problem of corruption in cooperation with Singapore. The two countries subsequently organized the “Seminar on Anti-Corruption for Afghanistan: Experiences of Singapore and Japan” based on the statement, under the framework of the Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st century (JSPP21)

Established in 1994, the Japan-Singapore Partnership Program (JSPP), the predecessor of JSPP21, is the first partnership program between Japan and a developing country, which is about to be a donor itself, to provide joint training for other countries by sharing their development experiences. To date, JSPP and JSPP21 have organized more than 330 training courses to train more than 5,500 government officials from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific, in a wide range of fields such as public governance, climate change management and maritime safety. For fiscal 2013, both parties jointly organized a total of 14 courses in areas such as community policing, international disaster management and intellectual property rights.

Aiming for awareness-raising and capacity improvement for anti-corruption measures

photoVice President Akio Kamiko of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University teaches a class.

There are two main reasons why Japan partnered with Singapore to build capacity for Afghanistan in good governance and anti-corruption. First, Japan and Singapore have conducted capacity building courses under JSPP and JSPP21 since 1994, the platform of which can accommodate an additional course for Afghanistan. Second, Singapore has introduced strong anti-corruption strategies, such as deterrent legislation introduced by a leadership committed to clean and good governance. As a result, Singapore was ranked 5th in TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index, surpassing Japan (at 18th), as one of the world’s least corrupt countries.

The “Seminar on Anti-Corruption for Afghanistan: Experiences of Singapore and Japan” was conducted each year from 2011 to 2013 at the Singapore Civil Service College for leadership and senior members of Afghan agencies in charge of anti-corruption measures, such as the Office of the President, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice. The seminar helped the participants learn about the anti-corruption policies and experience of Singapore and Japan through briefings, group discussions and presentations, and through site visits to relevant agencies such as Singapore Customs and the Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau of Singapore. The participants increased their awareness of the importance of good governance and picked up relevant skills such as how to create and use simple internal audit reports. With each course lasting five days, 52 people participated in total during the three years.

In the recent seminar held in October 2013, Singaporean and Japanese lecturers shared the experiences of the two countries. Japanese lecturer Akio Kamiko, the vice president of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, delivered a lecture entitled “Ethics in Civil Service of Japan.” Masao Kikuchi, associate professor of Public Management, School of Business Administration, Meiji University, gave a lecture entitled “Combating Corruption, Ensuring Trust and toward a High Performance Government: From a Japanese Perspective.”

Raising problem-consciousness within students who bear the future of Afghanistan

photoMohammad Hashim Kamali, right, makes an impassioned speech at Kabul University.

After the seminar, participants requested that they wanted to examine corruption countermeasures from the perspective of Islamic law and the situation in Afghanistan. For the Afghan people, known as some of the most committed Muslims in the world, Islamic law sets the norms for every aspect of their lives.

To respond to the request, Mohammad Kamali, a world-renowned Afghan researcher in the field of Islamic law, was invited to hold workshops on anti-corruption measures and an open seminar in the capital of Kabul on Dec. 21-22, 2013. Kamali was the chairman of the drafting committee for the constitution of Afghanistan formulated in 2004, and is currently based in Malaysia, playing an active role worldwide as an expert on Islamic law. He has published over 200 research papers and some 30 books.

Participants who completed the seminar on anti-corruption in Singapore re-united at the workshop entitled “Anti-Corruption Effort from the Perspectives of Sharia/Islamic Law” on Dec. 21. In his lecture Kamali stressed that “what is needed is neither a political activity nor an initiative of foreign countries, but corruption countermeasures that appeal to the conscience and faith of people based on Islam.”

After the lecture, participants discussed Afghan history and the current status of corruption, as well as future perspectives with Kamali and Abdul Qayum Mohmand, an Afghan-American researcher whose focus is Islamic society and politics. They also discussed practical problem solving, including how to overcome problems in fighting corruption in politics encountered on site.

On Dec. 22, at Kabul University, Kamali gave a lecture at the open seminar entitled “Anti-Corruption and Sharia/Islamic Law — For the future of Afghanistan“ and over 100 law and politics students attended.

“Excessive accumulation of wealth by the high government officials should be devoted to helping the poor. Jihad essentially is to try to fight against one’s own mind, do the right thing and also to spread it to other people,” he said.

photoCorruption is also a problem familiar to the students. They eagerly raised questions one after another.

Students raised questions seeking a solution to such familiar and compelling problems as “What can we do to prevent corruption?” and “How can we tackle corruption problems in university administration like backdoor admissions or manipulating the results of regular exams?” There is no doubt that the students’ awareness of the issue was raised by directly listening to the talks of Kamali, who is also an author of a textbook used at the faculty of law.

At the completion of the workshop, Sayed Mohammad Hashimi, deputy minister for Justice, said, “I would like this program to be continued within and outside the country. We were able to learn many things that we cannot know in Afghanistan in any way.”

“To fight against corruption it is necessary to learn from international experiences,” Hanan Maruf, director of Internal Audit and Quality Assurance, Audit and Control, said.

Many participants said they wanted the program to continue.

In Afghanistan, with the presidential election and the withdrawal of the Combat troops of the International Security Assistance Force finishing by the end of this year, governance improvement has become more important than ever. Although the series of seminars on anti-corruption by JSPP21 has ended, JICA will continue to support Afghanistan’s development through various types of programs.

Notes:
1: An international non-governmental organization tackling issues related to corruption. It publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index every year, a list of corrupted countries around the world. Headquartered in Germany.

2. The first ministerial level international meeting held in Kabul after the inauguration of the Afghanistan interim government in 2001. The meeting became an occasion where the Afghan government clarified a concrete line of policies for various challenges relating to its state-building to participants from approximately 70 countries and organizations, and the international community expressed renewed support for that.

3. A comprehensive framework agreed upon between the Japanese government and the government of a developing country to jointly provide assistance to other developing countries or regions. Currently Japan has signed such agreements with 12 countries (Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines in the Asia region, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico in the Latin America region, and Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan in the Middle East region).

4. A relatively developed country providing cooperation by utilizing its development experience and human resources for another developing country.

5. One of the representative projects of South-South Cooperation. An organization in a developing country that received Japanese technical assistance in the past accepts trainees from another developing country with technical and/or financial assistance from Japan. JICA actively supports the project because it will contribute to the self-development of developing countries.

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