Concerned over rampant corruption in the Saarc region, the heads of the member states have pledged to launch a joint effort to tackle corruption.
In their address during the regional summit being held in Kathmandu on Wednesday, the government heads of Nepal and Afghanstan said that increasing corruption and bad governance in the region have posed a serious threat to peace, stability, democracy and development, calling the Saarc leaders to launch a joint effort to fight corruption in the region.
“None of the challenges are more pressing in governance than the fight against endemic corruption. It is a growing threat to peace, stability, democracy and development,” said Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. “Our people after a decade of arduous struggle and disproportionate sufferings for democratic system of governance deserve accountable, responsible, transparent, and corruption-free governance.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Saarc member states should strengthen regional integration and cooperation to overcome corruption, exclusion, under development, and terrorism in the region by forming a common strategy.
Afghanstan, Nepal and Pakistan top other countries in South Asia in terms of bad governance.
Civil Society members working in anti-corruption area have long been advocating for prioritising agendas related to corruption in the Saarc regional meet and other regional forums like Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. According to Transparency International (TI), the global corruption-watch dog, corruption is on the rise in South Asia so much so that it has threatened the region’s economic progress, as well as efforts to share the progress equally. South Asia’s public institutions are opaque, and lack of protection for anti-corruption actors and widespread government interference in the work of anti-corruption watchdogs have made the situation worse, according to TI.
“It was important to raise the issue of corruption as other countries are already doing so. Putting forth agendas in inaugural speech itself should be taken positively, but it will make sense once the agendas are reflected in the declaration and are translated into real practice,” said Devendra Raj Pandey, founding president of TI-Nepal.
As a part of their lobby to take up corruption related agendas in the regional forum, six chapters of TI in South Asia had submitted a joint-memorandum to Saarc Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa, and heads of state and government.
The joint-memorandum demands concrete steps against corruption in the region, commitment from the regional leaders to strengthen institutions of accountability, people’s right to information and whistleblower protection, and strengthening institutions of accountability, particularly those mandated to control corruption.