Corruption is destructive to economic and social development and undermines equitable distribution. This year's Transparency International Corruption Perception Index also shows that vulnerable states characterized by war, crisis and conflict have widespread corruption problems. All focus countries for Norwegian aid are in the lower half of this index, and we know that the harmful effects of corruption are greatest for the civilian population in these countries.
Systematic work. Afghanistan, located at 169. place (by 176), is the country that has received the most aid from Norway in recent years, with just over 8 billion from 2001 to 2014. The Godal Committee's report (NOW 2016: 8) on Norway's efforts in Afghanistan is very critical and shows that the results are not in proportion to the efforts. "The combination of large cash flows, weak institutions and considerable time pressure contributed to the emergence of widespread corruption both in the Afghan state apparatus and in international and local organizations." The report also stated that it was too late to fight the corruption.
In the Foreign Minister's report to the Storting in January, it was emphasized that Norwegian authorities have worked systematically with the Afghan authorities in recent years to change this development. We hope this work will continue with even greater force, and that the theme will be followed up in development policy going forward. Work on corruption is included as an independent and transversal goal in the UN's sustainability goals, and Norway should continue to have the ambition to be a spearhead in the fight against corruption.
Afghanistan, located at 169. place on the corruption index, receives the most assistance from Norway.
Three instruments. Based on the experience of Afghanistan and the results of Norwegian assistance to vulnerable states in general, Transparency International recommends that the Norwegian authorities strengthen the fight against corruption in three ways:
1) Maintaining zero tolerance for corruption. It may be necessary to refine the instruments with freeze and repayment of funds to help the aid actors to set up the business according to this important requirement. The authorities should also be willing to acknowledge and share the corruption risk faced by aid actors in the field. Furthermore, more resources should be devoted to preventing corruption with mandatory training of employees in organizations and management.
2) Good governance – including reforms for democratic participation, political stability, effective governance, governing bodies, the rule of law and control of corruption – must be prioritized both as an end in itself and as a tool for other types of assistance. Capital flight to tax havens hurt growth in poor countries especially and the Panama Papers are a reminder to continue the important work of transparency on cash flows and ownership.
3) Awareness of the risk of corrupting effects of (too) close ties between players in Norwegian and international aid must be increased. In this sector too, there must be competition for public funds based on professional criteria to ensure the quality of goods and services. The main focus must be the results of the assistance and not the self-interests of the various actors.
A greater focus on anti-corruption in the approach to Norwegian aid could produce better results with more and better development for the money.
Gro Skaaren-Fystro is a special advisor in Transparency International Norway.