Shutting Asia Out
12 November 2010
Asia has been home to some of the bloodiest wars in history and the 25 year old conflict in the South Asian nation Sri Lanka is no exception, yet disappointingly Asia and its conflict prone nations seem to be getting very little focus here at the 14th International Anti Corruption Conference (IACC) in Bangkok.
With much anticipation I participated at the workshop titled ‘Anti Corruption Challenges in Post Conflict and Recovery Situations’ held today, hoping for some insight on how countries such as mine and even neighboring nations in the likes of Nepal could address the corruption menace, specially as these are relatively new post conflict nations, yet sadly, no mention was made on either of these two countries at the workshop.
As a journalist from Sri Lanka, I have personally witnessed the foreign interest including from the international media in my country over the past few years specially during the last leg of the war which ended in May last year with the military defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were at that time dubbed as the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit. Yet, despite the severity of the conflict and the controversial end to the war, most South Asian nations let alone Sri Lanka received no attention at this topical workshop.
The panel at the workshop indeed seemed impressive, yet their expertise was more towards Africa and the Americas. An Asian perspective in the panel would have thus been welcome.
With a wide ranging participation of over 1300 from 135 countries at the IACC, I expected to see much more deliberations on Asia, specially taking its downbeat trend in corruption into consideration, yet the few workshops I have been to have failed to focus much attention on this region, which is widely represented at the four day conference which will come to a conclusion on Saturday evening.
Corruption poses a grave threat not only to governance in general but also to the stability of fragile democracy in post war countries. Governments in developing countries that have experienced violent conflict are particularly vulnerable to corruption, and if public officials and politicians continue to play an active role in corruption, this could generate public frustration which would in turn erode state legitimacy at a time when it is most needed and such a situation could also fuel renewed outbreaks of a violent conflict.
According to Martin Pellecer, a journalist and researcher, who spoke from Guatemala’s experience in a post conflict scenario, emphasized that it was the military that was the most vulnerable to corruption and abuse, because they were in the borderline of peace and chaos.
According to independent researcher Sarah Dix, post-conflict corruption undermines legitimacy, weakens fragile states thereby jeopardizing stability in those countries. “In most cases, corruption seems to be a technical problem, but essentially it is a political problem.”
Dix stressed the need to identify and ensure political commitment to transparency, accountability and an anti corruption policy by mapping out workable agreements which will help identify and reduce the issue to a greater extent and ensure corruption is minimized to the maximum.
Independent Researcher and consultant Karen Hussmann emphasized on the need to strike a balance between donor communities and post-conflict countries in an effort to fight corruption. She emphasized that the lack of political will to address the issue could be the primary reason for corruption sky rocketing in a country. “So, a consensus should be reached with all parties to ensure that this problem could be kept at bay,” she said.