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The 419 email scams, also known as Nigerian email scams, are a familiar frustration to anyone with an email address. The scams lure a victim by offering to share an investment opportunity or fortune they need the recipient’s help to obtain. They either ask for the recipient’s bank information or a small advance payment for travel or other expenses. Americans lost approximately $703,000 to these scams in 2018. While people carry these scams out from across the world, more than one-fifth of them originate in Nigeria. Here are five facts about Nigerian email scams and why they are so common today.

5 Facts About Nigerian Email Scams

  1. The Nigerian email scam has been around for centuries. In the late 16th century, Nigerian scammers would send letters to disenfranchised French people claiming to be the faithful servants of marquises murdered during the revolution. The letters explained that their masters left behind a large fortune and that they needed the recipient’s financial help to find it. Scammers then offered to split the fortune with recipients. According to a French detective of the time, the process was successful about one in every five attempts. People have adopted, adapted and passed this scam down for centuries.
  2. This scam escalated in the 1980s. When oil prices collapsed in the 1980s, Nigeria faced economic upheaval and increased government corruption. Literate, English-speaking Nigerians were now facing poverty and rising unemployment rates. This environment forced many to find unconventional ways of supporting themselves and their families. Through the 1980s, millions of paper 419 scams were sent across the world using counterfeit postage.
  3. Corruption enables the Nigerian email scam. Those who participate in the scam have little to no fear of being punished by Nigerian law enforcement. The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Interpol and other law enforcement offices are easily avoided through bribery. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria has always been one of the most corrupt nations in the world. As Nigeria becomes more corrupt, resources become scarce and poverty increases. In 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime considered corruption to be the third most important problem facing Nigeria, following the high cost of living and increased unemployment rates.
  4. Corruption equals poverty. Though the Nigerian government has made implemented large-scale poverty relief efforts, corruption, lack of continuity and absence of legal framework or policy often lead to the failure of these efforts. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the executive director of Transparency International’s Nigerian chapter, explains that many national relief efforts fail because they are conduits for siphoning public funds.
  5. Greed begets disillusionment. The government’s mismanagement of Nigeria’s oil riches led to 86.9 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty by November 2018. According to Apolitical, the level of corruption in Nigeria has led to public disillusionment and has undermined the legitimacy and effectiveness of the government and its law enforcement offices. This environment is the perfect breeding ground for the Nigerian email scam.

It is important to understand that Nigerian email scams are just one consequence of many larger issues. Today, the email scam is the butt of many jokes, causing others to forget or ignore Nigeria’s struggles with poverty and corruption altogether. Despite this, many some are making efforts to reduce poverty and invest in a brighter future for Nigeria, meaning one day these scams may no longer exist.

Caroline Warrick-Schkolnik
Photo: Pexels

Corruption in Ukraine
Massive corruption in the Ukrainian government has left Ukraine and its people in a state of developmental stagnation for decades. Despite this, in recent years, Ukraine has demonstrated its willingness to reform and change for the better through countless efforts to expose and clean up these corruptions. These 10 facts outline the specifics of corruption in Ukraine.

10 Facts About Corruption in Ukraine

  1. Corruption: According to Transparency International (TI), as of 2018, Ukraine ranked 120 out of 182 countries in TI’s Corruptions Perception Index, making it the second most corrupt country in all of Europe. A survey from Freedom House also indicated that the level of corruption in Ukraine had only slightly alleviated since the fall of the particularly corrupt Yanukovych presidency in 2014.
  2. Tax Reforms: Tax reform continues to be a major barrier in the fight against corruption in Ukraine. Outrageous tax schemes and gross misuse of funds led to a 35 percent VAT compliance gap in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, compared to the 6 percent gap recorded in 2011. In 2014, new authority investigations found that $37 billion of the country’s overall budget disappeared due to fraudulent tax schemes. Experts speculate that during Yanukovych’s presidency, a total of $9 billion went unaccounted for and at least $2 billion of that went into the pockets of Yanukovych’s family coffers.
  3. Banking: Another major contribution to the corruption in Ukraine lies within its banking sector. The severity of corruption within Ukrainian banks became especially apparent during the 2014 banking crisis. Most banks involved themselves in the money-laundering Ponzi schemes. The banking systems were so corrupt that out of 182 of the nation’s banks, 98 of them have been or are in the process of being completely liquidated. Strict anti-money-laundering laws and tighter control over cash-flow have helped alleviate some of this corruption. In addition, banks that survived the crisis are now liable for any losses their clients suffer due to fraudulent banking practices.
  4. Government Accountability: Quintagroup aimed to reach a higher level of government accountability by creating a transparent electronic procurement system for officials to use. The system, ProZorro, allows users to view all procurements, government contracts and funds from electronic platforms, ensuring the transparency of public funding and procurement procedures. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Economy are among some of the government entities currently in the system. Since its 2014 launch, the system has saved Ukraine $1.1 billion in costs to the state, annually.
  5. Gas and Natural Resources: Ukraine’s elite took advantage of the discrepancy between subsidized and market gas prices, skimming billions of dollars from state funding. One major gas company, Naftogaz, is largely responsible for creating a domestic reliance on Russian-imported gas by penalizing domestic gas production and discouraging efficient energy methods. To combat this type of corruption in Ukraine, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) stepped in and insisted that the country equalize household and commercial gas tariffs and sought to improve transparency in the gas markets. With the reforms implemented by new officials, Naftogaz became a profitable contributor to the state budget and in 2018 accounted for 19.3 percent of state revenue. That revenue allowed UVG (a gas production subsidiary of Naftogaz) to boost domestic production by 4.2 percent in 2017.
  6. De-Monopolization: During Yanukovych’s presidency, the oligarch’s established formal and informal monopolies, both locally and nationwide. These monopolies formed under informal business agreements that provided corrupt officials total control over a sector of their choosing. In 2015, the State Anti-Monopoly carried out an examination of the condition of Ukraine’s various markets. The results indicated that only 42.7 percent of all markets were still competitive and 9.8 percent of them were still completely monopolized by corrupt government officials.
  7. Justice Systems: Distrust for the justice system in Ukraine is widespread. In fact, Ukraine ranked 101 out of 109 countries in the 2017 Index of Public Integrity. Opinion polls taken in 2016 recorded that only 3 to 5 percent of the population had any trust in the country’s justice system. In the same year, Ukraine took its first steps towards judicial improvement with the establishment of a new Supreme Court. This did little to gain public trust, however, as recruitment of new judicial officials was only half-way transparent. The Public Integrity Council of Ukraine found that 25 out the 113 new judges were unfit.
  8. Higher Education: Surprisingly, another major facet of corruption in Ukraine lies within the country’s institutions of higher education. Bribery demands from professors, deans and department boards have increased in recent years and show no sign of slowing down. According to a student/teacher violation monitoring website, students attending these institutions reported more than 400 violations, 41 percent of them being related to bribery. To combat this widespread corruption, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a law in 2012 that required institutions to post all financial documents online. Despite this effort, only a very small portion of universities actually complied with the new requirement.
  9. Deregulation: Since the Maiden Revolution of 2014, Ukraine has abolished several corrupted agencies and costly, dated regulations through deregulation. Among the various government agencies that Ukraine abolished for high levels of corruption were the Price Inspectorate, Traffic Police Inspectorate and the Real Estate Registration Agency. Between 2014 and 2015, the country also got rid of price regulations while it reassessed and updated others accordingly.
  10. Law Enforcement: Reform in Ukraine’s law enforcement sector is slow-moving and still largely operates under communist influence. But, in 2014 an organization known as the patrol police emerged. The patrol service has developed a positive reputation for recruiting and training officials according to a much higher standard than officers working under the country’s primary police force. In the years since its creation, the patrol service has enlisted 13,000 officers in 33 different cities nationwide. The organization accounts for only a small portion of the country’s law enforcement, but its continuing growth, increased backing from international partners and civil society organizations have proven it to be an entity dedicated to ending corruption in Ukraine.

Despite endemic corruption in Ukraine, its people have clearly not given up on improving their quality of life through reform. Since 2014, Ukraine has taken strides, big and small, to combat corrupt systems and has proven that it is capable of change.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Libya

For decades, Libya has endured countless accounts of corruption committed by the government, the militia and major oil corporations. The corruption in Libya derives from what political scientists call a “resource curse,” a term used to describe a nation that tends to have less economic growth and a weaker democracy due to its abundance of natural resources. Oil production has made the nation susceptible to corruption, leading the country into a civil war due to persistent violence and political unrest. Here are ten facts about corruption in Libya.

10 Facts about Corruption in Libya

  1. In 2018, Libya ranked as 170 least corrupt out of 175 countries, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. In the same year, Libya also scored a low 17 out of 100 in the Corruption Perception Index. The corruption primarily derives from the government, the public sector and private businesses.
  2. Corruption in Libya began during Muammar Gaddafi’s rule from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi’s regime received billions of dollars in bribes from wealthy corporations to make illegal deals in the energy sector. A total of $65 billion of Libya’s wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), was held in private accounts instead of going toward public expenditures. While Gaddafi’s regime was profiting off of Libya’s national assets, more than 40 percent of the Libyan population lived below the poverty line.
  3. Eighty percent of Libya’s GDP and 99 percent of government revenue comes from oil production. In 2018, foreign exports of oil in Libya brought in revenues totaling $24.5 billion. The central bank in Tripoli controls these funds and is responsible for disbursing them throughout the country, but at the time there were no laws in Libya that demand the transparency of the bank to disclose the use of state funds with their constituents.
  4. Libya has anti-corruption laws; however, lax enforcement permits widespread corruption practices such as embezzlement and bribery among the public procurement sector. According to Libya’s Criminal Code, the Law on Economic Crimes and the Law on Abuse of Position or Occupation, “the abuse by a public official of his or her position or functions to obtain a benefit for himself or herself or for others” is established as an offense. Despite anti-corruption laws, the weakness of Libya’s institutional framework has given leeway to Libyan officials to misappropriate funds. Head of Organisation for Development of Administrative Centres (ODAC) Ali Ibrahim Dabaiba misappropriated nearly $7 billion in national assets and laundered them into personal bank accounts abroad. These funds were designated to go toward Libya’s public infrastructure, but Dabaiba instead put the money toward his interests, such as purchasing luxury hotels in Scotland.
  5. Corruption in Libya remains rampant even after the revolution and the assassination of Gaddafi in 2011. After the first civil war, violence and political instability persisted throughout Libya, and government ministers and the military have conflicted control of the country. General Khalifa Haftar is the leader of the militant offensive, and he promises to combat Islamist militias. However, through mobilizing the military to fight armed groups throughout the country and seize control of major cities, violence became even more prevalent and a second civil war was initiated in 2014. Haftar’s group, the Libyan National Army (LNA), has attacked several sites in the city of Tripoli. His military force has killed a total of 443 people, injuring more than 2,000, and displacing nearly 60,000 civilians in pursuit of gaining control over the territory.
  6. Corruption in law enforcement is also prevalent in Libya. Several reports show police officers engaging in malpractice including bribery, embezzlement, nepotism and extortion. According to a survey conducted by the Departments of Research and Studies of Organization for Transparency Libya, respondents ranked the police highest in spreading corruption. Some cases of police corruption that researchers discovered include police officers stopping drivers, seizing their drivers’ licenses and extorting drivers in exchange for their licenses.
  7. Activists and media workers across the nation of Libya are being silenced. In 2017, 11 out of 18 political, civil, and human rights activists and personalities, polled by the Human Rights Watch in Tripoli and Zawiyah, claimed to have been threatened by state militia, government, and armed groups, three have been attacked or harassed, and nine claims to fear for their lives after receiving threats. In 2016, the Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press (LCFP) reported that 107 media workers were attacked by armed groups including two journalists who were killed.
  8. Transparency International is one of the major organizations combating corruption in Libya. They aim to stop corruption in governments, businesses, and civil societies through the “creation of international anti-corruption conventions and the prosecution of corrupt leaders and seizures of their illicitly gained riches.” They have pushed legislation that has made bribing foreign officials illegal by enforcing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, which requires members to outlaw bribery of officials. For instance, In 2017, an investigation in France on Société Générale bank was opened because of its payment of $58.5 million to a Panama-registered company as part of a scheme to secure its business in Libya. A settlement was reached, and Société Générale committed to pay a total of €500 million to close this procedure.
  9. Civil Initiatives Libya (CIL) is a project that aims to empower and support civil society organizations (CSO). CIL is funded by the European Union and implemented by ACTED in 15 different municipalities in Libya. This initiative is imperative to solving corruption because CSOs are able to promote civic engagement and local governance, which can increase the fairness of the Libyan government. CIL centers provide facilities, technical assistance and funding to over 700 CSOs across Libya. In 2012, over 1,400 NGO representatives benefited from CIL’s facilities and training services. The project also involves hosting CSO events, workshops and training that revolves around women and youth empowerment. CIL has expanded the capacity of many CSOs and has made them strong and politically visible enough to be able to lobby the government and acquire funding from the national budget.
  10. Global Witness is a nonprofit that works to protect human rights by exposing corruption in nations that have an abundance of natural resources, including Libya. Their work involves holding hard-hitting investigations on corruption scandals in pursuit of holding corrupt leaders accountable. Their strategies include secret filming, satellite imagery and drone footage, data analysis of companies, and using anonymous sources. Through their resources, Global Witness is able to release detailed investigations on corruption all over the world and advocate for those who are victims of corruption by launching campaigns that bring awareness to global injustices. In 2002, Global Witness, Transparency International and many other NGOs co-launched the Publish What You Pay campaign, which mandates oil, gas and mining companies around the world to disclose their net taxes, fees, royalties and other payments. This campaign led to the creation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Since its launch, the EITI has put $2.4 trillion of oil, gas and mining revenues in the public domain.

These 10 facts about corruption in Libya illustrate the prevalence of abuse and fraudulence in Libya. However, even though corruption still permeates Libya’s institutions, efforts from around the world continue to prevent any further corruption by holding public officials accountable for their crimes.

If support from nonprofits, civil societies and advocates persists, Libya may be able to mobilize their local governments to sustain a better democracy and resist violent and corrupt regimes.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Corruption Around the World
Corruption, which Transparency International defines as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” is one of the most significant roadblocks facing developing countries today. The World Bank points out that corruption disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, increasing the cost and reducing access to basic services like health care, justice and education. According to a 2017 survey by Transparency International, 25 percent of respondents worldwide said they had to pay a bribe to access a public service within the last 12 months. According to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, bribery and stolen money drain the global economy of $3.6 billion every year.

This past June 2019, congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN9), along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, introduced legislation to the House of Representatives designed to crack down on corruption around the world. The bill, titled the Kleptocrat Exposure Act, seeks to expose actors on the international stage who have attempted to undermine democracy or have promoted corruption around the world and to punish those actors with various sanctions. This article will explore the history of U.S. and international efforts to combat corruption around the world, before examining the details of congressman Cohen’s legislation.

The History of Global Anti-Corruption Efforts

In the late 1990s, regional groups of states began to sign anti-corruption treaties. In 1996, a group of Latin American states entered into the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Since its adoption in 1999, dozens of African countries have signed the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. However, the most comprehensive and far-reaching international anti-corruption treaty is the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which went into force in 2005. One hundred and eighty-six countries around the world have ratified the Convention, which has pressured 86 percent of its signatories to adopt tougher anti-corruption measures.

U.S. efforts to fight corruption around the world started with the Foreign Corrupt Services Act, which it enacted in 1977. The Act prohibits U.S. individuals and firms, as well as certain foreign individuals and firms operating on U.S. soil, from making bribes to foreign officials in order to advance a business deal. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has worked on the ground with foreign governments to strengthen their ability to resist corruption. For instance, the INL worked with the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior to replace the country’s notoriously corrupt police force with 16,000 new patrol police.

The Kleptocrat Exposure Act

Steve Cohen introduced the Kleptocrat Exposure Act to the House of Representatives on June 24, 2019. The Act, which has four Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors, has entered the House Judiciary Committee for debate and has yet to enter to the House as a whole. The Act primarily aims to amend another piece of legislation called the Immigration and Nationality Act. In its current form, the Immigration and Nationality Act generally keeps information about visa refusals confidential, but with certain exceptions, such as when information about an immigrant’s visa status is necessary in cases going before a court.

However, this amendment would allow the Secretary of State to release information to the public regarding visa refusals to foreign individuals who have committed human rights violations or corruption. Under the Kleptocrat Exposure Act, the Secretary of State’s release of information about an individual’s visa refusal would have to be based on credible evidence that:

  • The individual carried out “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” against people trying to promote democracy or expose corruption within their country.
  • The individual acted as an agent for a person described above.
  • The individual himself was a government official in his/her country who participated in some act of corruption, such as “the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery, or the facilitation or transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions.”
  • The individual provided technological, financial or material support for one of the acts of corruption described above.

According to Skopos Labs estimates, the bill only has a three percent chance of becoming reality. However, the fact that this legislation has at least some bipartisan support could be a sign that U.S. lawmakers might be starting to recognize the U.S.’s role in exposing and punishing human rights abusers and kleptocrats. Even if the legislation fails in Congress on its first try, the Kleptocrat Exposure Act could just be the first step towards more sustained policy efforts to get the U.S. more involved in cracking down on corruption around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Violence in the Northern Triangle
The Northern Triangle is a region in Central America comprised of three countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The title originally described a series of trade agreements but the area is now one of the world’s most violent regions. Listed below are 10 facts about violence in the Northern Triangle.

10 Facts About Violence in the Northern Triangle

1. Asylum Seekers – In 2015, the number of asylum seekers fleeing from the Northern Triangle region reached 110,000, an increase of five times higher than reports from 2012.

2. High Homicide Rates – All three countries have homicide rates which have consistently ranked as some of the highest globally, even given that each has witnessed a recent decline in their respective rates. In 2018, InSight Crime reported that El Salvador’s homicide rate was 51 per 100,000 individuals, a drop from 81.2 in 2017; the report estimated Honduras’ rate at 40, a drop from 42.8; Guatemala’s was 22.4, a drop from 26.1. These high rates of homicide translate to the Northern Triangle’s low rankings on the 2019 Global Peace Index (GPI), which measures nations based on levels of peacefulness, where El Salvador ranked 113th, Guatemala 114th and Honduras 123rd out of 163 countries.

3. Domestic Violence – Many asylum seekers fleeing the region are women and children. This can be credited to female homicide rates that are some of the highest in the world. In Guatemala, only two percent of the over 50,000 cases of violence against women in 2013 saw the perpetrator convicted. The majority of these cases, and those elsewhere in Honduras and El Salvador, involved domestic abuse.

4. Gang Violence – Those living in the region are under a constant threat of violence from gangs, the largest being Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Eighteenth Street Gang (M-18). The combined membership for both gangs is an estimated 85,000.

5. Drug Trafficking – The Northern Triangle region of Central America has become a major shipping route for illicit drugs coming into the U.S. In 2015, an estimated 90 percent of cocaine seized in the U.S. was of Columbian origin and had traveled through routes in Central America. Despite this high rate of cocaine shipments into the U.S., the region has much lower numbers of other illicit drugs traveling along the same routes, such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl.

6. Extortion – In 2015, estimates indicated that Salvadorans paid $390 million, Hondurans paid $200 million and Guatemalans paid $61 million in extortion fees. The primary victims of these extortionists were public transportation operators, small businesses and residents of poor neighborhoods.

7. Corruption – High levels of corruption at the state level have hindered progress in the region. According to a 2016 index of corruption perceptions by Transparency International, all three countries ranked on the bottom half of the scale.

8. Unemployment – There is a remarkably high number of young people in the region who are out of school and without a job, over one million in total. In El Salvador, this correlates to 24 percent of the youth population, 25.1 percent of Guatemalan youth and 27.5 percent of Honduran youth. This is another factor of economic in-opportunity which leads many to flee or become involved with local gangs.

9. Poverty – Poverty in the Northern Triangle and the lack of economic opportunity play a large role in the proliferation of violence and mass migration. An estimated 60 percent of people who live in rural areas in the region are living in poverty.

10. High Impunity Rates – For all of the recorded violence and homicide covered in these 10 facts about violence in the Northern Triangle, the rate of impunity for crimes is 95 percent or higher. This acts as an incentive to criminals and a further deterrent to public confidence in law enforcement.

While these 10 facts about violence in the Northern Triangle continue to paint an alarming picture of living conditions in the region, it is important to recognize the small steps toward improvement. The Borgen Project is currently working to gain support for the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (H.R.2615), which aims to address the root causes of the migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

– Alexandra Schulman
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Indonesia
Corruption in Indonesia is present in all three branches of parliament and private business. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), less than half of the respondents trust the local government, police and private sector. Transparency International identified decentralized decision-making, ambiguous legislation and a weak judicial system as main sources of corruption in Indonesia. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Indonesia.

10 Facts About Corruption in Indonesia

  1. Forbes named the former President of Indonesia one of “the world’s all-time most corrupt leaders.” Mohamed Suharto was President for 31 years in the 20th century. Throughout his reign, others suspect that he embezzled between $15 and 35 billion.
  2. One out of seven citizens pays a bribe for utilities. Bureaucratic corruption increases the average cost of living, which disproportionally impacts the country’s poor. Bribery costs add an additional fee to fundamental health care, education and sanitation services, thus increasing the overall costs and access to these systems. Further, corruption in Indonesia distorts the distribution of government spending and therefore hinders the development of important public projects such as increasing access to clean water.
  3. Approximately thirty percent of firms have suffered extortion while conducting business in Indonesia. Further, several of these firms (13.6 percent) identify corruption in Indonesia as a major obstacle. For firms often have to pay bribes or give gifts to acquire licenses, permits or contracts in order to conduct business. Corruption in Indonesia is a business norm where companies include gifts in total costs.
  4. In the 2019 elections, Parliament member, Bowo Sidik Pangaroso, attempted to buy votes for reelection. Authorities found more than 400,000 envelopes filled with cash in his basement just weeks before the election. Both vote-buying and candidacy-buying are common forms of corruption in Indonesia. The Charta Politika agency surveyed three constituencies about money politics and found that on average, 49.3 percent of voters supported cash and gratuitous handouts.
  5. Eighty-nine percent of corruption in Indonesia occurs at the local level. After the election of President Suharto, the country started to shift from authoritarian rule towards democracy. Suharto’s first step to democratization was the decentralization of the Indonesian government. However, the lack of accountability for local governments created an environment that fostered corruption. For example, inadequate oversight in the forestry sector cost the government $4 billion per year from illegal logging.
  6. Corruption is expensive. Last year, corruption in Indonesia cost the government $401.45 million. This cost is $55.4 million less than in 2017.
  7. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks Indonesia 89. Using Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Indonesia ranked number 89 out of 180 countries with a score of 38/100 in 2018. This is significantly better than its rank and score of 118/180 and 32/100, respectively, in 2012.
  8. Many attribute more recent success in reducing corruption to President Joko Widodo, more commonly known as Jokowi. Indonesia elected Jokowi in 2014 on an anti-corruption platform. He simplified regulations for businesses to attract foreign investment. For instance, Jokowi signed Presidential Decree No. 20/2018 to simplify and accelerate the process of acquiring a work permit for expatriate workers by 34 working days.
  9. Indonesia has an organization dedicated to eliminating government corruption called the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). This corruption eradication commission formed in 2002 as an independent organization in charge of investigating and prosecuting high-profile corruption cases. In 2016, it reported a 100 percent conviction rate and recovered approximately $35 million in state assets.
  10. The new generation has zero-tolerance for corruption in Indonesia. A group of students in Indonesia held their school accountable for corruption. The school was profiting from money that it received to go towards nonexistent construction projects. When student organizer Darmawan Bakrie and his friends realized the injustice, they established the Save our School campaign. Despite threats and warnings from the school, students and parents worked together and succeeded in holding the school accountable. The local mayor saw the campaign in the news over the course of three months and removed and transferred (but did not fire) the guilty officials from their positions and held them liable for the money they stole.

Corruption in Indonesia holds deep roots in its democracy, but the future looks bright with the Save Our School campaign as just one example. Many participants (58.5 percent) of the CSIS study believe that the Indonesian government is honest in its desire to eliminate corruption.

The central government and anti-corruption organizations work on a day-to-day basis to hold individuals accountable for their actions, but they still have a long way to go. If successful, anti-corruption practices can decrease inequalities, create foreign business opportunities and decrease national poverty levels.

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in AfghanistanWar has plagued the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a South Asian nation of approximately 35 million people, for 40 years. The near-constant state of conflict produced immense corruption, which persists during the extended NATO mission there today. Listed below are 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Corruption in Afghanistan

  1. Afghanistan is one of the 10 most corrupt nations in the world. According to Transparency International, it ranks 172 out of 180 total countries and accompanies Sudan and North Korea near the bottom of the list. There are some signs of gradual improvement, but Afghanistan has a long way to go to ascend the list.
  2. Afghan government corruption reduces the effectiveness of American reconstruction aid. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported to the U.S. Congress in April 2019 that corruption was the foremost issue dooming restoration efforts. Unfortunately, through the government’s anti-corruption campaigns, the SIGAR also discovered that certain international standards are not always met, such as cooperation between agencies.
  3. Corruption significantly impacts business development in Afghanistan. The World Bank interviewed 410 firms in 2014 and 16.2 percent stated that corruption was the largest impediment to business. It ranked only below political instability in the survey, a telling indicator of its prevalence. Gifts became fundamental for businesses wanting to grow. Acquiring a government contract necessitated bribes 46.9 percent of the time, and 79.3 percent of plumbing requests required bribes.
  4. The 2010 Kabul Bank Theft. Bank executives stole millions of dollars of Afghans’ money and crippled Afghanistan’s already shaky financial system. Kabul Bank’s CEO, Khalilullah Ferozi, and its founder, Sherkhan Farnood, led the fraudulent money laundering operation until the bank’s near collapse. The SIGAR states that this extensive corruption scandal cost the Afghan government an $825 million bailout, an expense which consumed five to six percent of the nation’s GDP. Although the country imprisoned both Ferozi and Farnood, their scam’s repercussions continue. Afghanistan’s government is still repaying debts after the bailout to save the systemically vital institution.
  5. Public services routinely fall prey to gifts as well. Transparency International reported that 50 percent of Afghans requesting aid from government agencies in 2012 paid a bribe to have their needs met. Bribery demands handicapped the distribution of benefits to all Afghan citizens. According to a U.N. study on the issue, for every five Afghans who paid a bribe, one Afghan could not pay due to lack of funds. As a result, impoverished households received less assistance than wealthier families who could afford bribes.
  6. Afghanistan’s universities are not immune to the corruption prevalent in the government and banks. Colleges rely on paper records and lack digital verification systems essential to preventing deceit. As a result, the U.N. found that there are approximately 20,000 “ghost students,” or registered students who do not actually exist, in the university system. The Afghan government, believing the students are real, grants loans for education, which university staff steals. U.N. statistics display that university-related scams cost the government 40 percent of potential tax revenue.
  7. By virtue of their position, Afghanistan’s police force is especially prone to corruption. The U.N. found that 22 percent of bribes that people paid in 2012 were to police, and disturbingly, 24 percent of the bribes people offered to police were to prevent arrest. Falsifying evidence and ignoring drug offenses had similar negative effects on police integrity. The police have personnel verification issues as well. Reuters recently reported that there are 800 “ghost officers” in Zabul province whose salaries disappear into unknown hands.
  8. Community Based Monitoring (CBM). A civil society organization named Integrity Watch Afghanistan operates several CBM programs to maintain governmental accountability. One of these programs, CBM-Trials, aims to combat corruption by encouraging citizen involvement in public trials and monitoring adherence to procedural rules. Implementation of CBM-Trials included electing monitors who would attend public cases and educating local populations on court procedures with mock trials. From a humble start in two provinces, CBM-Trials expanded to seven provinces by 2014 and managed to monitor 5,019 trials and 775 cases. These numbers exceeded the 1,000 trial a year goal set by the program in 2011. The program continued into 2018 after 50 successful Theater of the Oppressed performances, in which audience members participated in theatrical critiques of court corruption.
  9. Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC). On May 2016 President Ashraf Ghani’s established the ACJC, which signaled renewed devotion to combating corruption. The ACJC is a special court system that prosecutes corruption cases in the government and military. Most recently, it found success in prosecuting Colonel Abdul Hamid for an $80,000 scam. It is a significant step towards rule of law, even if, according to the SIGAR, ACJC officials still fear the act of prosecuting the most powerful political figures.
  10. The Afghan government also promotes grassroots efforts to reduce corruption. A February 2019 Hack4Integrity event in Kabul, run by the U.N. Development Programme and Blockchain Learning Group, challenged tech-savvy Afghan youth to develop programs that would fight graft. Over 100 youth participated in the 19 team competition. Officials awarded $30,000 in prize money to the five winners and hope youthful energy will help end a nationwide problem.

The above 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan portray a long, fraught road toward halting persistent abuses of power. However, they also provide hope for Afghanistan’s future. Progress is slow, but Afghanistan’s civil society, President Ghani’s ACJC and youth programs have opportunities to stamp out corruption. The new commander of Afghanistan’s police force, General Khoshal Sadat, has energetically devoted himself to legitimizing police activities as well. Corruption abounds, but Afghans understand that it does not have to.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty and Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population living in poverty. Afghanistan is also one of the most politically corrupt countries in the world. In 2018, The anti-corruption organization Transparency International ranked Afghanistan an index score of 16/100 for its high levels of corruption. Over the past several decades, political corruption in Afghanistan has destabilized the country and contributed to its poverty problem.

USAID has always believed that political corruption and poverty are an interlinked problem because political corruption has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of poverty in countries with struggling economic growth and political transition. Conversely, the social and economic inequalities that are found in impoverished countries are known to create systemic corruption.

The Scope of Contemporary Corruption in Afghanistan

The destabilizing effects of political corruption on Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government agency tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, corruption has been a major obstacle in the political, economic and cultural reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation has identified more than 70 forms of corruption currently within Afghanistan that cross a wide range of institutions, including international aid and public administration.

Two of the most common forms of corruption in Afghanistan are nepotism and bribery. Many of the basic public services provided by the government are only obtainable through the payment of bribes, which has caused severe distress to Afghan citizens. Afghanistan’s economic growth has been severely damaged by the reliance on bribes to pay for public services. Nepotism and patronage have made it difficult for honest people without connections to rise within the political system and have given impunity to corrupt officials.

Afghan Awareness and Perceptions of Corruption

Unfortunately, many Afghans believe certain forms of corruption are inevitable and, in certain cases, a legitimate form of political life. When surveyed in 2012, at least 30 percent believed that most forms of bribery were acceptable. This type of attitude towards political corruption can make efforts to reduce or eradicate corruption more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been completely culturally ingrained with political corruption, and there are many who still criticize corruption in Afghanistan. Most Afghans have consistently stated in several polls that corruption is a serious problem that their country is facing. A study from the Asia Foundation has shown that most Afghans believe that political corruption was more severe during and after Karzai then it had been under several past regimes.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

In 2014, President Ashraf Ghani was elected into executive office in Afghanistan. He has shown a remarkable commitment to developing and implementing strategies to decrease corruption and stabilize the country. Following his election in 2014, his first course of action was to not only dismiss several corrupt heads and directors of certain departments but also charge them with corruption, marking a major change from his predecessor Karzai.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (Anti-Corruption Strategy) was adopted by Afghanistan’s High Council and was developed under the supervision of President Ghani. The Strategy consists of 6 pillars outlining the course of action to be taken against corruption. This strategy was based on a comprehensive analysis of the causes and drivers of corruption and provides realistic goals that make it relatively easy to implement. Some of the pillars are designed to address nepotism (pillar 3) and money tracking (pillar 5).

The Ghani administration introduced new legislation in 2017 and 2018 to reduce and prevent corruption. The laws have been limited to a certain extent due to extenuating circumstances; however, they have had a certain level of success. The most notable success in the prosecution of corruption with this new legislation has been the adoption of a new Penal Code. This new Penal Code was the first to incorporate financial and corruption laws into its criminal provisions, making it a major achievement for the Afghanistan legal system.

Corruption Is Declining

While corruption is still pervasive in Afghanistan, these efforts have demonstrated some progress. Within the Transparency International Index, Afghanistan’s CPI score has steadily grown from 11 in 2015 to 16 in 2018, which is one of the largest increases any country has experienced in this amount of time. The introduction of new legislation and the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy can provide a solid foundation to stabilize Afghanistan and reform its political system from corruption.

The government, under Ghani, has already taken the first steps in decreasing the significant level of corruption in Afghanistan throughout the country by implementing these strategies and laws. While progress may be slow, it appears that under President Ghani, Afghanistan may be on its way to political stabilization, allowing it to provide better public services and alleviate poverty within the country.

Randall Costa
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Help People in TunisiaIn December of 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian man who struggled with poverty committed self-immolation in protest of police and government actions. This incident marked the starting point of the “Arab Spring,” during which various North Africa and Middle East countries reached democratic regimes.

However, after 5 years of revolution, Tunisia still faces distinct difficulties. Corruption, unemployment and violence against women are the most severe issues. Even though there have been advances to solve these complications, the following organizations help people in Tunisia developing several programs.

Transparency International

Corruption was one of the main problems that citizens attempted to solve in Arab Spring. Ironically, it is the principal concern that Tunisians have now. According to a study made by Transparency International, 61 percent of the people in the country believe that the level of corruption has increased in the last 12 months. Additionally, 30 percent of the people surveyed fear retaliation if they speak out about corruption.

Transparency International brings some strategies to attack this issue and help people in Tunisia. One of them is finishing with the impunity, which means that those public officials that break the law must be punished in order to end the corruption cycle. Empowering the citizens to monitor politicians and promote transparency allows citizens to know where taxes, credits or international aid are used in the public interest is another strategy.

Unfortunately, 15 percent of the Tunisians live in unemployment, an indicator that triggers poverty. In addition, some areas are more vulnerable than others: the most affected zone is the central area of the country, where poverty reaches 30 percent in some regions.

International Labor Organization

Unemployment gets worse in youth, since 33 percent of young Tunisian men and women between 15 and 29 suffers this problem. To help people in Tunisia, the International Labor Organization (ILO) works to transform this situation.

It has created local economic development by giving young people pilot projects. One such project is the construction of a marketplace that will give merchants a better place to sell their wares. In addition, it has helped local people to develop new and useful skills; for instance, about 100 Tunisians have been trained in agriculture, knowledge that will permit them growing, harvesting and selling products.

U.N. Women

In other areas, Tunisia is moving forward. In 2010 for instance,  U.N. Women reported that nearly 50 percent of Tunisian women had experienced violence in their lifetime. However, last July, the Tunisian Congress passed the first national law to combat violence against women. This law primarily ensures the survivors access to essential services, such as legal and psychological assistance.

Mobile applications also prevent violence against women. With Eyewatch, for example, in just one click the app informs people what is happening at the moment. This technology was used by women in Dharavi, a locality in Mumbai, India. The application has helped women to track cases of violence, the Guardian reported.

How to help people in Tunisia has become an important question that organizations are addressing. Donating to these organizations and calling your legislators to support bills that help nations like Tunisia are surefire ways to help truly make a difference.

Dario Ledesma

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transparency_international
History has shown that government and institutional corruption can greatly hinder progress in developing countries. A new study by Transparency International reports that countries with faster-growing economies are more prone to government corruption.

The research shows that governments in countries such as China, Turkey and Angola are becoming more corrupt with increased fraud and bribery while others are reducing corruption levels.

Corruption is a major issue that causes distress in the lives of the poor and impedes international efforts to bring countries out of poverty. Numerous international organizations stress that corruption causes major setbacks in development work. Transparency International also states that corrupt officials prevent progress and impair public trust in the government.

Chairperson of Transparency International, José Ugaz, emphasizes the severity of corruption, stating, “Grand corruption in big economies not only blocks basic human rights for the poorest but also creates governance problems and instability. Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives.”

International aid has a large correlation with corruption in impoverished nations. While the causation for that corruption is debatable, the majority of researchers agree that foreign aid helps to increase national stability and to bring people out of desperate situations. The Transparency International Policy organization works to assure that foreign aid is not deterred by government corruption.

The organization’s recent report was developed from 13 data sources and the estimated perceptions of many businesspeople and experts. The index scores 175 countries from zero to 100, with zero comprising a “highly corrupt” public sector and 100 representing a “very clean” establishment.

Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast and Egypt made the most improvement in eliminating government corruption, though the countries still remain towards the bottom of the index. Almost all underdeveloped nations have scores below 50 (with zero being extremely corrupt and 100 very clean). Denmark has the lowest estimated level of corruption, while Somalia and North Korea are ranked as having the most corrupt governments, with a score of eight.

As the report shows that every country is affected, Transparency International warns that corruption is threatening economic growth across the globe. Higher levels of corruption are marked by widespread bribery and fraud, an absence of punishment for corruption and public institutions that fail to attend to citizens’ needs.

While some researchers disapprove of foreign aid, stating that in certain nations it has fostered corruption, Transparency International officials encourage the use of aid as a means to diminish corruption.

Peter Eigen, the founder of Transparency Interational, states that, “Additional aid resources are needed, but their delivery has to be structured in a way that takes account of the risk of corruption. At the same time, while developing countries need increased resources, both sides must work together to put an end to corruption.”

– Nina Verfaillie

Sources: The Guardian, World Bank, Transparency International 1, Transparency International 2
Photo: N.Y. Mag