Image Source: Transparency International
REGION: South Asia

In “Policy, SDGs, and Fighting Corruption for the People,” Transparency International, with the support of the European Commission, used survey data to provide an analysis of Afghanistan’s compliance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Findings and recommendations focus on Goal 16, specifically three target areas concentrating on corruption. Generally, the report recommends that Afghanistan Sustainable Developmental Goal Action Plans (A-SDGs) directed toward anti-corruption efforts formally incorporate civil society monitoring and provide periodic reviews of policy implementation. Additionally, A-SDGs should use strong, measurable targets and indicators to assess progress. Finally, all A-SDG targets and indicators should seek to enhance anti-corruption measures in their development and implementation.

Findings and Recommendations

Target 16.4: By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.

Afghanistan has made progress toward anti-money laundering efforts. The Financial Action Task Force removed Afghanistan from its “Grey List” in June 2017 following Afghanistan’s implementation of its recommendations. National authorities are now notified of suspicious transactions and have prosecuted money laundering cases. Afghan law mandates collection and sharing of beneficial ownership information, but compliance is weak.

To improve transparency, Afghanistan should create a public central registry of beneficial ownership. Furthermore, Afghanistan should continue to establish laws regarding the recovery of stolen assets, including giving the government non-conviction-based confiscation powers and unexplained wealth orders.

Target 16.5: Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.

Corruption remains a major problem in Afghanistan, with the largest average bribes paid to the judiciary, employers, and provincial governors’ offices. Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Framework remains non-compliant with the United Nations Convention against Corruption in two ways. Afghanistan’s existing laws: 1) do not provide simplified procedures for combatting corruption, and 2) do not enumerate the powers and mandates needed for the institutions and agencies tasked with anti-corruption efforts for detection, investigation, or corruption prevention and awareness. However, transparency in Afghanistan’s asset disclosure regime has improved by way of amendments which require all “officials working in second or higher grades” to register their assets. Additionally, the Afghan government has begun publishing budget documents, including information on government procurement contracts.

While there are multiple Afghan agencies tasked with anti-corruption directives, the current system is not comprehensive or effective enough to combat corruption on a large scale, and many of the agencies perform duplicative and overlapping functions, and with little coordination. Further recommendations should address the culture of elite impunity, the exclusion of civil society from information sharing, the lack of regulation of lobbying, the public distrust of police and the judiciary, the lack of whistleblower protections, and the revolving door of public-private employment, among other factors, as all pose serious threats to the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan.

Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

Access to information is guaranteed by Afghanistan’s Constitution and relevant legislation, but the Access to Information (ATI) Law grants exceptions for the government to withhold information, and many rely on personal connections to gain access to information. The Afghan government should provide an adequate budget to the Oversight Commission on Access to Information, establish archiving and record-keeping standards for information, enforce ATI Law requests against government institutions, and seek the protection of journalists and other activists. Additionally, the government should protect the Anti-Corruption Justice Centre from undue influence, ensure the transparency of its operations, and provide for the physical safety of its personnel. The Ministry of Finance and the Budget Commission of Parliament-Wolse Jirga should be required to invite civil society and the media into the drafting process regarding the national budget and oversight execution.

NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).

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