Perspectives Issue 8 - October 2015
Available in print at Heinrich Boell Foundation - Middle East Office in Beirut
The fight against corruption in the MENA region has gone through several ups and downs. Prevention, awareness and purification campaigns aiming to eradicate endemic or systemic corruption have had very little impact. The political will and the good intentions formulated in speeches and conferences during the democratic transitions referred to as the “Arab Spring” have hardly born results. On the contrary, in a phase of restoration of the old regimes, corruption continues to be a real impediment to the progress of our countries towards democracy and socioeconomic development that can offer living conditions that respect human rights and human dignity in a healthy and unpolluted environment.
The countries of the MENA region continue to suffer, to different extents, from the existence of corrupt practices that prevail on a large scale within both private and public sectors, as demonstrated by the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranked the MENA countries in 2014 between 55 (Jordan) and the 170 (Iraq). This reflects the enormous difficulty faced by the region to implement effective reforms in the fight against corruption, although some countries in the region have ratified international conventions that provide a legal framework and a common strategy geared towards this goal. However, they are hardly translated into national legislation and the few existing or hastily-made national legal initiatives often remain ineffective against illegal practices such as illicit enrichment, conflict of interest and insider trading.
Some countries do have a legal arsenal that criminalizes most forms of corruption. Nevertheless, impunity and special privileges make those laws ineffective in the absence of sincere political will and practical strategies.
Four years after the “Arab Spring”, when demands to eradicate corruption took center stage, we thought it is time to shed some light on the evolution of this issue in the MENA region. The first article, derived from a study of Transparency International, provides an overview on political corruption in the MENA region, while issuing key recommendations to overcome this issue. Following that, Osama Diab’s article explains how several cases of corruption were handled by the Egyptian judiciary since the fall of the Mubarak regime. Tarik Dana’s article portrays the corruption of the political elite in the Palestinian Authority. Lebanese journalist Suzanne Baaklini explains how environmental degradation has become a major collateral damage of a high level of corruption.
Abdessamad Saddouq talks about the battle announced but never delivered for a genuine fight against corruption in Morocco. Our colleague from the office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung in Lebanon, Noor Baalbaki, sheds light on the scandalous management of electricity by the state in Lebanon. Muneira Hoballah has a closer look at the Lebanese Hip Hop and how it addresses the issue of corruption. Ansar Jasim discusses how arbitrary arrests in Syria are ever more related to a macabre practice of corruption under the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Tunisian journalist Hnai J’mai explains how property confiscations after the revolution in Tunisia had transformed into state burden and portfolio of corruption. We conclude with two articles from Morocco written by Michèle Zirari Devif and Okwe Ndong Vincent comparing respectively illicit enrichment and the right of access to information, two fundamental pillars of the fight against corruption, to international norms.
The articles are illustrated with cartoons by activists and artists from the MENA region.