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Corruption endemic in Arab world: transparency group

(The Daily Star / Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Corruption in the Arab region is a continuing problem, but Lebanon is not the worst of the lot, concluded the Lebanese Transparency Association at the launch of a regional report Wednesday.

“In general, we are discovering that corruption is the same for all [Arab countries],” said Nada AbdelSater-Abusamra, chair of the association and an international lawyer.

Although the political system varies between republics and monarchies as well as some countries subjected to revolutions and some not, the association’s report “Political Corruption in the Arab World” found the result was pretty much the same across the board – bad.

“Political corruption is a chronic disease spread throughout the Arab World,” the report said. “This is due to the current political systems that prevent citizens from being involved in the governing process.”

The report was put together based on samples and data from anti-corruption organizations in Yemen, Palestine, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, and was done under the umbrella of Transparency International, a group that aims to strengthen civil society’s role in fighting graft.

The study’s authors identified political corruption as a primary cause of the 2011 “Arab Spring,” which led to the fall of regimes in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and caused a civil war in Syria. The top-down system followed in many Arab countries has endangered the citizen’s sense of belonging and democracy, it added.

Although in Lebanon corruption occurs to a lesser extent than in other Arab countries, it is still endemic.

“The Lebanese political system was among those considered to be acceptable, but that was until the end of the Civil War, which created a different society.”

The study concluded the current variety of religious sects in Lebanon played a major role in increasing corruption, as each one became responsible for its own community, creating what is known as “leaders.”

Firm control over the judicial and legislative bodies, manipulating elections, mismanagement of public money and politicizing the media are just some of the measures taken by various Arab ruling classes who benefit from corruption to prevent their overthrow, the report said.

“There are a series of recommendations in the report,” said the report’s general supervisor, Azmi al-Sheaybi. “They look at how to address political corruption via the public’s mobilization to amend constitutions and draft laws aimed at separating the different powers.”

Abdel-Sater-Abusamra emphasized that the association was doing its best to fight corruption in Lebanon. “We have different projects, but our main one is the center to protect corruption victims and revealers,” he said.

Citizens can call the center on 01- 386-886 if they are victims or witness any case of corruption and will be put in contact with legal advisers.

Five Arab countries – not including Lebanon – are ranked among the world’s top 10 most corrupt nations, according to Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 26, 2014, on page 4.

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