U4 Helpdesk Answer | Development cooperation

Afghanistan: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption with a focus on development assistance


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Over the past three years, Afghanistan has undergone an important period of transition, with the election of a new government in 2014 and the withdrawal of international forces the same year. Since then, levels of insecurity in the country have seen a marked rise and the number of internally displaced people in the country has doubled. Levels of optimism about the overall direction of the country and confidence in government in 2015 fell to their lowest levels in a decade.

Corruption in Afghanistan is endemic and has penetrated all parts of the Afghan state, adversely affecting the ability of Afghanistan to maintain security for its citizens and deliver basic public services. Corruption is also increasingly embedded in social practices, with patronage politics and bribery becoming an acceptable part of daily life. This continues despite the expressed aim of the National Unity Government (NUG) to address corruption, the establishment of various anti-corruption bodies and President Ghani’s personal involvement in larger procurement processes.

Development assistance has not been immune to this phenomenon. Indeed the large influx of money and poor oversight of contracting and procurement related to the international presence is believed to have exacerbated the problem. To address this, it has been suggested that development partners in Afghanistan need to develop a deeper understanding of the nature and scope of corruption, avoid alliances with malign actors for short term gain, consider the volume of assistance which can be absorbed by government systems, better align their programmes with national priorities, and strengthen partnerships with each other, civil society and the Afghan Government in order to build trust.

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