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34/100: the average score of Arab countries on 2021 CPI amid human rights abuses and decline of democracy

34/100: the average score of Arab countries on 2021 CPI amid human rights abuses and decline of democracy

34/100: the average score of Arab countries on 2021 CPI amid human rights abuses and decline of democracy

TI: No countries in Arab region with remarkable improvement over the past decade

Ramallah – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), the Palestinian national chapter of Transparency International (TI), highlighted key findings and developments released by the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2021. Published on an annual basis, the CPI gauges corruption perceptions across some 180 countries and regions around the world. While more than 70 percent scored less than 50, results show that Arab countries ranked 34 on the list. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region reflects political corruption risks, which preclude any democratic progress and allow further human rights violations.

In its statement, TI indicated that countries who violated civil liberties generally scored lower on the CPI. These countries were more affected by corruption than others. Complacent fight against corruption exacerbates human rights abuses, undermines democracy, allows room for authoritarianism, and contributes to high levels of corruption.

Corruption increases in countries affected by crises of democracy

AMAN confirmed some findings. CPI results demonstrate an  inverse relation between the degree of democratic development and pervasive corruption. Increasing corruption was noted in a number of countries with a burgeoning democratic crisis and growing challenges to the integrity of government. Most notably, obstacles included erosion of respect for the principle of separation of powers, weak oversight, authoritarian monopoly of government, control over state institutions by powerful individuals, shrinking space for civil society organisations, backsliding on rights and freedoms, restriction of the right to freedom of expression, and abuse of the right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly. These grave violations of law turn away from international conventions on human rights, paving the way to a totalitarian, undemocratic security regime. Without any oversight or accountability, powers are concentrated in the hands of a single authority in contravention to the values of integrity, transparency, and honest government.

Untenable criminalisation of political corruption across the Arab world for lack of  legal provisions

In Arab countries, government is dominated by political corruption. This is due to current practices and abuse of public office by state personnel. Law, policy and decision making processes are in favour of private, rather than public, interests. Criminalisation of political corruption is challenged by certain problems. As in most countries across the region, it is hard to outlaw political corruption in view of the lack of relevant legal provisions.

Open governments display high levels of transparency and accountability

Internationally, Scandinavian countries were at the top of the CPI. These included Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, each with a score of 88, and Norway (85). Scandinavian countries enjoy high levels of transparency and accountability. Countries with the highest scores share open governments, free press, unrestricted civil society, and independent judiciary. AMAN’s partners, namely, the governments of the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Norway, were among the best 10 countries on the CPI.

Countries lacking good governance score low on the CPI

Reflecting the most corrupt countries, South Sudan (11), Syria (13), Somalia (13), and Yemen (16) remained at the bottom of the index. These countries are commonly affected by widespread unrest, civil wars and conflicts, and instability, resulting in a downward slide on the CPI. This was accompanied by impunity of corrupt individuals due to weak state institutions, vulnerable public freedoms, and poor governance. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased human rights violations across the region.

Regarding Arab countries on the index, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) scored as high as 69, followed by Qatar (63), Saudi Arabia (53), and Oman (52).

Politically unstable Arab countries score low on the CPI

Lebanon has fallen to the lowest level (24) since 2012, when it was possible to compare scores across years. The 2020 Beirut explosion has led to an economic collapse. While widespread protests were dispersed, public authorities suppressed fundamental rights and cracked down on demonstrators. The situation was made worse by the Pandora Papers, which exposed Lebanese politicians, including current Prime Minister Najib Mikati. These public officials owned a large number of companies in tax havens around the world.

With a score of 39, Morocco has imposed the Emergency Law, which deprived citizens of their rights to freedoms of movement, peaceful assembly, and expression. The law was also used as a cover to target government critics and human rights defenders, who publicly spoke of improper handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Scoring 44 on the CPI, Tunisia marked a decline in gains of the new democracy. Despite the fact that Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring, recently elected President Kais Saied tightened his grip and sidestepped checks and balances. Saied suspended the parliament and closed down the anticorruption commission, leaving whistleblowers without protection.

Ranking 69 and 63 respectively, the UAE and Qatar had the highest CPI scores in the Arab region. Still, 2021 revealed practices of corruption. The Pandora Papers unveiled the involvement of the Prince of Qatar, former Qatari Prime Minister, and UAE Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. According to the TI statement, both countries continue to assault human rights and freedom of expression, as well as punish and imprison members of the opposition.

Political corruption is a key factor of pervasive corruption

Against this background, the Arab region encounters multiple challenges of varying degrees, depending on the situation of each country. In addition to poor integrity of government, all Arab countries commonly lack effective and transparent systems of accountability. These shortfalls can be overcome when political corruption comes to an end. Political corruption is a key factor of widespread corruption. An efficient political will can put into effect international obligations in line with relevant international conventions and states’ pledges in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. To enhance the integrity of government, immunisation and preventive measures are the best tools to fight political corruption. Good governance is grounded in impartial access to power, including by elections and  senior-level appointments. The integrity of government must be maintained following access to state power. This can also be achieved by public engagement and transparency. Conflict of interests will be avoided to ensure that the decision making process serves the public interest.

CPI scores worldwide

A quick look at the CPI scores around the world shows that Western Europe countries maintained the best results (66), followed by Asia and Pacific states (45) and the Americas (43). While the MENA region scored 39, Eastern Europe countries had a score of 36. Lastly, Africa ranked 33. Interestingly, the USA continued to rank 67 on the CPI. For the first time since 2012m however, the USA has not been among the highest 25 countries worldwide. Compared to 2020, Israel fell by one point on the index, scoring 59.

The reality of corruption in Palestine

It should be noted that Palestine has not been included on the CPI for the 14th year in a row. This is because Palestine lacks at least three out of 13 key information sources for the CPI.

AMAN, TI’s national chapter in Palestine, will publish its periodic report, Reality of Integrity and Fight against Corruption in Palestine, next March 2021. In a series of reports released earlier, AMAN clearly indicated that the democratic process has declined due to the failure of a peaceful transition of power in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. While public authorities have disrupted general elections, local elections were not organised in Gaza. Transparency and openness are poor because a law on the right of access to information has not been enacted. Citizens are deprived of the right to participate in the decision making process, prioritisation of the public budget, and administration of state land and resources. Civil society activities are prosecuted. As indicated by the World Press Freedom Index, the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press are constrained. Restrictions are also placed on oversight bodies. With the aim of debilitating their independence, the Judicial Authority and State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau are affected by undue interference.

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