Activities 2022

AMAN: Weak political will, ongoing occupation, and poor resources are key challenges to achieving SDGs 2030

AMAN: Weak political will, ongoing occupation, and poor resources are key challenges to achieving SDGs 2030

In a special session to discuss progress in achieving some Goal 16 targets

AMAN: Weak political will, ongoing occupation, and poor resources are key challenges to achieving SDGs 2030

Ramallah – The State of Palestine has pledged to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which is set to o promote integrity and anti-corruption efforts. Based on its membership on the National Team for Implementing SDG 16 Targets, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) held a special session and reviewed the AMAN Shadow Report on the progress made by the Palestinian government towards achieving five SDG 16 targets that cut across anti-corruption measures. To this avail, AMAN built on its voluntary contribution to investigating challenges to achieving SDG 16 targets, while at the same time presenting recommendations to overcome these challenges.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Issam Haj Hussein, AMAN Executive Director, made clear that AMAN’s Shadow Report was part of civil society’s contribution to achieving SDGs. It unveils an assessment view independent of the government progress report. Haj Hussein explained that the government adopted SDGs 2030 and pledged to submit voluntary review reports. The government released the National Policy Agenda (NPA) in consistence with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It established national committees to develop plans to monitor implementation. Progress has been made in many targets. However, an inadequate political will, ongoing Israeli occupation, and poor resources are still key obstacles to achieving SDGs 2030.

 

Appointments to senior positions are one of the major challenges to the National Integrity System

Jihad Harb, Senior Researcher at AMAN, reviewed developments in the reported five SDG 16 targets, including efforts to promote integrity, fight against corruption, and improvement of community engagement in public policy and decision making processes. According to Harb, many challenges continue to lie ahead of the National Integrity System (NIS) in Palestine. Of these, the principles of advertisement and competition for holding top level positions, including heads of public institutions, have not been in place. To ensure independence, the justice sector reform project has not been finalised, especially in the judicial system. Due for 18 years, the Law on the Right of Access to Information has not been enacted. Publication of public budget documents has seen a falling level of transparency. Since April 2017, decisions of the Council Ministers have no longer been posted on the Council of Ministers’ webpage. These have been replaced by publishing the titles of decisions. Public service provision by the private sector is poorly monitored. Concession contracts signed with telecommunications, electricity, and water companies have not been made publicly available. The Cybercrime Law by Decree was promulgated, placing further restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

 

Bilateral agreements on information exchange and extradition facilitate recovery of the proceeds of corruption

SDG Target 16.4 is set to combat organised crime, arms trafficking, and illicit financial flows. According to the AMAN Shadow Report, the government has made some progress towards responding to the national assessment of these risks. In 2018, the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism. The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) is upgrading the national assessment report, expected to be released this year. To date, the financial section of the report has been completed by the PMA.

AMAN urges relevant authorities to cooperate with the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies to conclude bilateral agreements with different States for the exchange of information, recovery of the misappropriated funds, and extradition. Tasks of investigation and prosecution will be facilitated in accordance with the law. Criteria for independence and efficiency will be observed, ensuring consolidated coordination and maintained efforts to ensure the recovery  of stolen assets.

 

63 percent of the public believe that levels of corruption within Palestinian institution are still high; 78 percent think that anti-corruption bodies do play their role independently

Results of the AMAN 2021 Opinion Poll demonstrated that 63 percent of those surveyed were of the view that levels of corruption within institutions of the Palestinian National Authority continued to be significant. 16 percent of the respondents indicated that bribery was the most pervasive form of corruption. According to the executive summary of the 2021 Annual Report of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), abuse of abuse of power had the highest rate of cases filed to the PACC, representing 62 percent of all 1,246 complaints and reports. The AMAN 2021 Opinion Police showed that 78 percent of the surveyed sample believed that anti-corruption bodies in the West Bank did not play their role independently.

 

Need to criminalise all offences established in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption, including all forms of bribery

In line with SDG Target 16.5 (Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms), AMAN recommends that bribery of all forms be eliminated. All offences established in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption will be included as a predicate offence of money laundering, including trading in influence and abuse of functions. In the private sector, promising, requesting, offering, giving, or accepting a bribe will be criminalised. Regardless of whether the offender does, or does not, achieve his or her objective, criminalisation will also entail the use of physical force, threats or intimidation or the promise, offering or giving of an undue advantage to induce false testimony or to interfere in the giving of testimony or the production of evidence in a proceeding in relation to the commission of offences established in accordance with the Convention. This will also involve the use of physical force, threats or intimidation to interfere with the exercise of official duties by a justice or law enforcement official in relation to the commission of offences established in accordance with the Convention.

 

Disclosure of financial statements to bolster public confidence in the government

SDG Target 16.6 provides for developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. According to the report of the Civil Society Team for Enhancing Public Budget Transparency, the Ministry of Finance published some of the eight documents, which were due to be made publicly available. However, published documents contained cold numbers, which did not reflect performance during 2021. On the other hand, the 2019 audited report was never published.

 

The government needs to officially adopt the National Anti-Corruption Strategy as a cross-cutting strategy

AMAN recommends that detailed financial statements be disclosed in accordance with the Law on the Regulation of the Budget and Financial Affairs No. 7 of 1998. In line with the approved rules of the Council of Ministers, the government needs to officially adopt the National Anti-Corruption Strategy as a cross-cutting strategy. The government will supervise the implementation and incorporation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy into cross-cutting strategies. As per responsibility centres, an adequate budget line item will be earmarked for the strategy execution within the annual public budget. In its capacity as the competent body, the PACC will be in charge of leading and coordinating relevant efforts.

AMAN further called for adopting a national plan for judicial reform. A regulation/bylaw will be in place to regulate the relocation of public officials (ministers, deputies, tax and customs officers, etc.) to the private sector. A competent or judicial body will examine and audit information and data included on financial declarations. The notion of absolute secrecy will be abandoned when financial declarations are processed. In the very least, appointments to senior positions will be open and made publicly available. This should also involve a penalty enhancement for offenders, including persons who abstain from submitting financial declarations, do not comply with timely submission, or provide false and erroneous information. Penalties will be as expansive as to cover all public officials.

 

8 percent representation of civil society groups on public institution boards, committees, or national teams

The AMAN Shadow Report showed that the government continued to maintain a closed door policy and turn a blind eye to the importance of transparency and community engagement in policy making, legislation, and decision making on the processes of public administration and public financial management. Palestinian laws and regulations do not provide for any obligations for engaging civil society groups in government decision making processes, including policy making and proposal or preparation of draft laws. According to the report data, civil society actors were not represented on 15 out of 48 government boards, committees, or institutions. Civil society representation ranged from just 8 percent on the Palestinian National Economic Empowerment Institution to 48 percent on the Official Statistics Advisory Council.

 

14 percent of women hold the post of director general or higher in civil service

According to the General Personnel Council data up to February 2022, women participation in civil service comprised 45 percent of all government personnel. In the civil service sector, the gap among men and women is evident in the number of those holding the office of director general or higher: 14 percent females as opposed to 86 percent males. The 2020 Annual Report of the High Judicial Council indicated that there were 264 regular judges in Palestine, including 51 female judges (47 in the West Bank and four in the Gaza Strip). These represented 19 percent of the total number of judges. However, panels of the Supreme Constitutional Court and regular courts (namely, the High Court, Courts of Appeals, Court of First Instance, and Conciliation Court) did not include any judges with special needs.

AMAN recommends that jobs and positions in the senior ranks of the civil service be governed to the principle of equal opportunities to allow room for and bridge the gap between men and women in holding public office. The body of Palestinian legislation will provide for compulsory community engagement in public policy and decision making processes. Firm principles will be established on the ground of partnership in decision making and openness to society from across the spectrum. The participation of women and persons with disabilities will be enhanced in the government formation, furnishing an opportunity for all parts of society to hold government positions.

 

Sharp rise in violations of public freedoms

SDG Target 16.10 ensures public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. The AMAN Shadow Report monitored a remarkable increase in the number of complaints on arbitrary detention, totalling 279 in 2021. These included 89 claims made by journalists, activists, human rights defenders, and electoral candidates. In its 2021 Annual Report, the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) reported an overall rise of violations against media freedoms in Palestine. MADA documented 565 abuses across the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Of these, the Israeli occupying forces perpetrated 368 violations. By contrast, various Palestinian agencies committed 123 abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.

Along this vein, AMAN made a set of recommendations, including abolition of the penalty of detention and confinement against the backdrop of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. While media websites will not be blocked without judicial warrant, the government will take expedited action to approve the Law on the Right of Access to Information and Law on the National Archive.