A work meeting was held by AMAN yesterday at its headquarters to discuss a study entitled "Application of Codes of Conduct in NGO's, the Private Sector, and the Public Sector—Palestine." The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which codes of conduct are being applied and their principles adhered to on a voluntary basis, to identify hindrances and challenges to such codes, and to make progress toward the formation of a shared conception which can lead to the drafting of an intervention plan the purpose of which would be to activate the application of codes of conduct and to assist institutions in such application.
The meeting was attended by representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Agriculture, Transportation, the Interior, Youth, Sports, Employment and Public Works, Women's Affairs, and Social Affairs, in addition to representatives from a number of NGO's and private sector institutions. Those in attendance agreed unanimously on a number of points, the most salient of which was the need for adherence to codes of conduct in the various sectors. Similarly, they agreed that the Council of Ministers has a responsibility to deal seriously with matters pertaining to follow-up on the application of such codes in public institutions and their circulation among employees, and increasing employees' awareness of such codes. Board of Directors of NGOs and companies are called upon to adopt these codes on the practical level by circulating them among their staff members and including their principles in their bylaws and internal procedures.
AMAN's commissioner for combating corruption, Dr. Azmi al-Shuaybi, pointed out that the purpose for the preparation and adoption of codes of conduct is to build a societal culture which rejects all forms of corruption and which contributes to the construction of a national integrity system. Similarly, he stressed the fact that the activation of these codes requires a strong will on the part of the leaders of the various Palestinian sectors.
The government must take steps to activate the public sector code of conduct
The study indicates that the government has taken no practical measures to ensure compliance with the code of conduct among its employees, and this despite the fact that it has prepared two codes of conduct for the public sector’s employees. The first of these was prepared in 2006 at the initiative of AMAN and Miftah, while the second was prepared as a project by the Ministry of Finance. Parliament's decision to ratify the code has remained in suspension, and has yet to be officially published. Nor has the code been approved or circulated among the various ministries and government offices.
Signing the codes is not sufficient: NGO's must include them in their internal procedures and bylaws
Mu'in al-Barghuthi, who prepared the study, pointed out that NGO administrative offices have adopted the code by signing it. However, most Boards of Directors of these institutions have issued no resolutions to adopt and circulate these codes since their representatives signed them. Levels of awareness of the codes vary widely among institutions, with most of them having a low level of awareness and a lack of seriousness overall in relation to the codes' application.
In relation to the private sector, the study indicates that private sector institutions have adopted the private sector code of conduct which AMAN spearheaded together with the Palestinian Trade Center (Pal Trade) in 2007, in addition to a code of rules for corporate governance in Palestine which was prepared in 2009 by the government's National Committee. However, most boards of directors and administrative apparatuses have taken no steps to include the code's principles in their internal procedures and bylaws.
Mr. Fadi Hamad of the Ministry of Finance spoke of the need to assist the various sectors through the development of a clear mechanism for the application of the codes of conduct, in addition to the need for some public institutions to adapt the general code to fit their particular needs and circumstances. Mr. Hamad raised the question of how violations of the code's principles are to be dealt with in view of the face that compliance is voluntary rather than mandatory. Similarly, he asked who is responsible for overseeing compliance with the articles of the code. He also suggested that the Anti-Corruption Commission be included in the process of raising awareness and the application of codes of conduct.
Mr. Hasan al-Barghuthi, Director of the Center for Democracy and Workers' Rights, stressed the importance of launching an awareness-raising campaign in relation to the principles of the codes of conduct and the need for Palestinian laws and legislation to include references to the ethical and social principles contained in these codes.
Mr. Jihad Abdu from the Public Union of Charitable Societies discussed the Union's experience with the awareness-raising workshop campaign which it carried out in cooperation with AMAN, and responses to which indicate that the Palestinian public is eager to become more familiar with codes of conduct, particularly the parts relating to values and ethical principles such as integrity, justice and equality. Mr. Abduh stressed the importance of giving an award of recognition to any institution which applies the code of conduct.
Lastly, AMAN has announced its willingness to assist any public institution in adapting the general code of conduct to its specific needs and circumstances, as it has in fact done with the Ministry of Health, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Supreme Judiciary Council, and a number of local bodies.