Counting the cost of corruption: citizen movements demanding transparency


Thousands of Moroccans marched in a northern town to protest against injustice and corruption this week, Reuters reports:

Political protests are rare in Morocco, but tensions in al-Hoceima have been simmering since October following the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri (left). The incident sparked outrage against hogra, a colloquial Derja Arabic term for deprivation of dignity because of official abuses or corruption, and prompted some of the largest protests since Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011.

A series of corruption scandals have undermined South Africa’s constitutional democracy, even threatening to reduce the country to failed-state status.

On the other hand, the protests that prompted the impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye for her involvement in the massive corruption scandal, have led to a reaffirmation of liberal values and confirmed that public corruption – once a fact of life– is now viewed as intolerable, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“All over the world, brave individuals and organizations are calling on governments and official institutions to be accountable to citizens,” said National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman (right). “Citizen movements are rising up to demand transparency and good government, often in response to the courageous work of activists.”

The NED’s 2017 Democracy Award will highlight the courageous efforts of five activists who are battling the scourge of official corruption in Afghanistan, Angola, Guatemala, Malaysia, and Ukraine.  NED will present its award at a June 7 Capitol Hill ceremony from 5:00 – 7:00 PM in room HVC 201-AB of the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will make remarks at the presentation. Several other leading Members of Congress are expected to present the awards.

The 2017 Democracy Award Honorees (below, from left) are:

Claudia Escobar (Guatemala) is a judge who not only refused to participate in corruption, but became the lead whistleblower in a case of grand corruption involving the Vice-president of Guatemala and the former President of Congress.

Denys Bihus (Ukraine) leads TOM 14, a group of professional investigative journalists in Ukraine, and is the host of a very popular, influential, and award-winning anti-corruption television program, Nashi Groshi (Our Money). Bihus also coordinates the activities of thousands of volunteers, known as the “Kantselyarska Sotnya” (“The White Collar Hundred”), who are restoring documents shredded by the team of Former Ukrainian President Yanukovych.

Rafael Marques de Morais (Angola) is renowned journalist and human rights defender focused on investigating government corruption and abuses in the Angola’s diamond industry. He has been imprisoned for his work and is constantly harassed by the Dos Santos regime.

Cynthia Gabriel (Malaysia) is a human rights advocate and anti-corruption leader. She is the founder of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), the leading anti-corruption organization in a country currently in the throes of an enormous corruption scandal.

Khalil Parsa (Afghanistan) is key human rights advocate and anti-corruption leader from Herat. He is the founder and executive director of Supporting Organization for Afghanistan Civil Society (SOACS).  Parsa’s work made him the target of a 2016 assassination attempt.  Shot six times, he is lucky to be alive.

“Counting the Cost: The impact of corruption on democratic growth and stability,” will be the topic of a morning event featuring the five honorees on June 7 at NED’s Washington, DC office located at 1025 F Street, NW, Suite 800 from 8:30– 11:00 AM.  U.S. Senator Ben Cardin is confirmed as a keynote speaker.

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