Rule of Law and Good Governance Portfolio
There has been a lot of progress in instating laws and establishing relevant structures to implement them in Afghanistan in the past decade. Today the Afghan government has a rich reservoir of laws and structures to ensure the longevity of Afghanistan’s nascent democracy. In terms of laws, the Afghan government revised its criminal code in 2018 to include the Rome Statute’s provisions, cybercrimes, and child abuse, among others, to encompass modern criminal issues that were absent in its previous code that was adopted in 1976. Added to that the Afghan parliament also passed the much-debated Access of Information Law in 2014.
A number of structures including the Supreme Audit Office and the High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption were established. These efforts also included the shuffling of government employees to dismantle the existing corrupt circles within the Afghan justice sector. These efforts were the result of the emerging strong discourse on anti-corruption in the civic space with enhanced coverage by media organizations that pushed the government to also initiate its reporting to the public annually at different levels of its governance. However, in the meanwhile, we have also experienced a shrinking civic space due to the government’s inability to ensure the security of its citizen, the growing dominance of armed opposition groups in vast majority of provinces, and the governments lack of enthusiasm to support a vibrant civil society.
Despite progresses in government structures and adoption of new laws whether it is the increased presence of women in justice sector from 3% to 15% or the establishment of sub-structures at the attorney general’s office to tackle corruption, violence against women, or international crimes, among others, a number of issues continues to dominate this field of work. They are:
Corruption has been pandemic in all rule of law and governance structures of Afghanistan. While its scope is broad and there are a number of areas that should be addressed, the key challenges are the existence of bribery, nepotism in appointment, and ethnic politics in this sector. These three issues have rendered Afghanistan as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
- Centralization of Authority:
Almost all decisions in the government are taken in Kabul. Centralization of authority is the key impediment in the way of meaningful progress. With the existence of corruption in all levels of government, this centralized system has resulted into imbalance development in Afghanistan. Added to this already crippled system is the prevalence of unnecessary mediaeval bureaucracy that has slowed down all provisions of service delivery in the country.
Implementation of laws
The existence of a corrupt and highly centralized governance in Afghanistan has led to the inadequate implementation of whatever good laws that we have. The challenges of the proper implementation of laws have resulted in the impunity of criminals and the domination of informal relations in government. In today’s Afghanistan the issue of implementation of laws is a bigger challenge than the structural issues.
Structural issues in the government entities have impeded the proper implementation of laws resulting into weak governance and rule of law in Afghanistan.
Theory of Change
Increased transparency and accountability will ensure reforms in the government structures and improve the implementation of laws.
There are several questions and debates that remain controversial and contested. One among them is the question whether structures should be perfected so that anyone leading them could produce the desired results or that the existence of qualified leaders will transform those structures to become effective and efficient.
Another persistent question is the issue of independence of justice and rule of law sector. With those at that apex of these institutions being appointment by the head of the government, their independence will continue to be questioned. It is for this reason that many have suggested that a decentralized system with local participatory governance will partially address this.
The Afghan government has erected and empowered a number of institutions to combat corruption. The Supreme Audit’s Office, the Civil Service Reform Office, the Supreme Court, and Ministry of Interior Affairs are the most important entities in this field of work. International donors like the European Union and USIP are among the key donors providing fund to civil society organization to eradicate corruption. There are a number of national and international organization with a portfolio on anti-corruption. Important among them are Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the Asia Foundation, and IDLO. While HREVO has a well-established working relation with some of them, it will strive to build a strong network of partnership to realize its mandate.