Most people who aren’t lawyers in the U.S. practicing international law don’t read the American Bar Association’s publications, so I just want to highlight a brief article that appeared in the organization’s Anti-Corruption Committee Newsletter. It highlights the transparency and anti-corruption initiative being undertaken by the Kurdistan Regional Government—which commenced last July. From the ABA Section of International Law:
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the government of the…region which oversees the administration of the three provinces of Erbil, Duhok, and Suleimaniah, is looking to be a leader within Iraq in terms of fighting corruption. Iraq has consistently fared poorly in international studies on the presence of corruption, most recently being ranked 176 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index. This perception is not helped by the steady stream of bad news coming out of Baghdad’s battle against corruption. Recognizing that this negative perception is causing serious harm to Kurdistan’s efforts to attract international investment, the KRG has taken the unusual step of creating and implementing its own anti-corruption strategy.
On July 12, 2009, then-Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani announced a comprehensive anti-corruption and transparency strategy designed to, in his words, “…improve international and domestic confidence and increase investment and job development, while helping to raise the living standards of our Region.” This strategy is founded on four principles central to eliminating corruption: (1) the rule of law, (2) public service is a public trust, (3) governmental functions are to be open and transparent, and (4) public funds must always be used for their intended purposes.
“The initiative is being undertaken entirely by the KRG, without receiving any funding from donors. KRG representatives attended the most recent Global Forum Against Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in Doha to interface with global experts and improve their strategy to match international best practices.
The new government led by Prime Minister Dr. Barham Salih has reaffirmed the commitment of the KRG to the project. In a recent statement celebrating International Anti-Corruption Day, Dr. Barham reiterated the right of all citizens of the KRG to expect the highest standards of conduct and announced that the government would soon release a new comprehensive Code of Conduct that will govern the behavior of the civil service.
There is no doubt, the KRG’s Good Governance and Transparency Strategy represents tangible evidence that we are aware of our shortcomings as a burgeoning government and region, and that we are actually doing something about them. To ensure our effort is done in the most professional and, yes, transparent manner, the KRG retained PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s largest financial and accountancy consulting firms, to assist in the development and implementation of our strategy. As the program unfolds, I will keep you updated on its progress.