CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE CULTURE OF INTEGRITY- Considering the Voices of NGO's in Government Decision-making Processes

An address delivered at the 1st OIC Anti-Corruption and Enhancing Integrity Forum 2006, held on 28 - 29th August 2006 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

One fifth of humanity is brought together under the framework of the OIC, a group of 57 countries with a population of 1.4 billion people.

The sad state of this one fifth of humanity has been well stated by its Chairperson, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, when speaking at the International Islamic University of Islamabad Pakistan on 17 February 2005. He stated clearly and bravely the worrisome situation, and I quote

  • "Many Muslim Countries are synonymous with poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition…
  • Some stand out because because of oppression, tyranny and injustice…
  • Only a small minority of the 57 Muslim nations - five to be exact - is deemed as having high human development by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) … 28 or half the Muslim world are classified as having" low human development"…
  • Education standard are low, illiteracy is high and corruption is a problem…
  • We fare extremely poorly in Transparency International Corruption Perception Index of the 133 countries surveyed in 2003, the Muslim country with the best record could only rank 26th, four Muslim countries occupied the last 10 rankings."

The Islamic civilization and its noble values of peace and justice, knowledge and learning, integrity and accountability, and compassion and mercy lead and inspired the world. Today as the Prime Minister of Malaysia has reminded us, and I quote "… there is … much cause for dismay".

The Axis of Evil

We truly live in a "sick" society and in the most dangerous of times.
We live a culture of violence
We live in a culture of manipulation
We live in a culture of waste

I would call this culture of violence, manipulation and waste the real "Axis of evil"/

To counter this "Axis of Evil" we need to promote what I call the "Responsible Planethood" Agenda which is based on 3 noble values

  1. The value of Balance and Harmony
  2. The value of trusteeship and stewardship
  3. The value of accountability to your conscience and to Allah the almighty.

Making Change

What can we do to make the transformation from the domination of the "Axis of evil" to the "Responsible Planethood" Agenda?

Firstly, there must be a clear understanding that the Muslim world does not lack resources - financial or human. The problem is one of vision and mission, of misplaced priorities. The father of all failures is what can be simply termed as "Good Governance". What is lacking is vision, political will and right action.

What is Good Governance

Secondly. the following 10 principles of Good Governance, developed by the UNDP, can be universally accepted as a useful framework for "Responsible Planethood":

  1. Strategic Vision - Leaders and the public have a broad and long term perspective on good governance and human development, along with a sense of what is needed for such development. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.

  2. Rule of Law - Legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially, particularly the laws on human rights.

  3. Transparency - Transparency is built on the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them.

  4. Responsiveness - Institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders.

  5. Consensus Orientation - Good governance mediates differing interests to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the group and where possible, on policies and procedures.

  6. Equity - All men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

  7. Effectiveness and Efficiency - Processes and institutions produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.

  8. Accountability - Decision-makers in government, private sector and civil society organizations are accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the organization and whether the decision is internal or external to an organization.

  9. Participation - All men and women should have a voice in decision making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capabilities to participate constructively.

  10. Respect and Tolerance - To proactively respect diversity and difference, to seek out common values and building on them and where there are differences that can lead to conflict to have mechanism for addressing them.

The Role of Civil Society

The "Other" super power in the world today is civil society and any government that does not recognize that and work with it is doomed to failure, sooner or later. Let me share with you some of the dynamics.

The 'Virtuous' Cycle

Thirdly, I like to share, my 'virtuous cycle' for social transformation. The cycle involves five things and we have to be good in each of them:

  • Feelings: these come from concern, anger and hope. These are the 'seeds' and the 'sparks' of any cause.

  • Words: the 'feelings' must be articulated into words that can be communicated and felt. The Chinese word for 'listening' is made up of three characters" ears, eyes and heart! We must communicate to all these senses.

  • Action: words must be translated into doable activities, measures and campaigns. The talk must be walkable and the mountains to climb and oceans to cross be known and the tools and accessories developed make the journey. Transparency International and its chapters have a wealth of information of experience on this that you can access from their website.

  • Change: we must have clear demands so that certain strategic and specific benchmarks, goals are achieved - a code, law, an institution.

  • Vigilance: achievements can be lost easily, if there is not constant action to ensure that the changes remain in place and renewed, reviewded and strengthened.

The Eleven Energisers

Fourthly, building successful civic action involves at least eleven 'energising' forces that are part of the new dynamics of a massively interactive universalism:

  1. Understanding and Managing the links between local, national and global; it is not enough to think global, act local! All these levels and all combinations become relevant.

  2. Synergising the holistic links between Economics, Ecology and Equity; people need to 'feel the links'.

  3. Capitalising on all the three generations: youth, 'adult', senior citizens; we must draw from wisdom and while systematically nurturing the youth. And that includes those of us who are in the "youth of old age".

  4. Drawing from the powers of the 3 disciplines: spiritual, scientific and practical.

  5. Knowing the culture of 'networking' organizations, the 'bureaucratic' organizations and the 'lone rangers'; learning to draw from them and creating synergy.

  6. The 'overlaps' between the State, Civil Society and Business - how to leverage them; we need to foster the 'goodness' out of each and proliferate the symbiosis.

  7. Building the triple skills - the culture of Action, Creativity and Training (ACT). This means giving doable tasks, learning multiple communicating skills both in the creative arts as well as the new information technologies, as well as creating 'multipliers'.

  8. Our capacity to build on the three 'R's - Rights, Responsibilities and Relationships that are the core of our work.

  9. Our capability to build on the three 'H's - Heart, The Head and the Hands, bringing together the passionate activities with the people who have to face the reality daily, the best thinking and those who get things done.

  10. Our capability to organize clear strategies on the three 'V's - the Villains, the Victims and the Vision being brave and angry, caring and supportive in this contest of clear goals.

  11. Our capability to address the three 'I's - Ignorance, Incompetence and Indifference - through good information and communication, through effective capability building and through assertive advocacy.

The Five Pillars of Empowerment

Fifthly, we need to recognize the essence of people power. Let me share with you what I call the five pillars if empowerment.

  1. The power of "ONE" - never underestimate the power of a single individual. Through their example and action, individuals have transformed the world as history shows.

  2. The power of "MANY' - networking alliances, the "network of networks', partnerships can build our strength - social movements must link and build on the core values we share. We need those rare talents, of what I call the "transcedentals" - people who bridge movements and issues!

  3. The power of "HALO" - belief and drawing from both spiritual traditions and globally agreed norms negotiated through the United Nations, can provide powerful universal and inner as well as, external strength.

  4. The power of "INFORMATION" - access to research, education programmes and working with the media can provide the outreach and we need for transformation change. Links with the United Nations, its resource, information networks and global agreements need to be better developed.
  5. The power of "SUCCESS" - every victory, however small, should be shared and celebrated. That glow inspires and grows.

The Way Forward

Lastly, the grave challenges of today are being met with a new sense of practical passion, and people power is being driven by a new spirit. This new mindset can be described as follows:

We, the peoples…
Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere
Everyone, Everytime, Everywhere

I hope out of this Forum will develop a framework perhaps and an OIC Integrity Circle with hopefully Malaysia providing the lead to follow through the consultative, participatory and people centered approach to integrity. The Malaysia Integrity Plan can be a useful model for every country as it has this open, creative and action oriented approach.

It will not be easy to change habits and eradicate the corrupt. It is going to require "distance thinking" and it is going to require "structural thinking".

"Distance Thinking" is best remembered by the story of these two persons who are laying bricks. When asked what they were doing - one said he was laying bricks, the other said he was building a school!

"Structural Thinking" is best remembered by the story of the people who are busy saving babies drowning in a river that they forget to address the root of the problem - the persons upstream who are throwing babies into the river.

I like to end by a saying from a great Muslim thinker ,the late Hazrat Inayat Khan, that has inspired many of those who struggle against all odds:

"I asked for strength,
and Allah gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom,
and Allah gave me problems to learn to solve.

I asked for prosperity,
and Allah gave me brain and brawn to work.

I asked for courage,
and Allah gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for love,
and Allah gave me people to help.

I asked for favours,
and Allah gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed.

** Anwar Fazal is an active member of Transparency International, co-founder of Transparency International Malaysia and a former President of Consumers International. He is a reciepient of the Right Livelihood Award popularly known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize".


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