Egypt’s performance on key anti-corruption and transparency measures fell consistently from 2006 through the end of 2010, putting increased pressure on the country’s already fragile governance environment in the run-up to the January 2011 revolution, a new study has found.
Similar weaknesses were discovered across a range of other countries in the Middle East and North Africa including Yemen, Morocco, and the West Bank, while Pakistan witnessed its first-ever significant decline in the overall effectiveness of its anti-corruption safeguards. The report, a major investigative study of 36 countries, was released today by Global Integrity, an award-winning international nonprofit organization that tracks governance and corruption trends globally.
The Global Integrity Report: 2010 covers developed countries such as Canada and Italy as well as dozens of the world’s emerging markets and developing nations, from Albania to Cameroon to Tanzania. Rather than measure perceptions of corruption, the report assesses the accountability mechanisms and transparency measures in place (or not) to prevent corruption through more than 300 “Integrity Indicators” as well as journalistic reporting of corruption. Gaps in those safeguards suggest where corruption is more likely to occur. “The findings for a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, both in our 2010 data and looking back several years, paint a disturbing picture,” said Global Integrity’s Managing Director, Nathaniel Heller.
The report says north African countries struggle on implementing even the most basic anti-corruption and transparency safeguards, such as ensuring access to government records, protecting an independent media, debating budgets in a transparent manner, and enforcing conflicts of interest safeguards to ensure that public officials do not benefit financially from their positions in government,” said Heller. “With rare exceptions, the Middle East and North Africa is a black hole when it comes to good governance. Perhaps Egypt should have surprised us only in that the revolution took so long to happen.”
Global Integrity’s new data for Egypt track a slow and steady decline since the organization began coverage there with a local team of journalists and researchers in 2006. That decline parallels similar negative data in a range of countries in the region. “Those statistics serve as a sobering reminder that as long as governance reform and corruption issues remain on the back burner in the Middle East, we should expect more turmoil, not less,” said Heller. In Pakistan, Global Integrity’s new data tracked a first-ever significant decline in anti-corruption performance for the country in 2010. “Corruption and bribery may help to explain how Osama bin Laden was able to live freely in a mansion close to the country’s capital for so long,” Heller noted.
The report says Internet censorship remains a challenge in many countries covered. Through its highly disaggregated data, Global Integrity is able to track the prevalence of online censorship, both the restrictions placed by government in accessing certain websites as well as explicit censorship by government authorities of content published online. In 2010, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Egypt were among the worst performing countries when it came to internet censorship.