News / Asia

UN Says Corruption Biggest Problem for Afghanistan

The report says those entrusted with upholding the law in Afghanistan are the ones guiltiest of violations, including the police, judges and even members of the government.

Natasha Saini

Corruption is the biggest concern of the people of Afghanistan, says a U.N. report released in London.  The report says the rampant exchange of bribes and favors has led many Afghans to lose faith in the government and public officials.

Corruption, even before security, is one of the biggest concerns for average Afghans, says a U.N. report launched at London's International Institute of Strategic Studies.

The report says those entrusted with upholding the law in Afghanistan are the ones guiltiest of violations, including the police, judges and even members of the government.

The head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, says more than half the population has to pay huge bribes almost every day.

"The dimension of the payments, which ends in the pockets of the corrupt officials is so big, it is a quarter of the GDP - $2.5 billion estimated," he said.

The report focused on bribes paid out during the past 12 months for everything from crossing a check point to facilitating the country's explosive drug trade and human trafficking.

The head of the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association in London, Nooralhaq Nasimi, accuses the government of President Hamid Karzai of being at the center of this network of connections and favors.

"Those people who are in charge in ruling the country, they are most of them, member of families or friends of Karzai," said Nasimi.

Nasimi says that has made people lose faith in the government, which in turn damages the government's credibility and even legitimacy.

President Karzai has repeatedly said his government is making efforts to tackle corruption, but critics say not nearly enough is being done.

Costa warns that if corruption is not tackled the Afghan people could well lose faith in the international community's efforts, with dire consequences.

"I am afraid that at one point the Afghan people or many in the population will run out of options and as a consequence the insurgency will acquire a legitimacy which definitely it does not have at the moment," said Costa.

He says that will only help the Taliban and their allies. 

The report was released before the international conference on Afghanistan in London, where President Karzai is expected to face more calls by world leaders to tackle corruption.  

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