“Sophisticated Corruption requires Education. Sophisticated Anti-Corruption also requires Education,” Fredrik Galtung

Mr. Fredrik Galtung is the President and Co-Founder of “Integrity Action” International Organization, Great Britain, one of the leading experts in Anti-Corruption Policy.

Iravaban.net talked with Mr. Galtung about the fight against corruption. The expert referred to the corruption occurrences, efficiency of fight against it, the anti-Corruption education and the international experience. As for our country specifically, Mr. Galtung believes that countries like Armenia shall demonstrate unique approaches in fight against corruption. Details in the interview.

– Mr. Galtung, thank you for accepting our offer of an interview. Will you please tell, based on your experience, in which cases do the states achieve success in fight against corruption and when do they fail?

– That`s a very big and very good question. So, short answer is the following – if you look at the countries, that are doing the best in fighting corruption, they are also the countries with best democracy, independence of judiciary, etc. The top 35 countries. You can divide those into 2 categories. These countries are either small or they took a long time to make these changes happen: 75 or 150 years. And so I say you either have to be small or patient. And by small I mean that there are less than 10 million people. And no country has managed to make change quickly that is bigger than 10 million. Only the countries that are less than 10 million have made change quickly. So the good news for Armenia is that you are less than 10 million. The bad news is that there are many countries with less than 10 million with a lot of corruption. So just because the country is small, does not mean that it will be good.

– Is the existence of anti-corruption programs in a country important in order to achieve success in fight against corruption?

– Yes and No. So, it`s not an absolute requirement. Of course there are countries with low levels of corruption where they are not having an anti-corruption education. But I`d say the following, it`s that every pillar of national integrity that is supposed to fight corruption needs people with the university education. And so if education is supposed to be part of the solution, they should be educated in anti-corruption. And there is a second reason.  If you are a poor person, you can steal 10-20 dollars, but in order to steal hundred thousands of dollars, 1 million dollars, 2 million dollars, you can only do that with an education. It`s not possible to steal 10 million dollars without a very good lawyer, a very good banker, a very good accountant. Otherwise you`ll get caught. And so, sophisticated corruption requires education. Sophisticated anti-corruption also requires education.

Our country has recently established an anti-corruption body, which, according to the government’s decision will be headed by the Prime Minister. Ministers, representatives of Local Self Government Bodies, NA Opposition Party members shall participate in this body. And only two members will represent the Civil Society. Do you think the Anti-Corruption Council will be able to curb corruption in this composition?

– I don`t think that the issue of the composition is the most important thing. Because this Committee gives strategic direction and oversight. It`s not an enforcement body. And so, for the strategic oversight and support, of course there should be many different voices. But it is sensible, actually, to have the PM play a very important role or even to be chairing it. Because after all the PM has this key role in the Government. So, that is not the problem in itself. The challenge and question is what the strategy is and how we will know if the strategy is working. That is a bigger question.

– Are you familiar with the reforms and anti-corruption practices in Georgia?

– I think many things in Georgia have been very positive. And they have achieved a lot in short amount of time, then the Saakashvili government lost the last elections. Criticisms have been made around many aspects, however, of these reforms in Georgia. And so there are good things, and there are weak things or problematic things. And we can`t go into all the details of that. But I think still there are things to be learned from Georgia, again a case of a country that is small, less than 10 million, and that was able to make changes quickly. But the problem, the challenge is not just to make changes quickly, but changes that will last, and changes that will continue to get better. And one of the problems with fighting corruption is that you can make progress but you can also go backwards. And so the question is how can institutions be strengthened and people become part of the change? So, it`s not just reliant on a few leaders.

– And the last question. You have already met with the members of our Government. What did you advice them and whether they have accepted your advice?

– In terms of the advice that I gave, I was talking about a different approach to building integrity and fighting corruption that involves engaging citizens in the process of change and engaging NGOs, but also challenging them to be part of the solution in order for them to contribute to changes. And we are supporting such activities already in 11 countries, the organization that I head – the Integrity Action. But you can see that there are things like this happening in many countries. And so what we talked about is a different type of strategy to complement what they are already planning to do. And this strategy can show results very quickly. That is 1 advantage. The second advantage is that it can involve many people, and the 3rd advantage is that you can measure results very precisely. So whether this will then be used, that remains to be seen.

Interview: Gevorg Tosunyan

Photos: Aleksander Sargsyan