A report monitoring widespread corruption in non-governmental organizations in Arab countries

At a time when many Arab countries, from the Middle East, were under the yoke of wars for years, they became an arena for corruption, and a hotbed for violent offenders from different places.

Confirming this scene, a report by National Review magazine said that the existence of corruption in the Middle East is no longer a secret, but is widely recognized as a major obstacle to economic and political progress. in the region.

The report monitored many examples of countries that have experienced armed conflicts in the past decade, such as Syria and Iraq.

‘The rule, not the exception’

One of the local workers in a non-governmental organization operating in Syria, which he personally founded, says that he thought of cheating and deceiving the receipts, given the lack of any mechanism for research and monitoring. Many traders instead offered him to falsify the value of purchases intended to help the people “to win a portion of the money.” “.

He told the story, saying: “I laughed at the question, but I wasn’t surprised. I just bought $1,500 worth of processed agricultural products direct from the factory for a small NGO I run in northeastern Syria.”

The man, who spoke anonymously to the magazine, admitted he had the idea of ​​doubling the number he paid, saying: “I thought about it so I could raise more money to pump it back into the treasury of the organization I run,” before adding: “If I were an employee of a large international NGO, I would rarely travel.” Driving it to Syria would have been a great opportunity for me to earn a few hundred dollars.

In turn, the author of the report says that he told this story to an international NGO worker who confirmed the phenomenon and told him that “corruption among their local employees is the rule, not the exception.”

millions of dollars

Millions of dollars are flowing into northeastern Syria through dozens of international and local non-governmental organizations to fund camps for the displaced, infrastructure projects, education and health initiatives and other needs. Oversight is almost impossible, despite numerous checks aimed at preventing corruption or nepotism.

The management of these NGOs mostly come from a range of Western countries, and if they visit Syria, their movements are severely restricted, usually confined to a compound or villa, allowing limited interaction with the wider community.

Few of them speak Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac or any other language spoken in northeastern Syria, and have little information beyond what they are told by their local staff.

The report follows by saying, “This is certainly not to say that Western employees are not involved in corruption, or that they would not be involved if they could, and certainly not to say that all Syrian employees are.”

“It’s not men who don’t trumpet”

The author of the report says he has met many dedicated and honest staff in international NGOs, “but the social acceptance of corruption in Syria in general means that it is very easy to do what they want, out of sight of their management, and find a scheme to earn extra money from their NGO.”

Corruption can include altering receipts, favoritism when offered work, or channeling aid money to family members or friends.

“These matters do not have to be completely confidential, given the extent of their acceptance,” says the journalist.

And in the north-east of Syria there is a common saying: He who does not steal is not a real man (not men who do not sound).

Therefore, “it is difficult to fight corruption when this mentality, although not shared by everyone, is still part of daily life.” The report confirms again.

Iraq

The phenomenon is not only limited to Syria, because although the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani, announced a series of measures aimed at combating corruption during his first speech to parliament after taking office in October 2022 took office, fighting large-scale corruption. in the country does not seem easy.

Reports from think tanks and academics abound about corruption. Although these types of reports reveal the areas of corruption, they are usually set aside in favor of technical solutions that include the same systems but with some improvement.

These systems, which are likely to reduce corruption at the employee level, “but simply divert corruption into more efficient channels for exploitation by those at the top,” according to the report.

In this regard, the report draws attention to what the Iraqi sociologist Ali Al-Wardi wrote about the Iraqis in the 1950s, saying that “each of us criticizes others and attributes the destruction of the nation to them, and forgetting that he contributed to this general destruction, whether on a large or small scale.”

profitable business

Working with an international or internationally funded NGO has become the most lucrative career choice anyone can make in northeastern Syria.

In 2020, a survey of international NGOs said many employees earn more than $1,000 a month, compared to government salaries in the Northeast, which hover around $150.

Recently, some local employees are being paid $2,000 a month, the reporter says.

Therefore, the author believes that it is difficult to fight corruption in the Middle East, as long as it is rampant.

Corruption is tearing many countries apart in the Middle East, and this issue desperately needs to be confronted.

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