Youth lead the fight for integrity across the Arab Region

Corruption in the Arab States region has an additional enemy to fear. On this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, university students from Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia came together to articulate their strong and long-term commitment to promote integrity, transparency and accountability in their societies, one initiative at a time.

Youth can be powerful agents of change and UNDP’s Anti-Corruption and Integrity in Arab Countries (ACIAC) team recognizes their potential in the Arab region. In 2016, ACIAC launched its “Universities against Corruption” Initiative during a regional event held on the occasion of announcing the sixth Arab Human Development Report "Youth and the prospects for human development in changing reality" . A snowball effect followed, attracting more than 2,000 students from 23 universities in the four countries.

Through interactive seminars, game-based workshops and direct interaction with politicians, activists and experts, UNDP avails to students the opportunity to acquire valuable knowledge about corruption and its impact on their lives as well as on key mechanisms and tools to prevent and combat it. Based on that, it organizes in-country competitions to encourage the students to identify challenges in their countries, call for needed actions, and come up with concrete solutions that they can implement themselves to address specific corruption problems.

The students’ work is also complemented and institutionalized within their universities through the establishment of integrity clubs and the development of anti-corruption materials to be integrated in university curricula. Tunisia’s Carthage University for example was the first to set up a full-fledged professional master’s programme in this regard, while Jordan’s Philadelphia University was the first to establish an integrity club, with many expected to follow suit in the coming months.

The initiative was officially rolled out in Jordan and Lebanon in 2017 followed by Tunisia and Iraq in 2018. Students from different regions of those countries came to Tunisia to commemorate the International Anti-Corruption Day in a regional event that showcased and further reinforced the passion, the knowledge and the commitment that they have within to stand united against corruption for a brighter future. So, let us meet some of these youths and hear what drives them to make a change.

“Transparency Knights” of Jordan: Bushra & Khaled

Since they were first engaged by the “Universities Against Corruption” Initiative in 2017, both Bushra and Khaled have been volunteering with the Jordan Transparency Center (JTC), making their voice heard and their energy felt across the country as part of JTC’s “Transparency Knights”, a youth group that emerged and grew in the framework of the initiative.

Khaled decided to pursue a PhD in Criminal Science. He sees corruption as the biggest crime in the world. For him, the fight against corruption starts with raising awareness about illegal practices that are part of every day’s life to the point that people accept them as the norm.

“There is an opportunity to change” -says Bushra, law student. “But to seize this opportunity you need first to love your country and be patient. Voice after voice we can change our tomorrow. Ya baladna, ya al fasad (Either our country, or corruption)”.

Bushra and Khaled joined UNDP’s ACIAC team touring across the Kingdom to create that network of young people that is so important to spread the word door to door. Committed to making information on government expenditures available to everyone, they meet regularly with different ministries to push for the implementation of the access to information law.

Supporting access to information in Lebanon: Angie & Ali

Angie, 18 years old, is the youngest member of this emerging youth-led regional network. While studying economics, a course on business ethics brought her to “Universities Against Corruption”. “It is our civil duty to promote and maintain integrity, because it is the only guarantor of our freedom and democracy” – notes Angie.

Ali is finishing his master’s degree in business administration. He joined the initiative two years ago. He was inspired by attending the announcement of his country’s first ever anti-corruption strategy; and by having the opportunity to meet with ministers and members of Parliament and share with them his concerns and aspirations.

Angie and Ali won the Lebanon competition organized by ACIAC with a project to monitor and advocate for the implementation of the access to information law, which was passed in 2017 but is still not fully respected. The idea came to them after meeting with the “Transparency Knights” of Jordan and learning from their experience, as part of a regional exchange organized by UNDP. It’s now time to roll out their project on the ground, to check for instance whether public institutions are making their financial statements public as they should, and to make sure that all of them appoint a staff responsible for providing information to those who request it. And they are not alone. There is already a group of students from different universities ready to lend a hand.

Being the Change in Tunisia: Omar & Bothaina

Although Tunisia just recently joined the initiative, their representatives are already erupting with ideas. Omar is a 22-year-old student from the southern city of Gabes. He believes that corruption greatly undermines the State and negatively affects services to people. “I see around me resources being wasted because of corruption. If used rightly, they could make citizens’ lives better”. Omar is already active in his community and runs a Facebook page that fact-checks news from national institutions. He says that by seeing youth in other countries succeed, he gets further motivated to make a change.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” says Bothaina, a 20-year-old law student, quoting Ghandi. She says you can never do enough for your community. A believer in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she is committed to achieving SDG 16 in particular, since for her, peace, justice and strong institutions can have positive spillover effects across all other SDGs. Her idea for the anti-corruption competition, planned for Tunisia, is to set up a platform that compiles legislation and avails to the public user-friendly information related to bureaucratic procedures which – if unclear to the citizens – can be a fertile terrain for “wasta” and bribery.

Setting the ground in Iraq: Abdullah & colleagues

All the way from the Diyala governorate, Abdullah – 21-year-old student of law – came to represent 30 of his Iraqi peers, who could not be represented by more students in the event in Tunisia, because of security challenges and other restrictions. Yet, they cannot wait to make their opinions heard and to see real results on the ground.

“We are the leaders of tomorrow, and we are those who can make a change today,” says Abdullah. He is concerned about how corruption penetrates many institutions and affect government services to citizens – especially the health sector. He and his peers are currently conducting a comprehensive research on anti-corruption efforts in Iraq. It will help them define clear entry points for action. Al Nahrain Foundation for Transparency and Integrity in Iraq, an NGO that is a member of the UNDP-supported Arab Anti-Corruption and Integrity Network (ACINET), is helping their work and standing ready for the next steps.

Bushra, Khaled, Angie, Ali, Bothaina, Omar and Abdullah are just few of the enthusiastic youth that were gathered in Tunisia for this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, and a small sample of the many other students who are part of the UNDP flagship initiative of “Universities Against Corruption” in the four countries. Together, they are forming a youth-led network that is destined to grow and consolidate, determined to raise awareness and drive positive change across the Arab region in the years to come. They stand for integrity and #UnitedAgainstCorruption. Keep an eye on them.

Youth lead the fight for integrity across the Arab Region

Corruption in the Arab States region has an additional enemy to fear. On this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, university students from Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia came together to articulate their strong and long-term commitment to promote integrity, transparency and accountability in their societies, one initiative at a time.

Youth can be powerful agents of change and UNDP’s Anti-Corruption and Integrity in Arab Countries (ACIAC) team recognizes their potential in the Arab region. In 2016, ACIAC launched its “Universities against Corruption” Initiative. A snowball effect followed, attracting more than 2,000 students from 23 universities in the four countries.

Through interactive seminars, game-based workshops and direct interaction with politicians, activists and experts, UNDP avails to students the opportunity to acquire valuable knowledge about corruption and its impact on their lives as well as on key mechanisms and tools to prevent and combat it. Based on that, it organizes in-country competitions to encourage the students to identify challenges in their countries, call for needed actions, and come up with concrete solutions that they can implement themselves to address specific corruption problems.

The students’ work is also complemented and institutionalized within their universities through the establishment of integrity clubs and the development of anti-corruption materials to be integrated in university curricula. Tunisia’s Carthage University for example was the first to set up a full-fledged professional master’s programme in this regard, while Jordan’s Philadelphia University was the first to establish an integrity club, with many expected to follow suit in the coming months.

The initiative officially kick-started in Jordan. Lebanon and Tunisia followed, with Iraq coming onboard in November 2018. Students from different regions of those countries came to Tunisia to commemorate the International Anti-Corruption Day in a regional event that showcased and further reinforced the passion, the knowledge and the commitment that they have within to stand united against corruption for a brighter future. So, let us meet some of these youths and hear what drives them to make a change.

“Transparency Knights” of Jordan: Bushra & Khaled

Since they were first engaged by the “Universities Against Corruption” Initiative in 2017, both Bushra and Khaled have been volunteering with the Jordan Transparency Center (JTC), making their voice heard and their energy felt across the country as part of JTC’s “Transparency Knights”, a youth group that emerged and grew in the framework of the initiative.

Khaled decided to pursue a PhD in Criminal Science. He sees corruption as the biggest crime in the world. For him, the fight against corruption starts with raising awareness about illegal practices that are part of every day’s life to the point that people accept them as the norm.

“There is an opportunity to change” -says Bushra, law student. “But to seize this opportunity you need first to love your country and be patient. Voice after voice we can change our tomorrow. Ya baladna, ya al fasad (Either our country, or corruption)”.

Bushra and Khaled joined UNDP’s ACIAC team touring across the Kingdom to create that network of young people that is so important to spread the word door to door. Committed to making information on government expenditures available to everyone, they meet regularly with different ministries to push for the implementation of the access to information law.

Supporting access to information in Lebanon: Angie & Ali

Angie, 18 years old, is the youngest member of this emerging youth-led regional network. While studying economics, a course on business ethics brought her to “Universities Against Corruption”. “It is our civil duty to promote and maintain integrity, because it is the only guarantor of our freedom and democracy” – notes Angie.

Ali is finishing his master’s degree in business administration. He joined the initiative two years ago. He was inspired by attending the announcement of his country’s first ever anti-corruption strategy; and by having the opportunity to meet with ministers and members of Parliament and share with them his concerns and aspirations.

Angie and Ali won the Lebanon competition organized by ACIAC with a project to monitor and advocate for the implementation of the access to information law, which was passed in 2017 but is still not fully respected. The idea came to them after meeting with the “Transparency Knights” of Jordan and learning from their experience, as part of a regional exchange organized by UNDP. It’s now time to roll out their project on the ground, to check for instance whether public institutions are making their financial statements public as they should, and to make sure that all of them appoint a staff responsible for providing information to those who request it. And they are not alone. There is already a group of students from different universities ready to lend a hand.

Being the Change in Tunisia: Omar & Bothaina

Although Tunisia just recently joined the initiative, their representatives are already erupting with ideas. Omar is a 22-year-old student from the southern city of Gabes. He believes that corruption greatly undermines the State and negatively affects services to people. “I see around me resources being wasted because of corruption. If used rightly, they could make citizens’ lives better”. Omar is already active in his community and runs a Facebook page that fact-checks news from national institutions. He says that by seeing youth in other countries succeed, he gets further motivated to make a change.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” says Bothaina, a 20-year-old law student, quoting Ghandi. She says you can never do enough for your community. A believer in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she is committed to achieving SDG 16 in particular, since for her, peace, justice and strong institutions can have positive spillover effects across all other SDGs. Her idea for the anti-corruption competition, planned for Tunisia, is to set up a platform that compiles legislation and avails to the public user-friendly information related to bureaucratic procedures which – if unclear to the citizens – can be a fertile terrain for “wasta” and bribery.

Setting the ground in Iraq: Abdullah & colleagues

All the way from the Diyala governorate, Abdullah – 21-year-old student of law – came to represent 30 of his Iraqi peers, who could not be represented by more students in the event in Tunisia, because of security challenges and other restrictions. Yet, they cannot wait to make their opinions heard and to see real results on the ground.

“We are the leaders of tomorrow, and we are those who can make a change today,” says Abdullah. He is concerned about how corruption penetrates many institutions and affect government services to citizens – especially the health sector. He and his peers are currently conducting a comprehensive research on anti-corruption efforts in Iraq. It will help them define clear entry points for action. Al Nahrain Foundation for Transparency and Integrity in Iraq, an NGO that is a member of the UNDP-supported Arab Anti-Corruption and Integrity Network (ACINET), is helping their work and standing ready for the next steps.

Bushra, Khaled, Angie, Ali, Bothaina, Omar and Abdullah are just few of the enthusiastic youth that were gathered in Tunisia for this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, and a small sample of the many other students who are part of the UNDP flagship initiative of “Universities Against Corruption” in the four countries. Together, they are forming a youth-led network that is destined to grow and consolidate, determined to raise awareness and drive positive change across the Arab region in the years to come. They stand for integrity and #UnitedAgainstCorruption. Keep an eye on them.

Read more

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Arab States 
Go to UNDP Global