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Corruption creates obstacle to poverty alleviation

Irene Khan tells launching ceremony of her book

Staff Correspondent, Daily Star.

Bangladesh has been a “classic case of successive, democratically elected governments promoting ‘kleptocracy’, a system that runs on greed and corruption,” said Irene Khan, former secretary general of Amnesty International (AI), yesterday.
Such a culture of corruption has led to misappropriation of huge amount of funds came to Bangladesh for development purposes and thus deprived the poor of their right to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty.
“Greed, corruption and patronage thrive under the veneer of democracy among self-servicing political and business elites,” Irene said at the launching ceremony of her book titled ‘The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights’ at Brac Centre in the city.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Brac Founder and Chairman Fazle Hasan Abed, former advisers Akbar Ali Khan and Hossain Zillur Rahman and Director of Brac Development Institute Syed M Hashemi also spoke.
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Chairman Rehman Sobhan chaired the launching ceremony of the book. It was also launched in countries such as the US and the UK.

In her book, Irene said, “From petty bribery to grand larceny of government funds, corruption has deprived the poor, and driven resources into the hands of the rich in my country [Bangladesh].”
Those who are in power keep everything such as property under their control here, she told the media.
According to Irene, poverty has a lot of causes, which include corruption and misuse of power. “If the ruling class misuse power and tolerate corruption, it will be tough to eradicate poverty.”
Evaluating the performance of the government in fighting corruption, she said, “There is not so much progress in fighting corruption. No case has been filed against corruption while some cases have been dropped.”

The former AI secretary general blamed the present and past governments for not taking adequate steps against corruption.
“The governments did not take steps against these practices in the past. Even now, this matter has not got adequate attention of the government,” said Irene, suggesting that corruption should be eliminated through a systemic manner, not through ad hoc means.

In her book, she argued that poverty is not primarily about economics and income levels but about the powerlessness which should be viewed from the lens of human rights.
“People are poor because of discrimination, exclusion, state repression, corruption, insecurity and violence. These are human rights problems.” She asserted that poverty remains a global epidemic because it is seen as an economic problem.
“Economic analysis does not capture the full dimension of poverty and economic growth alone cannot resolve the problems of people living in poverty,” argued Irene as she cited the examples of Bangladesh, which has seen a steady rise in national income between 1990 and 2006.
Citing studies, she said there was in the same period rising child malnourishment and a decline in access to clean water in urban areas.
Pointing to cyclone Aila-hit area Koira and Satkhira, she said hundreds of families are living on embankments; their fields and homes still remain under water because of the embankments having been breached.
“The government has made no effort to repair the breaches in the embankments. So people live in destitution and desperation. What can be more stark than powerlessness of the poor and non-accountability of the state.”
“What I want to say in the book is that if we want to reduce poverty, we will need to empower them,” she said, adding that unity of poor people helps bring about changes.

Prof Rehman Sobhan said the government must be made accountable for protecting human rights through the judiciary and public litigations.

This article is quoted from The Daily Star, Bangladesh. The article was originally published on 2010-01-22.
The book can be bought online on amazon.

This article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Bangladesh, Development, Education and qualification, Sustainability.

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