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IRI Arab Women’s Leadership Institute: "Showcasing Good Governance Measures and Combating Corruption"

Sunday, March 4, 2012 to Thursday, March 15, 2012

Program Description

From March 4-15, 2012, the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) in cooperation with the Institute for Representative Government (IRG), conducted a ten day study tour mission to the United States for five Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Middle East region representing the countries of Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.  The study tour focused on showcasing good governance measures in preventing and fighting corruption in the U.S. at the national, state and local level. The delegation observed how U.S. elected officials interact with and respond to constituents on legislative issues and discussed what they see as their specific roles in combating corruption and promoting good governance. Furthermore, the delegation also learned from American civil society organizations how they organize and conduct advocacy campaigns to fight various forms of governmental corruption in the U.S. 

While in Washington, DC, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with representatives from “Watch Dog” civil society organizations such as Citizens Against Government Waste, think tanks including the Heritage Foundation, members of the media and Members of Congress including Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) who currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is the Chairman of the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. These meetings proved instrumental in that they helped the AWLI delegation understand the multi-tiered work and efforts of American society in fighting and preventing corruption practices.

Also as part of the study tour, the delegation traveled to Columbus, Ohio were participants met with prominent local women political leaders including Jo Ann Davidson, former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and founder of the Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute; and Betty Montgomery, former Ohio State Senator, Attorney General and State Auditor who now serves as chairwoman of the Davidson Institute.  The delegation met with a member of the Ohio state judiciary, Ohio Supreme Court Judge Justice Yvette McGee Brown. Justice McGee Brown provided insight on the legal aspect of fighting corruption in the U.S. and also an in-depth look at the local state and district court system.  In addition, the delegation also learned about the technical practices of state wide anti-corruption efforts through a discussion with the Executive Director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, Paul Nick.  Najla Bouriel, Member of the National Constituent Assembly in of Tunisia said of the meeting, “I found this meeting most useful in that I have learned the importance of an independent ethics commission and how it can contribute to ensuring that public officials perform their duties honestly and in accordance to the law.”

At the conclusion of the U.S. study tour, AWLI and IRI staff worked with delegation members to develop strategic action plans using the knowledge gained from their discussions and meetings in Washington, DC and Columbus, Ohio and tailored to the needs of each of their respective countries. 

Strategic plans included awareness campaigns ranged from sponsoring an essay contest in primary schools on the theme of corruption to hosting a series of study tours for university students to visit parliament and participate in roundtable discussions with elected officials and political party members.  Plans contained outreach initiatives to the civil society community to specifically place pressure on existing groups to build their capacity to focus on ensuring government accountability and transparency.

In order to continue with assisting AWLI participants with implementing their strategic action plans back home, AWLI hosted a follow up event from July 12 – 15, 2012 at its headquarters in Amman, Jordan which allowed participants to present on the activities they have conducted to date and discuss the progress of their anti-corruption strategic plans. The session also included a case study by guest speaker Janne Nijman, an associate professor of public international law at the Department of European and International Law in the Netherlands. 

Nijman is associated with IRI’s Dutch Democracy Partner the Eduardo Frei Foundation which has partnered with AWLI to provide trainers for AWLI programs throughout 2012.  Nijman focused her case study on sharing the anti-corruption efforts, including specific details on developing and implementing strategic work in fighting corruption in the Netherlands.  The session provided real-time examples and ideas to participants on how to conduct successful anti-corruption advocacy campaigns and further inspired participants work back home.

Dr. Najat Al Astal, MP from the West Bank said after her attendance in the follow-on session, “As a member of the parliament, I believe that corruption is the antithesis of good governance.  It is the opposite of democratic principles, ethics, and human rights.”

For the program agenda, see the attachment below.

Program Results

During the follow-on session, AWLI Board member Dr. Eman Al Hussein from Jordan, moderated a roundtable discussion about forming an anti-corruption coalition.  It was from this discussion that the AWLI participants decided to establish a Women’s Network for Anti-Corruption under the AWLI umbrella that would specifically work to increase anti-corruption efforts throughout the Arab region.  Each participant agreed to recruit 5-10 female MPs that represent different sectors, political parties and religion to include in this Network.

The delegates also agreed to conduct trainings for the founding members of the anti-corruption network and for newly recruited women from each country.  They planned to draft a strategic plan for each country apart of the network, including choosing a point of contact and determining the priorities for that country.  The group hopes to design a FB group to initiative cross-border communication of the network and provided additional space for information sharing.  Lastly, they planned to each identify local partners to build coalitions with including civil society organizations in their respective home countries that could assist in supporting and funding the activities of the network.

Conclusions/Future Recommendations

Overall, IRG AWLI participants stressed that the program was highly beneficial to them.  They expressed the need for continued programs similar to the IRG study tour exchange, particularly with the U.S. portion of the program which allowed them to learn more about both national and state level government day-to-day operations.  Participants sited much of the program’s success due to the manageable, smaller size of the group which allowed for more practical one on one discussion and working groups.  AWLI participants stated that they hope to conduct trainings of their own using what they learned on U.S. government anti-corruption practices from the IRG program for other politically active women in the MENA region. 

As a recommendation for future IRG programs, AWLI participants suggested that the study tour also include more technical training sessions (in addition to meetings with U.S. members of Congress, civil society and governmental officials).  Specifically for the topic of anti-corruption, participants noted that training on the use of financial disclosure forms for elected and appointed officials, including the drafting and implementation of such forms would have been useful to them.

Follow-on Activities

Fatima Daif, MP from Morocco has coordinated with five women MPs in the current parliament to include in the proposed anti-corruption AWLI Network. Outreach efforts by IRG participants to grow this AWLI anti-corruption Network also include the work of Najla Bourial, Member of the National Constituent Assembly from Tunisia who has reached out to two additional MPs from Tunisia. Lastly, AWLI has also been invited by the British Department for International Development (DFID) to support the launch of the AWLI anti-corruption network in Jordan.  AWLI conducted a roundtable discussion with Jordan members on November 1 to outline goals for such a program.