Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Centre was launched in Qatar yesterday with a call by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to  fight corruption and promote human rights to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) . This story was reported in The Gulf Times today.

Moon said the fight against  corruption is and should remain at the centre of rule of law, “and the fight against corruption requires more urgency now than before to promote human rights and ensure all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are achieved”.

"Corruption is a global phenomenon  that impedes growth and development, which is also a threat to the important efforts being made in reducing poverty and achieving the MDGs. Because of corruption, many poor and vulnerable people are being denied education and other essential services they need to maintain a normal day-to-day living,” he said.

He described the centre in Qatar as a “step forward in a collective journey of implementing the UN’s effort against corruption”, saying: “The launching of this centre is coming at a time when people in the Arab world are rising and fighting against corruption. And as billions of ordinary people are saying no to corruption, the international communities must listen...all must heed their cry.”

Ki-moon, who drummed up support for the Doha centre, said the UN welcomed increased number of activities being initiated by governments and private organisations across the globe to fight corruption.“Corruption distorts the market and increases costs for companies, so building partnership between public and private sectors is very crucial to combat the threat of corruption against global economy,” he noted while also calling on co-operations between civil society organisations (CSOs) across the board.

“All people have the responsibility to speak against corruption because combating it starts with every individual, which makes it important to focus on anti-corruption education in order to tackle the issue head on,” Ki-moon said.

While pledging further support by the UN for the centre’s operation, he commended Qatari leadership for always taking a pioneering role in the region, especially for hosting in Qatar, some two years ago, the Third Session of the Conference of Parties of States to the UN Convention Against Corruption. “Qatar has once again showed its role in championing efforts in the region and for setting international agenda and it should be our collective desire to recover the stolen future of the ordinary people...we can’t fail them,” he added.

Qatar’s Attorney General Dr Ali bin Futais al-Marri noted in a welcome address that corruption and lack of transparency as well as absence of such centre as the one being launched in Qatar have led to some of the recent uprisings in the region and also contributed to the financial crises in the eurozone. He maintained that Qatar has remained on top of the list of less-corrupt countries, attributing the present status to the country’s free and independent judiciary system.

“The launch of this centre here is a further proof of the commitments by HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and HH the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to ensure the rule of law and guide against corruption, especially by making sure that the judiciary is completely independent which is not the case in many countries in the region,” he pointed out.

Although many people regard the Middle East region generally as a highly corrupt region (and there are many examples of corruption in the region often involving Western and other companies securing huge defence and infrastructure contracts by the use of bribes and so-called commission payments), Qatar should not be included within this group. Qatar has been ranked at 22 by Transparency International's recently published public perceptions index 2011 The UK by comparison was only a few places ahead of Qatar at 16, and the US has fallen behind Qatar at 24th place, with Spain at 31st place.

Compared with some of its Middle Eastern neighbours, Qatar is 1st in the regional rankings within the Middle East and North Africa geographic group, Israel being at 36, Bahrain at 46, Oman at 50, Saudi Arabia at 57 and Tunisia at 73.

The launch of this centre will not only encourage inward foreign investment into Qatar, but it will also set an example for the rest of the Middle East region and, we hope, encourage other regional countries to reform their own laws and enforce those laws properly in order to drive down the high levels of corruption.