To fight against chronic issues of corruption, bad governance and impunity, we need leaders with integrity
Integrity is essential to the functioning of a healthy, diverse, and accountable government. To fight against chronic issues of corruption, bad governance and impunity, we need leaders with integrity. Nepal has made good progress toward better governance—opening up opportunities for citizens to participate in decision-making, improving oversight of the legislature and auditing agencies and rooting corruption at some of the institutions at the highest levels. But it is not enough; and it is certainly not fast enough. The Open Budget Index indicates that our budget is still largely nontransparent and oversight is minimal. The World Bank indicates that Nepal scores poorly on indicators like the right to information, the ease of doing business and many other domains.
One of the major issues inviting corruption is our tendencies to make money at any cost. And that our government is led by the same generation of people that have perpetuated this inefficient system for decades. The time has come to empower young local leaders—in government and civil society—who can be the vanguard of a new generation of responsible leaders.
We need to encourage these young leaders at every opportunity. That is exactly our Integrity Icon campaign is trying to do: “name and fame” those public officials who go the extra mile. Punya Prabha Devkota is one such public servant. As a senior auxiliary nurse midwife in Mugu district hospital in Karnali, she has spent many sleepless nights helping patients, and in some instances helping deliver babies on the road, wrapping them with her own scarf. We are also highlighting Prem Bahadur Darai, an English teacher in Tanahu. During his time as principal, the school saw significant improvements in the quality of education, lower dropout rates, higher pass rates and increased trust between parents, children and the school management committee. Ishwar Subedi, a food investigation officer, is credited for ensuring healthy food, implementing mobile food lab, and protecting the public’s rights for safer food consumption. Gynendra Kumar Mishra, a forest officer, realized that the rights and responsibilities offered by the government he works for can bring transformative change in society. Kajiman Rai spent a long time working at local levels. He has left mark in every assignment.
With new technologies, access to the internet, a growing culture of openness and a free media, young people are taking in charge and demanding change in a number of social, economic and political issues. Aiding Nepali youth with the tools to promote and implement integrity is a powerful agenda that begins at the dinner table and emanates out to business, civil society and government. It is up to us to support them in achieving integrity for their future, and the generations to come.
That is not to suggest the older generation do not have a role to play—quite the opposite. They have to act as role models and understand how to change systems as they pass through them. Think of Kulman Ghising, for example, who single-handedly transformed the Nepal Electricity Authority, virtually eliminating graft and the debilitating power cuts that came with it. The importance of his work also lies in shifting focus from an individual to institutional integrity— growing sphere of influence of those with accountability from the few to the many. This has helped shift norms and fundamentally changed governance within NEA. Let’s hold up role-models like Ghising wherever we can. Naming and shaming has passed its sell-by-date—young people today prefer “naming and faming”, which is what we are doing through Integrity Icon.
We and our public servants need to think deeply about what it is that we want our future generations to inherit—financial wealth is ephemeral. Real value lies in our collective commitment to integrity and ethical leadership. Young Nepalis are realizing this and beginning to find ways to do so. Our older generation would do well to understand that they need to act as role models; and if they do not, they will quickly become obsolete.
Adhikari is social entrepreneur, and co-founder of Integrity Icon