Monterey hosts landmark conference on ''Building Integrity''
More than 150 high-level participants from the military and civilian spheres gathered in Monterey, California, from 23 to 25 February to share experiences on how best to fight against corruption in the defence and security sector.
Specifically, they discussed ways to strengthen the Building Integrity Initiative, which aims to develop practical tools to promote greater transparency and accountability, and the better management of scarce resources in the defence sector.
The “2011 NATO Building Integrity Conference” was organized by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), the Partnership for Peace Centre for Training and Education in the United States, in collaboration with NATO. Senior military and civilian officials included General Stéphane Abrial, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation and Avgustina Tzvetkova, Deputy Minister of Defence of Bulgaria. Participants also included parliamentarians, international organizations (including the World Bank), non-governmental organizations (including Transparency International and Integrity Watch Afghanistan), think tanks and academia and representatives of industry (the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association Europe)
There was general agreement among participants that addressing corruption in defence was a priority in order to effectively and efficiently manage and sustain public finances, pivotal to the building of modern and functioning states.
Transparency and accountability are paramount
General Abrial stressed that building integrity and promoting accountability are paramount in sustaining the security and stability that the military forces have fought for. He stated that the Building Integrity Initiative is a key “enabler” for the military force and stressed that Building Integrity is not about NATO delivering lessons to everyone else on how to combat corruption but rather, about Allies and partners coming together, on an equal footing, to devise concrete ways of advancing transparency and accountability and reducing the risk of corruption in defence establishments. He emphasized the need for concrete tools to be developed in order to measure progress and sustain momentum under the Initiative.
Dr Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Directors of Transparency International, stated that corruption is a problem in the defence and security sector but is not limited to that sector. However, she noted that tackling corruption in defence and security could have a “positive and disproportionate influence on other sectors.”
General Abrial proposed that the Building Integrity Initiative should be extended to the industrial sphere. This idea was supported by Dr Labelle who stated that “engagement with the private sector and by the private sector was essential.”
Sir Stewart Eldon, former United Kingdom Ambassador to NATO, emphasized that governments “increasingly recognize that addressing the corruption issue is very much in their own self interest in terms of the health of their defence institutions and indeed of saving money.”
Focus on Afghanistan
The final day of the Conference focused upon introducing a dedicated Building Integrity programme for Afghanistan, an initiative that is currently being developed by the NATO International Staff in cooperation with the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) and the pool of Building Integrity partners. As a vital part of the NATO Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan, this programme seeks to embed the principles of transparency and accountability within the Afghan National Security Forces and, by providing concrete tools, support the Afghan Ministries of Defence and Interior to reduce the risk of corruption.
As noted by Dr Jack Kem, Deputy to the Commander of the NTM-A, the Building Integrity Initiative offers an attractive means to reward virtue and good behaviour and help build the much-needed structure for reducing corruption in Afghanistan, complementing other ongoing efforts in-theatre.
Overall, the Monterey conference, which was organised under the auspices of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), provided renewed momentum for this important initiative. It demonstrated what is required in order that Building Integrity should be part of the mainstream of normal NATO processes.