Wednesday, 17 August, 2022

Combined Efforts Needed for Ethically Integrated Nation Building

Fariya Tabassum

Combined Efforts Needed for Ethically Integrated Nation Building

Notwithstanding the famous phrase by Abraham Lincoln “government of the people, by the people, for the people’’, frequently government is unduly considered as a single entity who is the leader and obliged to maintain national security, economic security, economic assistance as well as providing public services where citizens are the people legally belonging to the state enjoying the right and protection. In accordance with the functions of the government, the behaviour pattern, ethical standards and culture vary. Also, the responsibility of the citizens along with the government action in building an ethical standards country is significant.

Bangladesh, a problem riddled country, very often faces natural and man-made disasters where most of the time, the unconscious and unethical practice of the citizens leads to an unbalancing ambiance. The foolish manner begins at the individual level. For instance,  mandatory face musk use was initiated on July 22, 2020  due to COVID-19 and countries with risk simply accepted the dictation, whereas in Bangladesh worldly ‘mandatory use of facial musk and maintain social distance’ was not enough rather required police charge, the open court by the magistrate, and fine to make people obedient. Also, the most common event is seeing the city corporation repair the drainage system; trouble on that day is inevitable. Along with many causes, the unconscious usage of drains by throwing polythene, metal, and plastic is also the subject which is the result of the civic behaviour. Stealing the roadside dustbin and electronic materials, disseminating rumour and frittering away public resources, tendency to do cheating, etc., is also the common practice which is even not considered a crime.

In addition, today’s country is going through some economic recession like inflation, price hikes of commodity products and where the businessman’s reaction is to hide products and create an artificial crisis, and it is not the picture of today but the banal practice to do during any occasion like the month of Ramadan, natural disaster, and any worldwide incident. Hence, people in Bangladesh do not do for their betterment as a nation unless they are forced to make do.

Unconscious evil practice in routine life is not only the crux but also several other institutional level practices of bribery, corruption, nepotism etc., irrespective of the type and size of the organisation. In measuring the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, the position of Bangladesh is also noteworthy. The index of Transparency International shows the score 26 out of 100 for Bangladesh, indicating more corruption with less score, and the tale of corruption perception has merely changed within ten years. Apart from such negative aspects, the people of Bangladesh are brave and patriotic where crucial problem lies in the system and cognition.

Being a country of ethical scarcity, the government of Bangladesh is prioritising ensuring accountability, transparency, responsiveness and sustainability through National Integrity Strategy (NIS), which adopts a holistic approach for public and private organisations and society. National integrity is not merely a slogan but rather a tool for socio-economic growth that represents foreign investors' attractiveness in image building. To gain the people's trust, the national integrity strategy is working where the central government appears as a watchdog in every institution to ensure ethical practice. The contradiction may arise in understanding national integrity, whether it is an outcome of law enforcement, ethical behaviour, or both. The EY global integrity survey 2022 says that 50% of people believe that laws and code of conduct lead to reaching expected integrity level, whereas 33% emphasize ethical behaviour. Then the interpretation says it is no less important while asking about the importance of rigid law enforcement by the government in uprooting the malpractice. While it is the question of national integrity in behaviour, it is also workable.

Containing 115 actions, the cabinet division approved National Integrity Strategy on 18 October 2012, where the actions will be implemented by formulating the work plan and roadmap, conducting monitoring, arranging workshops and training programs for the stakeholders, and promoting awareness both for the public and private servants as well as the general public. The institutional arrangement of that strategy carries two major segments namely state institutions and non-state institutions. Political parties, family, private sectors, NGOs, educational institutions, and media are the concern of non-state institution where state institutions account for parliament, judiciary, attorney-general, local government institution, executive organ, and public administration. Intending to support the government, Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) has agreed to provide technical support in October 2014, and also the government is initiating several other measures taking the tool seriously.

Integrity in life is hardly recognised as an external entity in several countries. Instead is considered an unwritten and unexpressed process where the system has been built accordingly. Videlicet, ‘Singapore’s Integrity Strategy’, was the main reason for achieving Singapore's one of the world’s lowest levels of corruption and transforming its image into a beacon for good governance in Asia. Even countries with a high score on the CPI index are also high in economic development, like Hong-Kong, Japan, the UAE etc. The world also takes integrity as a serious issue, and the participation in the world integrity forum, the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), is the best precedent for it.

Building national integrity is not a one-time action rather a continuous a treatment and there is no boundary of having ethical practice. Along with the government’s project and approach, the civic society can play the most efficient and effective role where no one is out of the NIS implementation. From the family to parliament, behaviour with integrity would be a common practice rather letting it to law enforcement criteria. Thus, the dreamt Golden Bangla will come true.


The writer is a Research Associate at Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management (BIGM)