Magharebia (Washington DC)

2 October 2012

Mauritania: Civil Society Battles Corruption

Nouakchott — Corruption strips young people of motivation and hinders job creation, participants in a Nouakchott forum said.

Mauritanian civil society groups last week explored how they can partake in the country's anti-graft struggle and help create jobs for young people.

A three-day workshop, which wrapped up on Saturday (September 29th) in Nouakchott, featured presentations on the role of media in exposing bribery, international treaties and governance.

Participants in the government-sponsored event discussed how to integrate youth in active life to help them find a social and psychological balance that would keep them on the right path.

The authorities "are well aware of the repercussions of corruption and its harmful effect on the economy and society, and therefore, the government's efforts to rationally manage public money over the past years have enabled us to save huge financial resources", said Economy Minister Sidi Ould Tah.

The government managed to create infrastructure for vulnerable categories and create jobs, according to the minister. The strategy was capped with a host of tangible measures, such as joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and introducing reforms in financial administration so as to create a culture of transparency, Ould Tah said.

Participants learned the concepts, methods and mechanisms to battle graft as well as its effect on youth employment. They got familiar with the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and other regional treaties.

The workshop is a landmark event that entirely falls within the Mauritanian government's interests, Ould Tah said.

The UNCAC entered into force in 2005 and has 155 signatories, said UNDP Resident Representative in Mauritania Coumba Mar Gadio. "Most countries are now convinced of the need to create suitable circumstances for good governance, transparency and combating bribery to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals," she said.

Any real success in managing resources will necessarily affect young people, participants agreed.

"The relation between the dangers of bribery and rate of unemployment among young people is very strong, as bribery is the use of money and financial resources in destinations different from their original destinations," Mohamed Abdellahi Bellil, head of the Association Alliance against Bribery in Mauritania, told Magharebia.

"Allocations for training and employing young people are either misplaced or not spent at all," he added. "Such acts are harmful to education and deny the country the possibility of creating job opportunities, enterprises and physical training. This would deny young people the necessary rehabilitation needed for entering the realm of development and would make them liable to deviation, loss and extremism."

Corruption strips youth of motivation and prevents them from developing talent, according to Bellil. "They become liable to depression and an easy prey," he said.

Mauritania needs to enact laws that would activate the role of civil society in financial oversight and grant it the right to prosecute the corruptor, the activist concluded.

"When there is corruption, there are lost employment opportunities," Kamra Sidi Moussa, Secretary-General of the Mauritanian Observatory for Combating Corruption, told Magharebia. "Through this workshop, we discussed the mechanisms that would enable the civil society to be effective in combating corruption although it's not the decision-maker and doesn't have the power to hold people to account"

"We must be involved in the development process by having the necessary means, including information and documents," he added. "If we can realise these demands, the performance of the economy will improve and more job opportunities will be created for young people."

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