Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The “A” Word: Accountability

My internet was out when I got up – waaaaaay too early this morning, totally jet lagging, so I read this morning’s Kuwait Times, which I usually save as my reward for getting work done. (Yep, total news geek.)

You can usually scan a politician’s speech quickly to tell if it is platitudes or substance – so Speaker of the National Assemply Jassem Mohammed al-Koraifi’s speech at the opening of the National Assembly yesterday caught my eye. For one thing, he used the “A” word – accountability – three times. That’s a very brave word for a government official to use, and he used it in impressive ways.

He may have used the “A” word more than three times – I am betting he was speaking in Arabic, and the full text of the speech is not printed, only excerpts. Still – three times!

First, I’m impressed that he encourage women who are interested in participating as elected officials to start running NOW. He’s right. It takes more than an electoral season to build a winning platform. You know there are good women out there qualified and capable of public office – encourage them, support them, and introduce them to your friends.

The KT quotes the Speaker as saying that “reform is a responsibility that lies with all, and that that both parliament and government are first to bear that responsibility. ‘I stress to the head and members of the government; you are responsible for laying policies and responsible for implementing legislation and are accountable for your institutions and bodies’ performance, and bear the responsibility before your superiors.'” (emphasis mine)

His next reported use of the word is in his section on reform: “Parliament is a constitutional partner in the planning of reform precedures and legislation, and an overseer over implementing reform programs and realization of its objectives, and a body those who abuse its means and tools shall stand accountable to.” (emphasis mine)

The last reported use was in the part of his address on building consensus. “This should all come within a positive relationship based on transparency, credibility, mutual respect, and guarantees for optimal use of supervisory and accountability tools and where the independence of the judicial authority is maintained with none interfering in its affairs and where its objectives are the interests of Kuwait and its future, its security and its stability.”

My favorite part of the speech, beyond the “A” word, is this: “When coming upon difference inopinion or disagreement over an issue, the matter should be dealt with in parliament and in its committees and with a keeness to preserve this partnership.

“Handling such issues should be as partners who disagree rather than as enemies with a dispute; none shall question the patriotism of another, it is not right for any to doubt another’s loyalty, and there cannot be hurling of accusations and abuse and settling of scores as that would strain the social fabric and dispel amicability and respect.”

I started reading blogs when I was coming to Kuwait, and trying to find out what the issues were. The papers are . . . ambiguous. Vague. I could catch glimpses, but it was following the blogs that I have learned the most. One blog helped me understand the issues in May The Ultimate with words and photos and a discussion of what the difference was between one voting district, five voting districts or ten voting districts – something I had never found in reading the English press.

I find committment, passion, insight and intelligence in your blogs. I find potential leadership, and an honesty when you are talking with one another that I don’t find when I ask questions myself. We are all so careful in our cross-cultural conversations, not to offend, not to give too much information which makes us look bad.

My country is also young – only 200 years. We have had our corrupt Presidents, scandals, lax standards and poorly enforced laws. Rule of Law is not something that happens overnight – it only happens when a good majority of the people have the conviction that the rule of the majority serves the greater good of all, while still protecting the interests of the minority. It takes time. It takes committment. And it takes accountability.

October 31, 2006 - Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Middle East, Political Issues

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