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Honduras - Historic Agreement

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09 October 2014

President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, elected in January this year, has implemented strong anti-corruption monitoring in an historic agreement with Transparency International and Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (ASJ).

Honduras is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the Americas. 60% of the population lives below the poverty line. It not only has one of the highest crime and murder rates in the world, but also has one of the region’s lowest scores in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index as well as in the Human Development Index.

President Hernández has identified corruption as a key underlying cause of these problems and has asked groups like TI and ASJ to support the implementation and monitoring of his anti-corruption plan. The plan will focus on five areas: health, education, security and justice, infrastructure projects and tax administration, as well as a cross-cutting approach to improve public procurement and human resources hiring and management.

President Hernández said this week, “We will create a system that grows healthily, without corruption and at a pace that allows for the expansion of the national economy.”

Carlos Hernández Martinez, Executive Secretary, ASJ, a Christian group working for justice in Honduras, says, “The five topics included in this agreement are fundamental for the future of the country and we will support the implementation of the anti-corruption agenda around them.”

Martinez is firm that ASJ will maintain its independence so it can “make sure to recognise the government when progress is made as well as raise our voice when they are lagging behind.”

ASJ and TI have both been key supporters in setting up the global EXPOSED campaign to shine a light on corruption. Joel Edwards, who heads up EXPOSED, says of ASJ, “They are an extremely committed group working under a lot of pressure. This collaboration between the government and ASJ shows what committed Christians can achieve. We will be praying that this strategy helps to change the culture of Honduras.

Two key areas of corruption that will be examined are health and education. Resources stolen from the education budget mean the poorest being shut out from school, exams for sale, overcrowded classrooms and crumbling school buildings.

The case is similar in the health sector. For the more than 5 million Hondurans living in poverty, the Ministry of Health is their only option to access medical services and medicines. Making the best use of the medicines that are bought annually with US$24 million from the public budget should be a priority. In the health sector, ASJ and other civil society organisations have discovered corruption in the supply chain and distribution of medicines. In some cases, expired medicines were bought and given out and a scheme to steal medicines from the central warehouse was uncovered.

But corruption is also seen in the drug trade. Honduras is an important transit country on the drug and people trafficking route to the USA. Disputes between rival cartels and gangs have contributed to a growing crime rate and overall violence in the country. San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, is the city with the world’s highest murder rate (187 murders per 100,000 inhabitants).

The President of the Federation of Christian Lawyers (FIAJC) Dr Vilma Balmaceda, praised the work of ASJ, “This process took a lot of brave perseverance. Our colleagues…. Have worked with courage and patience for a more just and peaceful Honduras. Thank you for your example of perseverance in the midst of difficult circumstances.”

The work of Transparency International and Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (ASJ) will be vital in tackling systemic corruption so Honduras can thrive as a nation.

Reported by Amanda Jackson, Micah Challenge and Vilma (Nina) Balmaceda, FIAJC