October 30, 2014
AJS, Honduran gov’t, and Transparency International sign a groundbreaking anti-corruption agreement
The Honduran president and AJS’s Carlos Hernández stood up together in front of the room. A black table had been brought out and placed between them and the crowd made up of reporters, dignitaries, and justice advocates gathered together in the reception hall of the presidential office building.
Joined by Transparency International Chair Huguette Labelle*, the two men approached the table. All eyes were on them. Waiting on the table for their signatures were the papers of an unprecedented agreement between the Honduran government, Transparency International, and AJS — a commitment to fighting the rampant corruption that has overtaken Honduras.
The agreement — which was signed on Monday, Oct. 6 — is of major importance to a variety of people.
- To drug traffickers, shady businesspersons, dubious politicians, underhanded officials, and others who depend on corruption to do their business, the agreement is a significant blow and a threat. For many of them, they choose to do business in Honduras because of the corruption and impunity that exist.
- To poor and vulnerable people in Honduras, this agreement is a sign of hope. As corrupt individuals have grown rich from practicing misdeeds, many Hondurans continue to go without services that the government should be providing, such as proper healthcare, education, and infrastructure. The agreement received a high volume of coverage from Honduras’ largest newspapers, TV stations, and radio programs — an indication of public interest in ending corruption.
- To Transparency International (TI) — an international organization working through chapters in more than 100 countries, including AJS in Honduras — this is the first time that the organization has signed an agreement with a government to monitor a country’s anti-corruption efforts. In the past, any agreement of this type would be signed by the TI chapter and not TI itself. Having TI — a well-respected, international organization — as a signatory adds extra weight to the agreement.
- To the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, the agreement is both a chance to send a strong anti-corruption message and a significant political risk. While he stands to gain popular support by painting himself as tough on corruption, the opposite may occur if public reports end up showing poor progress. The agreement is also the first time the Honduran government has formulated a public anti-corruption plan without heavy outside pressure. Additionally, serious progress against corruption in Honduras can help change perceptions of the country on the international stage.
- To AJS, the agreement is the next step forward in our anti-corruption work in Honduras. The government will open their books to AJS, and we’ll monitor and report on the government’s progress in combatting corruption. We’ve done a number of investigations and reports on corruption in the government, but being the official monitor of a government anti-corruption campaign backed by the Honduran president, that’s an altogether new — and exciting — role. Our role as a monitor is a recognition of AJS as an influential and trusted organization in Honduras. This role can potentially have a broader impact on Honduras than anything else AJS has done up until now.
The commitment — referred to as the Collaboration and Good Faith Agreement — focuses on five areas for focusing anti-corruption efforts: health, education, security and justice, infrastructure projects, and tax administration.
The agreement can be traced back to a crazy thought that popped into the head of Carlos Hernández — the president of the board of AJS-Honduras — during the 2013 presidential election in Honduras: what if we asked the new president to make an anti-corruption plan, and AJS and TI were to monitor and report on progress. Now, about one year later, that crazy thought is a reality.
“This agreement has the potential to change the lives of Hondurans. But we have to work together to make this a reality.” – Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International
After the public signing of the agreement, we didn’t waste any time in getting to work. That same afternoon, AJS met with the attorney general, the president of Congress, and 14 of the country’s 15 Supreme Court justices to talk about next steps.
AJS staff members continue to channel our excitement about this agreement into action. We’re beginning the process of monitoring and assessing the government’s progress on its anti-corruption efforts, and, starting in 2015, we will publish reports for the public every three months.
There are certain to be many challenges ahead as we take on this exciting role, but we know that we can embrace this role with boldness and good courage. We can look to the examples throughout the Bible and the history of people who God called to stand up bravely up for justice and speak truth to power.
We’re also encouraged by those who have been a part of our work for justice through praying for AJS and supporting us financially. This support helps make our anti-corruption and anti-violence work possible.
Once again, AJS has been given an opportunity to live out our mission to be brave Christians.
For a personal perspective on this agreement, check out this short interview with Cristabel Parchment, a long-time AJS-Honduras board member:
Below are two samples of coverage from major Honduran media outlets (both in Spanish):
Popular morning talk show (Frente a Frente) interviewing AJS-Honduras Board President Carlos Hernández and Transparency International Chair Huguette Labelle (below)
For more on the agreement, check out this page on Transparency International’s website.
You can find out more about AJS’s anti-corruption work with the following links:
*Since the signing, Huguette Labelle’s term as chair has ended.