Take time for dilemmas

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Take time for dilemmas

The corona crisis causes serious dilemmas between our social relations and us. Take time for your colleague to deal with dilemmas. Most significant is the decision whether to allow a patient to go to Intensive care or give its place to another one. The decision to provide subsidy to duped entrepreneurs to alleviate immediate needs, while fearing fraud. Officials working on the street have to deal with the dilemma of having to enforce physically while having to keep a distance for their own health. For many citizens: Do I want to keep meeting my elderly parents or do I adjust to the policy of isolation of their nursing home? Many dilemmas are solved by protocols, which of course alleviates the problem of having to make the same assessment again and again. For example, the protocol of IC-doctors states that people who are older than 80, people with a disease and a bad prognosis as well as traffic victims in very bad conditions, are not be admitted to the IC anymore. However, when there’s no clear or an old protocol it’s wise to investigate dilemmas carefully when feelings, moral values, rules and laws are in conflict with each other. To avoid remorse afterward, but most of all to be able to explain drastic decisions to stakeholders: In our decision we seriously took into consideration the consequences for you.

Collective dilemma investigation

Investigating a dilemma can be done efficiently and effectively in 7 steps:

Step 1: What conflict do we confront: do we do this or that?

Step 2: Who are stakeholders? What rights and interests do they have?

Step 3: What are the facts? What do the laws and codes say? Do we need more information?

Step 4: State the arguments for both decisions. Welcome arguments of others.

Step 5: Weigh the arguments using professional values and laws, count the consequences and determine possible false excuses (empty arguments)

Step 6: Decide: which argument is decisive, but also what damage does my decision cause.   Determine how we can reduce the damage.

Step 7: Check: Morally and professionally, do I have a good feeling about this decision? If not, reconsider. If yes, implement it.

Explicable

The decision is now provided with arguments and is explicable from professional responsibility and values. Collegial consultation supports professionals, generates courage to be critical and provides conviction to make difficult decisions. Moreover, clear protocols emerge. It’s good to know that every decision is provisional. When new information is available a decision can and needs to be reconsidered. In short, also in the current crisis, take your time to reflect; together with your colleagues.

Henk Bruning

Give the Democratic Spring a shelter

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Give the Democratic spring a shelter

15 Years ago, good governance & integrity was being discussed scornfully. Nowadays there is a cautious breakthrough. Corruption and abuse of power seems to be an issue of old men and their paladins. Especially younger generations don’t accept the returning corruption scandals anymore. The most powerful symbol is the 22-year-old student Ala Salah from Sudan in her long white robes. The same bridal wear that mothers and grandmothers wore during earlier protests against the dictatorship in the 1970s. The peaceful dismissal of old Bouteflika as president of Algeria, the election of the 45 year old Zuzana Caputova as president of Slovakia – a polite, quiet person, free of aggression, calm and without suspicions and accusations – and the repeating demonstrations against authoritarian and nationalistic regimes in de Balkan countries, Hungary, Poland and Romania are encouraging signals. The people of Ukraine voted for a drastic power change and changed an oligarch for an actor. In Turkey the ‘new’ mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu,put his bets on an election campaign with love, friendship, smile, peace and children. This was quite different from the war language of president Erdogan and many other ‘cornered’ rulers, who shout about threats, complots and enemies. It’s encouraging that the renewal comes from within and is authentic. It shows that we need to be modest with our Western support. No large-scale programs with too much money and goals that are too ambitious, but tailor-made and on request. The germination of spring in many countries needs time and rest to take root and to grow. The seven miles boots of wealthy donors and Western experts are dangerous and risky.

Give shelter

What we can do as Europe and Western countries is to decrease the power and influence of oligarchs and dictators: To isolate them, to refuse or freeze their bank credits and to deny people with crimes on their conscience access to our countries. It may carry a price, but that’s real solidarity. This policy is logical because of our shared and impressive European values: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the Rule of Law. Formal terms for, as said, politeness, friendship, freedom from aggression and peace. Donor- and training institutes need to recalibrate strategy to the question: How can we support in a sustainable and coordinated way the new popular movements? Not only in the countries themselves, but also in the lobby towards our governments, the European institutions and in monitoring private companies with their business relations.

Spring can then grow into a real summer.

Henk Bruning

Sunny Future

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Sunny future

Through dryness, hunger and lack of rainfall Africa is suffering enormously from climate change, while it only contributes 2% to the greenhouse effect. China, the USA and Europe are the biggest polluters. Therefore Mr Akinwumi Adesina, CEO of the African Development Bank (AfDB), asks for effective leadership and a willingness of the world to honour the existing commitments of Paris. His appeal is an convinced invitation to neck the thinking in terms as my own interest, America First or Brexit. Adesina underlines the triangle of threats: extreme rural poverty, high youth unemployment and climate and environment problems. Together they bring terrorism to Europa and fleeing young people of whom many drown in the Mediterranean. “The future for them doesn’t lie in Europa but in Africa” Mr Adesina said.

In our time, a disproportionate amount of attention goes to the stupid and immoral ‘world leaders’ who mainly think about themselves. It’s refreshing to listen to original suggestions from sensible and involved experts. The sun can do more than grow vegetables. With this motto in the coming 10 years the AfDB wants to create 25 million ‘Youth Jobs’ and use renewable energy to ban polluted fuels.

Common solutions

Doing this Africa also offers solutions for European problems. In turn we can contribute to a prosperous Africa with good prospects. With a courageous climate policy and responsible use of human talents, natural resources and an open attitude to our colleagues in other countries. So-called world leaders still think the sun revolves around them. Because of Galileo (1597) we know that we turn around the sun. With this modesty and knowledge we are able to work across frontiers on a better world.

I wish all of you a sunny 2019.

Henk Bruning

 

25 years working together on rule of law

25 years working together on rule of law

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This year the Netherlands celebrates 25 years of cooperation on good governance and integrity with countries in the Balkan and Eastern Europe. Capacity building is the keyword. In 2018 dozens of civil servants come to the Netherlands to discuss the development of integrity and good governance with colleagues and exchange experiences. Without capacity building the rule of law means nothing, The minister of Justice & Security, Mr Ferd Grapperhaus, said at the international conference ‘Making the Difference’ in The Hague. “We need the rule of law to create a safe and stable society in which citizens can develop themselves and have a good life”. His colleague from Albania, Mr Ditmir Bushati, confirmed his words. “We want to build up the rule of law, because we want freedom for everyone and trade and development. Cooperation and learning together is the best way to achieve success. In Albania we work hard to get a rule of law that is independent of political and economical influences. Police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers will be able to do their work independently and professionally.” Both ministers compare building up the rule of law as climbing a mountain. It takes time, requires persistence to overcome resistance, but the summit is worth the effort.

The influence of integrity increases

The growing number of expert officials is an answer to the screaming and dominant leaders who think that the rule of law is nonsense. These leaders dishonour critical citizens and journalists, have a distaste towards decency and put people in jail without any judicial process. Nevertheless, they, and with them their supporting oligarchs, get isolated morally and sometimes literally because of suspicious bank accounts and houses that are too expensive, rumours about prostitution and as suspect involving mysterious murders of opponents. Their defenses sound hollow and unconvincing. Their position weakens slowly and they sometimes hit back hard. However, slowly but certainly the influence of anti-corruption agencies, independent judges and critical civil servants grows. More and more corrupted politicians and civil servants appear in court and are being judged. At the same time civil servants in the Balkan and Eastern Europe implement integrity plans. Dishonest colleagues get a penalty; risks relating to fraud and corruption have been discovered; codes of conduct are practical and mandatory. Training programmes make civil servants familiar with the importance of moral values, the handling of difficult dilemmas and the necessity of trusting civilians. Integrity, we may say, is recognized as a professional competence that will be a barrier against corruption and the abuse of power.

Of course there is disappointment and discouragement because of the unwillingness at the top to provide any reforms. In that case the power of the EU is useful. The European Union is emerging more and more as a watchdog for politicians, like in Romania where citizens asked for EU assistance, who want to descend the mountain. This movement overhead is essential in he struggle for good governance and integrity. The rule of law is not possible without capacity and expertise but it needs also the power of the EU and government leaders who advocate good governance. This bottom up and top down cooperation may grow as an advanced instrument, giving hope to citizens to get progress, happiness and justice. Summarized: after 25 years there are successes. So let’s celebrate and continue!

Henk Bruning

Intimidation is corruption

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Intimidation is corruption

If you rape me, you’ll kill me. This slogan was painted on a wall near a railway station during the eighties. I passed it daily and every time the impact was huge. It’s that bad!

The number of incidents are systematic: The cesspit that opened in the Catholic Church; serious incidents in sports that happened between trainers and youthful athletes; in the army and student clubs with their humiliation and (sexual) abuses. An EU research from 2014 reported that 1 in 20 women in Europe have been raped, with 30% of the cases being work-related. Recently a Dutch news site reported that big law firms in Amsterdam tolerate sexual intimidation as long as the perpetrator is successful and brings sufficient euros to the firm. The incidents are connected with power and dependency. Those who feel depended fear for their career and keep silent. People with power don’t seem to know the dilemma: do I misuse my power and attractiveness? Accountability is not really an issue. Officially nothing happens!

Power corrupts. It’s an issue as old as time itself. People often aren’t able to deal with power, especially when it’s embedded in an obscure subculture. A strong and critical counterweight is needed. Sexual intimidation, like all forms of threat, is a type of deception and corruption. It’s defined as a person who abuses his power to gain unauthorized favours to himself or others.

Taking risk serious

Integrity programmes put the organizational and personal values of participants in order: honesty, liability, me and the other, collegiately, professionalism and quality. The answer to the question – what are you doing when you are threatened in your personal integrity? – is to defend yourself. In hierarchies and subcultures of power abuse defending yourself is hard to do. The person reporting an incident isnt taken seriously or is taunted. Organisations are looking away or trough the fingers. That’s not right, because the feeling of ‘murder’ indicates the enormous personal, organizational and social damage. A clear approach is needed; comparable with the approach towards fraud and corruption. In those cases there are immediately criminal investigations and suspensions. Each kind of intimidation is part of serious company’ risks. The prevention and eradication of intimidation need to be part of a modern, systematic approach of integrity in company policy and in criminal law. An approach that also contributes to an honest and transparent process for all those involved.

In companies compliance departments and ethical officers report directly to the CEO. The fight against intimidation requires CEO’s active participation to realize corporate social responsibility (CSR) and to assure the security of all employees.

Henk Bruning

Long Breathe

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Long breathe

If you, like me, have watched the movie ‘The Nile Hilton Incident’ by director Tarik Saleh, you undergo two emotions.

The movie is about a totally corrupt Egypt. The protagonist is a corrupt police officer who investigates the murder of a nightclub singer in the Hilton Hotel in Cairo. The detective and his colleagues take a number of bribes from market purchasers, shopkeepers and bar owners. Whenever he finds money while arresting someone, the money disappears in his pockets directly and without any shame. All levels of policework are only about dividing the profit. However, the murder becomes a political charge when it is discovered that the murderer is probably a very rich businessman and friend of the president. The detective is confused and wants to find the true guilty person. The case and the corruption are scaled up to the highest governmental level and more murders and intimidation follow. Now, he also is in danger. After the next murder he tells his boss: “I’m sick of this, I can’t stand it anymore!.” This is all in vain, he is forced to join in this absurd reality.

At that moment my first emotion arises. I immediately stop working on good governance and integrity. It’s senseless; in these countries improvement is impossible.

However, the Arab Spring forms the background of the movie. The big demonstrations at the Tahrir Place and surrounding streets literally flood the detective and his boss. By executive order police officers shoot at the protestors. They shout ‘Mubarak, murderer’ and demand justice. This word is also used by a superior of the detective, when saying: “Stop investigating this case; in this country justice doesn’t exist.“

Finding connection

The faces of the protesters are impressive; men, women, with and without headscarf, and many youngsters. They embody the anger about the hidden side of power, poverty, the disastrous effects of corruption and arbitrariness and their deep wish for improvement.

Now the second emotion rises. The continuation of the combat against corruption is needed. However we really need all (international) power and influence, as well as a long breathe. Precisely to see and to support all individual persons who are struggling with their moral compass.

Henk Bruning

Indignation

Responsible Administration

Indignation

Recently a dinner about business ethics took place titled ‘trust, worthy of investment’. It provided a nice debate about value-based organisations. Conclusion: Wonderful, but how do we put this into practice?

It does not seem to be going too well when you read the story of a thriving Dutch gas meter family company with 125 employees, which became a prey for venture investors. In 2006 an American investment company took over the company. After two years a British venture company bought the company and shifted 60 workplaces to Turkey and Slovakia. The next buyer deleted another 30 jobs. Last year the American company Honeywell took over the company and shifted the last jobs to Germany. The former thriving gas meter company closed. All employees were fired.

The story fits into the philosophy of ‘unscrupulous’ entrepreneurs who prioritise self-interest. They represent a ‘disorderly’ capitalism, driven by egoism, greed and self-interest. Governance and rules are completely taboo. In this world, there are no moral values like solidarity, CSR or taking into account the interests of employees and their families. It’s the way back to the feudal Middle Ages with rulers who consider people as serfs. These people do have good connections with the growing group of dictators who are surrounded by uncritical paladins, demand absolute loyalty and never account themselves. For them, human rights and moral values are subordinate to self-interest.

Counter movement

Against this wave of rudeness, the attention for integrity grows. International participants of integrity courses base themselves on values like truth, honesty, sincerity, good manners and responsibility. They do invest in trust. They are people with the courage to disagree and show indignation. Like the mayor of Palermo (Sicilia), who has been a proven fighter against the mafia since 1985. Citizens see him as a hero. He considers refugees not as a problem but as human beings who have the right to have a life with perspective.

These values belong to democracy, where the people reign and not a few rulers or egoists. Dictators, disruptive capitalists and the mafia form a tight front against democrats, social entrepreneurs, professional civil servants and conscientious politicians. To win the complex fight a deep international cooperation and permanent education are of vital importance. To keep our dignity!

Henk Bruning

For example Romania

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For example Romania

In between all the news about American populism and the fake news that confuses us, the messages from Romania are hopeful. The big demonstrations recently in Bucharest to keep prosecuting serious corruption are successful. Within the government there are real problems and the arbitrary measure not to prosecute corruption up to € 44.000 has been withdrawn. The fury of the population is partly due to the work of the anti-corruption authority DNA. The authority is feared because its prosecutors brought 2450 people from politics, civil service and business to court during the last two years. 90% of cases ended in a conviction.

Working disciplined and hard is important for reaching sustainable results in encouraging good governance. Corruption has a relationship with popularity and condone. So was re-elected easily, a mayor of a Romanian city who campaigned from the cell. ‘Well’, said a 58-year-old citizen, ‘in his place I would probably also put my finger in the honey pot’. People unconditionally loved the mayor because he kept the city clean and made it famous. That he also caused a € 30 million debt for the city is less known. The mayor is preparing himself for the trial. However, he doesn’t trust the system anymore and wants to leave his country.

Since 1989 -when the people demonstrated successfully against dictator Ceausescu – the European Union (EU) supported the country to build the Rule of Law. The EU monitored and threatened with sanctions when civic delegations went to Brussels to warn about corruption. The protesting citizens in February made their demand for the Rule of Law clear.

Populism is corruption

The example of Romania teaches us that besides perseverance also a good organization is needed as well as strong leaders of anti-corruption  agencies. At the same time involvement from society keeps the pressure on the boiler. Romania shows that domestic cooperation with the EU and its principles of Rule of Law helps to break the power of a government. Ignorance among citizens plays into the hands of corrupted people. Awareness, information and meetings involves citizens and shows that without stealing, mayors can also benefit local society.

Like this mayor, populists say that they speak in name of the population. They give presents to gain votes. It’s not really an ideology, but a deliberate strategy. NGO Transparency International investigated this kind of misleading and debunks it: corruption increases especially under the authority of populism. Romanian citizens are aware about that!

Henk Bruning

Happy New Year

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Happy New Year

Best wishes for a nice, inspiring, healthy and happy 2017 are flooding us; on postcards or funny modern media. We wish all the best to our friends, family, colleagues and whomever we meet in shops or on the street. New year is a time for reflection, going back to family and friends for a while. To dwell on the unrest in many countries. A moment of getting away from the tough reality of our work and our lives. A kind of shelter to get back on breath. When we come back after January 1 and we have stowed or thrown away all wishes, we get back to normal live. As if nothing has changed. That isn’t needed!

According to Aristotle happiness is a possession that all people desire for their own sake. Happiness is not a tool but an end in itself. It’s a moral virtue, the happy medium between two extremes. He shows braveness as an example: A virtue between cowardice and rashness. Aristotle was a realist who based his knowledge on observation, description and interpretation of reality.

In the fight against corruption and abuse of power we also indicate wrongdoings, when they are not in line with our moral standards. It literally makes us unhappy. We want to straighten it. The Belgian Muslim Mohamed El Bachiri gives us an inspiring example. In 2016 he lost his wife, mother of his two children, in a terrorist attack in Brussels. Instead of hating the offenders he pleads for love and empathy as an answer. Not imposing the truth on people, but taking the human competences of goodness and genius as starting point. Finding each other and, from our rich common history, work on a happy future.

Happiness as encouragement

Therefore the wishes for happiness are more then a symbolic action. They encourage us to be brave. Not cowardly or overconfident, but to trying to realize happiness within our possibilities in work and in live. To stand for our own values and those of our organisations. To increase our influence step by step and inspire others.

Save some well-meant ‘happy new year’ wishes. Read a wish again during the year or show it to a colleague. All wishes will give you new energy to strengthen our common happiness.

I wish all of you a happy new year,

Henk Bruning

Ethics across boundaries

Ethics across boundaries

Responsible administration

 

 

 

The conversation at the congress ‘Could a robot be honest?’ was about worldwide digital companies like Facebook, Google, Airbnb and WhatsApp. We tried to answer the question why these companies send in an army of expensive lawyers in case a national government is asking a critical question. The answer was astonishingly simple! These companies don’t have ethics. The only ‘ethics’ is to earn money. This might not be true for the company’ founders, but it is true for their managers. They sell a brilliant idea. The workspace is worldwide and therefore they don’t feel connected with the values and culture of a country or its citizens. Only financial damage influences a company’s policy. But even in that case a company like Facebook takes incomprehensible decisions, like the removal of a ‘nude’ printed on a famous painting. Or they refuse a face affected by fire inviting people to donate money. These companies never provide accountability. Policymakers wrap themselves into anonymity. It’s only about growing. That’s why they send lawyers. Globalization of power over information makes good governance and integrity difficult. How do you maintain good national governance when nobody takes it to the heart or feels connected to it?

At the same congress a philosopher formulated an answer with the help of Plato (2500 B.C.). Plato asked the question: How can life be good for the other and me? This question brings you back to yourself. Technology is the logics of techniques, but it remains only a means. Thinking asks a more profound question to the objective: What quality of society do we want?   The mentioned companies evade this question. Offering the means, they refuse to reflect on the consequences and whether their products contribute to our social happiness. For example: The unbridled information on social media seems a good means, but could be very harmful for users and society.

Arrangements

Unlimited freedom for companies causes excesses. It is the government’s duty to define rules and oblige companies to contribute to a good society. Values and norms also apply for global information bastions. However, legislation is not adapted to new circumstances. For example, companies play off countries against each other with dubious tax deals eroding the principle of equal treatment. The company pays 0,05 %; a small bakery 42%. The new reality of irresponsible global firms asks new questions about maintaining good governance. What can governments do? First off, they can sharply monitor whether the companies obey the legislation also applying to citizens. Secondly they can put these firms into juridical defence and not leave the initiative back to them. Thirdly, they can underline our common values within the EU and UN in order to keep the companies’ interests within the ethical norms. Even if we cannot make the robot ethical, then certainly the creators and merchants.

Henk Bruning