With American troops leaving, Iraq is now faced with the task of fortifying its relatively new democratic government. This week, Wright State University Center for International Education hosted a group of seven Iraqi government officials who are touring the United States to study government transparency.
Whether by developing an open and more participatory budget process or rooting out public sector corruption through the judicial system, the visitors shared a common goal: creating a transparent and accountable government in the Middle Eastern nation.
“Corruption is a corrosive force which limits economic growth and democratic process,” said Wright State political science associate professor Liam Anderson, Ph.D. “It is a particular problem in countries like Iraq that depend so heavily on a single resource, such as oil.”
At Wright State, the Iraqi officials participated in a panel discussion with accounting, business, urban affairs and political science faculty members.
The faculty explained how the United States minimizes corruption and how they teach their students to recognize and stop corruption, said Anderson. Then there was a broader discussion about the problems Iraq faces in these areas.
The program covered a range of topics including freedom of information laws, whistleblower protections, campaign finance regulations, open meeting mandates and conflict of interest laws.
The delegation also looked at the roles of citizens, news media, academia and civil society in anti-corruption efforts, as well as the impact and emergence of social media and Web 2.0 technologies in nurturing an open government.
“It’s not enough to enact ethical canons and anti-corruption laws,” said John Feldmeier, Ph.D., a Wright State political science associate professor. “You must also empower citizens, interest groups and regulators with the legal protections, resources and tools to monitor and enforce these standards.”
As part of the program, the group met with Kettering Mayor Don Patterson, City Manager Mark Schwieterman and Volunteer Resources Coordinator Bonnie Pittl. They also visited the Ohio Second District Court of Appeals to meet with Judges Mary Donovan and Mike Fain, as well as Court Administrator Ronald Mount.
The group later attended a presentation at Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business and had lunch with its dean, Berkwood Farmer.
The delegation spent four days in the Dayton area as part of their three-week program. They were encouraged to experience American culture with optional excursions to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Dayton International Peace Museum, the Dayton Art Institute and local restaurants.
The Iraqi officials visited the university as part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
The program brings foreign leaders and experts to the United States for cultural and intellectual exchange. Host institutions are members of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), which Wright State joined last year.
The NCIV’s nationwide network includes more than 90 community organizations as well as program agencies, associate members and individuals. Only 7 percent of all NCIV members are universities.