Friday, 1 August 2014

Going Public with the Truth

Don’t Be Intimidated (Aug-Sept 2014)

Don’t be intimidated.
Eventually everything is going to be out in the open,
and everyone will know how things really are.
So don’t hesitate to go public now.
MT 10: 26,27 The Message

Scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962

In previous entries we noted the growing international and multi-sectoral efforts to prevent/confront corruption. These efforts collectively include general guidelines along with specific calls for transparency and accountability (for examples see the April-May 2014 entry on “Uniting Together to Confront Corruption”). Another current and high-level example is the inclusion of anti-corruption action within the Open Working Group’s 17 “Proposed Goals” and 169 “Targets” for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, including global/national action on corruption, will be discussed, debated, and negotiated at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this September. Proposed Goal 16 and three of its targets, call upon the world’s governments and the world community at all levels to:

 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” [and]
--16.4 by 2030 significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime
--16.5 substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all its forms
--16.6 develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels..."

This proposed SDG is a step forward—but only potentially. It will need concerted government and civil society support, measureable goals, and personal integrity and action at all levels to really impact the global plague of corruption.  As we noted in our April-May 2014 entry:

To be effective, major anti-corruption efforts need consensus on guiding principles, unity in public support, and commitment to practical applications. Practical applications can be very challenging though, where these hindering factors exist: limited experience/interest in dealing with corruption; risks of reprisals and lack of whistleblower protection; threats to livelihoods, revenue streams, status, reputations, public opinion, and power structures; and desires to maintain the belief that one’s personal/organisational “world” is safe, good, and impervious to corruption. The result of these hindrances is often a substantial and deceptive gap between our good principles and our good practices—ultimately at the expense of vulnerable people, especially the poor of the world.”

NCI Update
It is important to respond to the ongoing calls for integrity and action in the Nordic Capital Investment KB fraud (NCI). Together we must do our part to “reduce corruption” and “develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels,” as called for by the SDG proposal above. That is why the way we respond to NCI—the actions of the people and organizations “affected”—is so crucial. The world we want will not happen unless it happens in the trenches of our own consciences and character. The towers of governmental politics and international resolutions are never enough on their own.  A better world begins by taking personal responsibility and often that means taking personal risks as well as admitting mistakes. As stated in the October-November entry, Confronting Christian Corruption:

“We cannot pretend to be blind—to rationalize away our responsibility to take the risks necessary to confront Christian corruption….There is plenty of light shining for people to get informed and to take action in the NCI et al fraud. It is not too late for you to help. Listen to the pleas. Listen to your conscience. There will be breakthroughs. Maybe because of you.”

In light of the above comments, here are the proposed next steps to address the NCI fraud. It is another important opportunity to truly help—to help via the truth. Don’t be intimidated—it’s your world!

1. Present many of the organizations affected by NCI with:
--a) the Shine the Light—Together petition, including the names and comments of the 110+ signatories (many of them are current/former members of these organisations); and  
--b) the related  PETRA Statement 2012, an “international call for integrity and action,” which includes links to many core documents released by the Swedish court that support the specific concerns described in the Statement (available on the PETRA People website). 

2. Keep the public updated by summarizing and/or sharing on this weblog how organizations respond to the specific requests by the petition and Statement. “Discussion of corruption needs to be made open, with an emphasis that addressing it does not mean condoning it or implying particular vulnerability to it. Tackling corruption risks should form an integral part of quality assurance, accountability and good management strategies…” (Transparency International, Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Operations, 2010, p. 9).

3. Share portions of the unpublished investigative Review done by Rand Guebert (120+pages) on the NCI fraud and many of the specific individuals and organizations affected by it.  One question arises over and over in this review--where is the ethical and accountable corporate governance?” (Rand Guebert, Integrated Executive Summary, p. 9)

This petition is a call to many organizations and people, especially in the church and mission community (CMC), to transparently and verifiably disclose how they have been affected. Members of these organizations (past and present), donors, and the public are asked to help by respectfully and resolutely calling for the assistance of those affected by NCI. Millions of euros and dollars are still missing. “ (Shine the Light—Together petition)

“This current Statementbuilds upon the recent prosecution by Sweden of Nordic Capital Investment KB (NCI). We are calling again for assistance from organizations and people that have been affected by NCI…[and] for resolute action for transparency and accountability within the international church-mission community (CMC), including leaders and members at all levels of the organizations affected. This is not implying any wrong doing but rather it is a direct and public request to take ethical action—to do what would be expected of any other organization, church, or person of integrity to do in a similar situation…Authorizing independent and internal reviews is strongly encouraged. It is not helpful to simply try to “move on” and leaders and members are urged now to hold their organizations accountable…We urge organizations affected by NCI to emulate the organizations in the “United Response” to the New Era Scandal: be transparent, accountable and cooperate to return money.” (PETRA Statement 2012)

Who could be contacted?
1.  Organizations mentioned in the petition and Statement such as:
--Mercy Ships International (USA headquarters)
For examples of concerns, see: NCI Documents section on the PETRA People web site, and then open up the “Austria case” folder in the attachments.

--Youth With A Mission (three of their international leadership entities)

--Youth For Christ International (USA and Europe headquarters)
Examples of concerns: How were the personnel and office of YFC in Coppet, Switzerland affected (e.g., the physical address was used for NCI correspondence by a non-staff person)?

--One or more of the churches affected

2. Other organizations with experience in anti-corruption and good governance, including international Evangelical and Ecumenical organizations and international NGOs, some of which are partnering with the EXPOSED Campaign. “We further recognize that corruption is everywhere. From our sphere in the faith communities, we  need  to examine  our  practices  that may  have  contributed  to  corruption and mend  our ways. We  need  to  be  faithful  in  teaching  integrity,  and  as  we  abide  by  God’s  teaching,  we  hope  to  be  instruments of transformation in our society.” (May 2014 letter to G20 leaders, EXPOSED Campaign with many organizational signatories)

Telling Ourselves and Others the Truth
Here are five supportive resources for people committed to confront the NCI fraud with honesty and courage. Together, these materials illustrate the importance—and challenges—of countering deception at all levels via telling the truth to ourselves and others. See also the October-November 2013 entry on Deception.
Illustration courtesy of Marc Rosenthal  http://www.marc-rosenthal.com/

The Toolbox of Self-Deception (Tufts Magazine, Spring 2009) by Sam Sommers. This very readable, short article looks at how and why we kid ourselves. "When you stop to think about it...we enlist an impressive array of cognitive tactics and behavioral gambits in the daily effort to feel good about ourselves." (p. 33).  Some of the main "tools" we use include rationalization, the better than average effect, illusions of control, reflected glory, downward comparisons, and self-handicapping. This more benign approach to self-deception is a good way to ease into this important albeit difficult reality. Read this article here

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box (2010). by The Arbinger Institute. “Through a story...about a man facing challenges on the job and in his family [USA setting], the authors expose the fascinating ways that we can blind ourselves to our true motivations and unwittingly sabotage the effectiveness of our own efforts to achieve success and increase happiness.” (back cover). For too long, the issue of self-deception has been the realm of deep-thinking philosophers, academics, and scholars working on the central questions of the human sciences. The public remains generally unaware of the issue. That would be fine except that self-deception is so pervasive it touches every aspect of life. “Touches” is perhaps too gentle a word to describe its influence. Self-deception actually determines one’s experience in every aspect of life. The extent to which it does that, and in particular the extent to which it is the central issue in leadership, is the subject of this book.” (from The Arbinger website) Click here for more information: http://arbinger.com/product/leadership-and-self-deception/

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (2007) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson  “At some point we all make a bad decision, do something that harms another person, or cling to an outdated belief. When we do, we strive to reduce the cognitive dissonance that results from feeling that we, who are smart, moral, and right, just did something that was dumb, immoral, or wrong. Whether the consequences are trivial or tragic, it is difficult, and for some people impossible, to say, “I made a terrible mistake.” The higher the stakes—emotional, financial, moral—the greater that difficulty. Self-justification, the hardwired mechanism that blinds us to the possibility that we were wrong, has benefits: It lets us sleep at night and keeps us from torturing ourselves with regrets. But it can also block our ability to see our faults and errors. It legitimizes prejudice and corruption, distorts memory, and generates anger and rifts….Most of all, this book explains how all of us can learn to own up and let go of the need to be right, and learn from the times we are wrong—so that we don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”  Click here for more information on the book, cognitive dissonance, and to listen to a National Public Radio (USA) interview with Elliot Aronson: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12125926

Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor (2008), by Warren Bennis et al. This concise book looks at what “conspires against "a culture of candor" in organizations to create disastrous results, and suggest ways that leaders can achieve healthy and honest openness. They explore the lightning-rod concept of "transparency"–which has fast become the buzzword not only in business and corporate settings but in government and the social sector as well. Together Bennis, Goleman, and O'Toole explore why the containment of truth is the dearest held value of far too many organizations and suggest practical ways that organizations, their leaders, their members, and their boards can achieve openness. After years of dedicating themselves to research and theory, at first separately, and now jointly, these three leadership giants reveal the multifaceted importance of candor and show what promotes transparency and what hinders it. They describe how leaders often stymie the flow of information and the structural impediments that keep information from getting where it needs to go. This vital resource is written for any organization–business, government, and nonprofit–that must achieve a culture of candor, truth, and transparency.” (from Amazon website) Click here to read the opening chapter--not to be missed: 
Organizational Integrity and Responsibility. This is a selection of brief quotes from many sources (interspersed with quotes from Jesus Christ) to support people as they consider and respond to issues like corruption. The best way to protect your organization, and the public, is with the truth. Click here:  http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/focussdgs.html)

Final Thoughts
Counting the Cost  of Going Public

“From dawn to dusk the correction and copying of the Gulag went forward; I could scarcely keep the pages moving fast enough. Then the typewriter started breaking down everyday...This was the most frightening moment of all: we had the only original manuscript and all the typed copies of Gulag there with us. If the KGB suddenly descended, the many-throated groan, the dying whisper of millions, the unspoken testament of those who had perished, would all be in their hands, and I would never be able to reconstruct it all, my brain would never be capable of it again.

I could have enjoyed myself so much, breathing the fresh air, resting, stretching my cramped limbs, but my duty to the dead permitted no such self-indulgence. They are dead. You are alive: do your duty. The world must know all about it.

They could take my children hostage—posing as “gangsters,” of course. (They did not know that we [my wife and I] had thought of this and made a superhuman decision: our children were no dearer to us than the memory of the millions done to death, and nothing could make us stop that book.)”

[bold font added] Excerpt from The Oak and the Calf1975, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, English translation, 1979, 1980 by Harper and Row Publishers. 

Don’t be intimidated 
to go public with the truth.

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