Accountability and the Future of Freedom PDF  | Print |  Email

By ANWAR IBRAHIM

This essay is based on the World Bank Presidential Fellows Lecture given June 19, 2006, in Washington, D.C., by Anwar Ibrahim, honorary president of the Institute of Social and Ethical AccountAbility, distinguished visiting professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and former deputy prime minister of Malaysia.

The 14th century Arab historian and founder of sociology, Abdul Rahman ibn Khaldun, postulated that civilizations inevitably collapse from within as a result of corruption, moral decadence, and a disintegration of the institutions of accountability.   Four centuries later, Thomas Jefferson offered a similar warning against the abuse of unlimited powers by elected despots and foretold that there would come a time “when corruption in this…[land]…will have seized the heads of government, and be spread by them through the body of the people; when they will purchase the voices of the people, and make them pay the price.”

  1. In our time, these sentiments were expressed with vigor and tenacity by great freedom fighters, such as Simon Bolivar, a leader of freedom movements in South America; Sun Yat Sen, a Chinese revolutionary; Jawaharlal Nehru, former prime minister of India; and Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter and former president of South Africa. The shared experiences of these great luminaries make it abundantly clear that a society that nurtures the self through civic engagement and guards against tyranny is a universal aspiration not confined to the East or West.
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