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On the connection between legitimacy and integrity

Colombian Major-General Francisco Javier CRUZ RICCI: “The Ukrainian army has earned its authority...”
19 September, 16:50

The international conference themed “The Building Integrity Initiative Day for Top-Level Leaders: Building Integrity as a Vector for Change” was held in Kyiv recently.

Let us recall that the Building Integrity Initiative came into being as the result of a 2007 conference organized by the NATO Economic Committee during a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). The conference dealt, among other issues, with the connection between reducing corruption and increasing the efficiency of defense resources management. Within the framework of the EAPC, the building integrity project is carried out in accordance with the Action Plan which envisages activities in 10 different directions. It sets out main areas of these activities as follows: the development of an education module under the guidance of the UK, the development of a Self-Assessment Questionnaire under the guidance of Poland, and the Swiss-guided preparation of a Compendium of Best Practices.

Meanwhile, the 2008 NATO summit, held in Bucharest, officially approved the Building Integrity project. In particular, the final declaration of the summit states that the heads of state and government give priority to “several new practical initiatives, which include building integrity in defense institutions.”

The participants of the aforementioned conference in Kyiv included a representative of Colombia, which became NATO’s global partner, the first in Latin America, this May, namely director of the Colombian War College Major-General Francisco Javier Cruz Ricci. The Day started conversation with him by asking why Cruz Ricci chose a military career and whether he regretted making such a choice now.

“I was very young when I decided to choose a military career. At that time, I was only 14 and our country was plunged in a war with terror. I have served in the armed forces for 35 years, and I grew up as a professional and as a citizen there. And today I am pleased to have devoted almost all of my life to serving my country.”


 Why do you see integrity and the fight against corruption as the most important issues, and why have these topics become so urgent now and in particular in the security and defense sector?

“I think that the lack of integrity and corruption are linked. When we consider the lack of integrity, we think of an individual who does not have the qualities such as responsibility, discipline, loyalty. Therefore, he or she is a person who can easily be bribed and will commit acts of corruption since he or she does not adhere to the legal norms or ethical principles that a person must follow.

“This is very important, since corruption has a negative impact by producing and strengthening social inequality. It also protects the network of complicity between elites where the corruption process is generated. To counter this problem, it is necessary to introduce a holistic governance approach involving all ministries and agencies where the creation and implementation of an anti-corruption strategy involves everyone. However, the fight against corruption must be carried out jointly and in the same way, based on the values and principles that are reflected in the activities of all those who are involved with the government.

“These issues have indeed become urgent and periodic. Recently, the public has realized that power is concentrated in the hands of a few, while the general population suffers from inequality and lacks opportunities for progress. Finally, I think this issue is relevant in the military sphere, since we must restore the public’s faith in an institution where a transparent and responsible army is consolidating. Military legitimacy must be strengthened in other ways as well, always working for the common interest, and not for interests of certain groups.”


 And how, in your opinion, can one measure overall integrity in certain areas?

“Integrity, if viewed from the standpoint of anti-corruption, is associated with a totally holistic approach to the problem, which means that we must consider structure, doctrine, culture, analysis, and implementation. This should be understood as approaching excellence in terms of legitimacy and transparency in order to counteract corruption.”

 And what impact does your country’s culture have on integrity?

“Looking at the positive side, the fight against corruption within the framework of a country’s culture can lead to a national mobilization, that is, a consolidation of the national government in its entirety. It is about attempts to attack or destroy a threat that is detrimental to national security (in this case, corruption). Such national mobilization can be supported by those who seek to secure a better future for our country and encourage such values as transparency and fundamentals of the fight against corruption.”


 What do you think about Ukraine in this regard, in particular, about integrity in its defense and security sphere?

“I had the opportunity to learn about professionalism and integrity displayed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Just like in our country, we are duty-bound to the civilian authorities to be like that, and we respect the faith in democracy and the domestic order of the nation. The Ukrainian army has earned its authority and recognition through invaluable work it has done, always protecting the integrity and sovereignty of your country. The fact that security and defense professionals are present here today demonstrates their interest in the NATO Building Integrity Program and reflects an interest in continuing to achieve high standards in terms of legitimacy and transparency.”

 What recommendations, in your opinion, should be given to Ukraine for increasing or strengthening integrity in the defense and security sector?

“I think that it is necessary to do the following for this purpose:

- To strengthen the organizational culture.

- To strengthen military capabilities.

- To enhance the technological transformation.

- To create a military organization that would be reliable, modern, simple, flexible, fast, and deadly.

- To strengthen the standardization procedures.

- To establish a model of military education.

- To use human talent and competence.

- To promote the development of the nation.”


 Major-General, why was it important for Colombia to become NATO’s global partner, its first in Latin America?

“Currently, geopolitical competition encourages nations to interact with each other and find potential partners to create alliances that reflect a new strategic orientation and aim to contain threats that affect the integrity of the nation. Since its foundation, NATO has become a multilateral global security organization, a security space, so Colombia used this advantageous opportunity to become a global partner in Latin America and one of the key players on issues such as security, defense, and democracy. Colombian interests as a global partner of NATO are focused on achieving three major goals:

1. Facilitating the exchange of knowledge and experience in combating traditional and non-traditional threats, based on close cooperation with NATO member states.

2. Participating in NATO programs such as the Building Integrity one to increase our legitimacy.

3. Increasing Colombia’s ability to influence the international system through multilateral channels and military cooperation systems (alliances).

“As a global partner of NATO, we can implement strategies to deter new threats. This program provides us with the opportunity to put in place appropriate military practice that benefits the defense system and make resource management much more effective, as well as to safeguard human rights. Through this engagement, Colombia can seize strategic advantage in promoting national interests (welfare of the society) and strengthening its armed forces, getting our integrity recognized and confirmed. Finally, the accession of Colombia to a partnership with NATO presents high-level opportunities for the development of national security and defense.”


 How easy is it to implement integrity in the defense sector of Colombia, given its decades-long struggle with the FARC?

“Of course, it was not easy to achieve recognized transparency through the NATO Building Integrity program while our armed forces were 100 percent committed to defeating terrorism and bringing peace to Colombia. But we did it, even though it cost a lot of effort to the men and women of the Colombian Armed Forces. Today, we can show the world that we, the soldiers, have defeated the oldest terrorist group in the world that has agreed to join the peace process and that our processes that tax public resources are carried out transparently, giving the people of Colombia the legitimate armed forces they deserve.

“Finally, security and defense are two key elements of a nation. It motivates us to work with other countries to limit risks, dangers or external and internal threats, in order to promote international peace and stability. The participation of Colombia in the NATO Integrity Program has enabled us to exchange good practice knowledge that we used to strengthen our integrity and transparency and focus on minimizing corruption in our military institutions.

“To do this, we have created an organization that is subordinated to the highest level command. This organization is called the DANTE. This Spanish-language acronym stands for the Office of the Application of Norms of Transparency in the Army. The DANTE provides a preventive approach and is involved with all processes in our armed forces.

“Colombia was plunged into the conflict for over 56 years. Thanks to the capabilities of our armed forces, we were able to overcome the existing threats. Colombia has become an example for the international system; our country has a great deal of experience which it can share, and especially with you, with whom we share the principles and values, with whom we are interoperable outside collectives and in our ways of thinking and acting. The Colombian Armed Forces, just like armed forces of all NATO member countries and partners, are institutions that are constantly learning and improving.”

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