Integrity is a term which plays a significant role in our lives but is sadly often ignored. Well, the most surprising thing is that it plays an important role in shaping our personality and who we truly are. Acknowledging this fact, Accountability Lab Nepal, in collaboration with Bikalpa – an Alternative organized an Integrity Summit at Hotel Namaskar in Biratnagar on February, 7, 2020 to discuss key issues of integrity in individuals, institutions and civil society. Individuals from diverse sectors were present at the discussion. The panelist of the program provided several constructive insights into the matter of integrity – a way of life which involves being honest, having strong moral principles and living your life according to your set of beliefs. By Ashmita Sharma
Following the introduction session, the event moved to a panel discussion. The panel consisted of Dr. Bhes Prasad Dhamala, former Registrar of Purwanchal University; Mr. Dinesh Shrestha, founder of North South Collectives, advisor of Forum for Participatory Democracy and Chairperson of Focus Nepal; Mr. Ganesh Lamsal, journalist at Naya Patrika; and Mr. Abhinayak Malla, proprietor of Malla Enterprise, WakeCup Coffee and a young entrepreneur of Biratnagar. The program was moderated by Mr. Basanta Adhikari, founder of Bikalpa – an Alternative. Also present at the event were Mr. Mani Aryal, Chairman of Nepal rural development society Centre (NRDSC); Mr. Shiv Narayan Chaudhary, Resource Centre Coordinator of Action Aid Nepal; and Mr. Raju Shrestha, RTI Activist, who represented civil society.
Dr. Bhes Prasad Dhamala
While talking about integrity during the panel discussion, Dr. Dhamala said that integrity is important in each sector but is elusive. “Integrity doesn’t resemble a person whose actions do not match their words. If a person is honest or committed then it can ensure a good impact in the society,” he said. He also talked about integrity in the Public Administration office where he pointed out that every bureaucrat was not corrupt and there were civil servants who were honest in their profession. “When a person values integrity and is able to bring credibility to their work, regardless of the setting, they are appreciated. In such a way people will be able to bring positive changes,” he added.
Mr. Dhamala further emphasised integrity in the development sector. He said integrity has three different dimensions: economic, social and academic. So, it is important to have integrity in every sector but if we look at the current development scenario then these definitions are futile. Hence the development of the nation is slow due to a lack of integrity. Sharing his personal experience prior to joining the education sector, he said: “There is a crisis of integrity in the education sector. Integrity is on the decline instead of increasing, which is affecting the quality of education and public service delivery.”
He also spoke about integrity in the business sector and emphasised that even private enterprise requires integrity, so businessmen must be “men of integrity”. Profit is a good thing but excess profit is a bad thing. We must be responsible for society and must not always think of profit. In conclusion he shared there should be “men of integrity” in every sector so that we can accomplish our desired results in each sector.
Dinesh Shrestha defined integrity as the soundness of moral character, the state of being undivided, consistent, honest, dedicated and living in firmness and truth in all aspects of our lives. However in the present scenario, it is tough to find a person who is moral and trustworthy in any sector. He said a person who is open, trustworthy and treats all people equally is a”man of integrity”. He also provided different international examples of social movements where integrity in leadership had played a crucial role.
He said that in today’s context, leaders who had previously upheld their integrity had not been able to replicate the same in their recent behavior. He also stressed that integrity hasn’t completely vanished from society and rather due to psychological impact, people have paid less attention to it. However, if the leaders were to uphold integrity, common people would also start to pay more importance to it. He recommended a book titled, “Idea of Integrity “which chronicles the integrity of many notable personalities of the country. Shrestha concluded by saying “unless you analyze social evil critically, you can’t recognize integrity in society.”
Ganesh lamsal said Integrity means responsibility. “Humans are social beings and have certain roles in society. While performing this role they have to follow rules and regulations for the betterment of society. Integrity means accepting positive change in society.” While talking about integrity in the field of media, he said that journalists need to decide whether they are in the media to earning money and fame or to bring positive change to society through unbiased reportage.
He also stressed that like in every other sector, there is a threat in the media sector as well. The threat is economic, he says. He also remarked that corruption existed in the field despite the media being the powerhouse of the nation, and clarified that journalism was not about advertising. Rather, he identified journalists as the watchdogs of society who will never tolerate injustice and will always fight for the truth in the process ridding society of social evils.
Abhinayak Malla started by offering a definition of business as a transaction where an individual generates values for the customers. Instead of profit, he stressed that generating value should be the core objective of any businessman. Values are just like gravity which pulls the profit in the business. He also said that profit was just a byproduct of it. “In business, integrity means delivering the promised service. Value is necessary in integrity. Business should be done for value and not for profit,” he told the audience.
Integrity plays a high moral role in sustaining the long run of business. Integrity is a long term investment in business. Those businesses that do not acknowledge their mistakes have a high chance of losing ground or collapsing entirely. He also said monetary profit is not the only important thing and that personal satisfaction was also a form of profit. In conclusion, he said that it was very important to create an environment for sustaining integrity.
In the final remarks, Mr. Mani Aryal and Shiv Narayan Chaudhary added to the discussion.
Mr. Mani Aryal said that behavior, education, culture and our upbringing have a great impact on our lives. He also stressed that education, motivation, beliefs, perspectives from family members and teachers help a person to differentiate between morality and immorality which leads him/her to be responsible and loyal towards their work. He added, “one should be dedicated and hardworking in order to sustain growth or else it would be difficult to sustain momentum over time.”
Shiv Narayan added that integrity was a way of presenting oneself on the basis of commitment, work performance, punctuality and determination. He remarked that every organization has its own rules and regulations where a person’s integrity was evaluated on the basis of their dedication towards their job. He encouraged everyone to ask questions to themselves as well as raise a voice or question against immoral activities.
At the end, Mr. Basanta Adhikari concluded the summit with a speech of gratitude towards all the panelists and the audience. 54 people attended the summit and it was covered by various local online media.
Ashmita Sharma is a Program Manager for Integrity Icon at Accountability Lab Nepal.