In the leadup to the 10th Conference of States Parties (CoSP 10) to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), members of Civil Society are encouraging UNCAC to pass a dedicated whistleblower resolution. Environmental groups, human rights leaders, whistleblower organizations, and States Parties have all emphasized how essential whistleblowers are to the objectives of the Convention.
CoSP 10, the main policymaking body of UNCAC, is being hosted by the U.S. government in Atlanta, GA December 11-15.
The Written Statement submitted by the National Whistleblower Center (NWC), as well a joint Statement from Transparency International (TI) and Government Accountability Project (GAP) point to Article 33 of UNCAC, which states that “Each State Party shall consider incorporating into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports [corruption] in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities.”
However, States Parties have failed to effectively implement Article 33 and other key whistleblower provisions of the convention. For example, a recent report from TI finds that a shocking 19 of 20 EU countries do not comply with the 2019 EU Whistleblower Protection Directive.
The GAP/TI statement cites a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes report which states that “whistleblowing is one of the areas in which they received the largest numbers of recommendations and technical assistance requests as part of the UNCAC’s Implementation Review Mechanism.” With informal negotiations in Vienna underway, one resolution on whistleblower protection has been introduced by Serbia and Palestine.
NWC’s written statement enumerates three critical components of best practice whistleblower programs: anonymity, compensation, and enforcement. NWC recommends that any dedicated whistleblower resolutions recognize these best practices.
“CoSP10 needs to go beyond just calling for a whistleblower resolution. We need to call for a whistleblower resolution of substance,” said Stephen M. Kohn, whistleblower attorney and Chairman of the Board at NWC. “The data shows us that whistleblower programs work most effectively when whistleblowers don’t have to take huge risks. They need to know that their identity will be protected, that they can remain financially stable, and that their information will result in successful enforcement.”
“When whistleblower programs abide by these best practices,” Kohn continued, “whistleblowers become the most powerful tool to fight corruption.”
NWC’s statement focused on two categories of corruption: Money Laundering and Environmental Corruption. Other Civil Society members have likewise drawn attention to the critical nexus between these issues and whistleblower protection. The UNCAC Coalition Environmental Crime and Corruption Working Group wrote an open letter in which 301 civil society organizations and experts from 99 countries called on States Parties to “ensure a safe and enabling environment for civil society organizations and other actors working to expose environmental crime and corruption consistent with Article 13 of the UNCAC, including protection for whistleblowers.”
Siri Nelson, Executive Director of NWC said, “Our focus at CoSP is helping States Parties and other members of Civil Society to connect the dots between issues like environmental protection or money laundering and whistleblowing. So many of these crimes thrive in secret, and best practice whistleblower legislation is the proven best way to bring them to like and hold bad actors accountable.”