WNN recently attended the 20th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Washington, D.C. This year, the conference’s theme was “Uprooting Corruption, Defending Democratic Values.” In a workshop session titled “Whistleblowers Without Borders,” hosted by the National Whistleblower Center (NWC), a group of experts talked about whistleblowing laws in their respective countries and then led small group exercises that fostered thinking about whistleblowers and how best to protect them.
The panel featured Siri Nelson, NWC’s Executive Director, Angeles Estrada, Executive Director of the Transparency and Anticorruption Initiative at Tecnológico de Monterrey, and Carlos Guerrero, President of Derechos Humanos y Litigio Estratégico Mexicano.
The first part of the event was informational: experts talked about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other whistleblowing laws around the world. Estrada talked about how the rise in laws targeting foreign corruption are positive developments but can leave whistleblowers in a gray area. “Globalization has globalized corruption, but not protections,” she said. The group also talked about the serious consequences whistleblowers can face and highlighted the need to protect whistleblowers and journalists.
Nelson led the audience into a group activity by discussing Uber whistleblower Mark MacGann’s story and the international nature of his disclosures about the ridesharing app. Conference participants were then split up into breakout groups to discuss MacGann’s case, what they might have done if they were in his shoes, and what information they would need to know before blowing the whistle as he did. Each breakout group was led by one of the panelists.
The groups were incredibly diverse, with a number of countries represented. Attending were whistleblowers themselves, people reporting back to the governmental offices for which they work, and people who worked for civil society organizations. After participants introduced themselves, some had questions for the panelist, while others talked about their own whistleblowing and what had transpired in their cases. Because there were so many people from different countries, discussion broadened to talking about whistleblower laws in those specific countries. One group also talked about the culture of whistleblowing in different countries.
After the small group discussion, the event came back together as a large group and reported back on what each group talked about. There was then a question and answer section, which included questions from the online viewers of the panel. Further discussion was had on the culture of whistleblowing in different countries; the panelists also fielded a question about the efficacy of monetary awards for whistleblowers.
“What we currently have in most cultures is the idea that speaking up is bad, troublesome, dangerous, disruptive, and something that people only do when they have bad faith,” Nelson said. She told the group that statistics show providing whistleblowers with monetary awards is effective.
Overall, the panel was a great way to learn about issues whistleblowers are facing around the world, and the attendance made it clear that there’s international interest in learning about whistleblower laws and passion for protecting whistleblowers.