Our work on whistleblowing
What’s at stake
A key challenge in preventing and fighting corruption is to detect and expose bribery, fraud, theft of public funds and other acts of wrongdoing. One of the most direct methods of shining the light on corruption is whistleblowing. Unfortunately, whistleblowers commonly face retaliation in the form of harassment, firing, blacklisting, threats and even physical violence, and their disclosures are routinely ignored.
What we’re doing about it
Transparency International believes that the individual right to freedom of expression includes the right to point out acts of wrongdoing – both in government and in private companies. Even beyond this basic right is the simple fact that people who step forward to disclose wrongdoing – particularly when public safety, health or resources are at stake – should be acknowledged and protected, not punished and ostracised.
To help to ensure that whistleblowers are adequately protected from reprisals, and to provide them with easy-to-access avenues to make their disclosures, Transparency International is engaged in a wide range of advocacy, public awareness and research activities in all regions of the world. Through our Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres, located in nearly 50 countries, we advise whistleblowers in making their disclosures and work to make sure that their disclosures are duly addressed by appropriate authorities. We work closely with advocacy groups, legal experts and whistleblowers toward enhancing whistleblower protections and rights.
To promote responsible whistleblowing and adequate protection of whistleblowers, we have developed international principles for whistleblower legislation, which many countries and international organisations have used to develop their own legislation and standards. We have also conducted in-depth assessments of whistleblower laws in 10 European countries and recommended areas of improvement. As part of a project co-funded by the European Commission, this analysis is being expanded to include all 27 countries in the European Union, which will serve as a basis for Europe-wide advocacy efforts.
Many of Transparency International’s chapters are working to improve whistleblower protections, advocating for strong legislation, and assisting whistleblowers. These include chapters in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Liberia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Romania and Zambia. Our chapter in Ireland has established “Speak Up”, a free, secure helpline and online system for employees considering reporting wrongdoing. The Ireland chapter is also campaigning for the passage of a national whistleblower law that would cover all employees.
Transparency International works closely with whistleblower organisations and legal experts in all regions to implement and strengthen whistleblower protection laws, make sure these laws are ably put into practice, raise public awareness of the importance of whistleblowing, and to enhance the perception of the people who risk their livelihoods and sometimes their lives to expose corruption.
We are building a chain of knowledge and experiences that connects the legal experts who write whistleblower laws, to the advocates who lobby government officials to implement them, to the agencies that enforce them, to the organisations that use these laws to protect whistleblowers, and ultimately to the whistleblowers themselves.
We track legislative and advocacy developments in all regions, serving as a clearinghouse for whistleblower experts and advocates around the world – assisting them in their work to improve whistleblower laws, protections and resources. We focus on strategies and messages that succeed in Country A and adapting them to Country B, C and D. As much as any anti-corruption tool, whistleblowing requires global cooperation and learning. Transparency International is at the centre of this circle.
Timeline and results
- October 2009: Transparency International released a Resolution on the Protection of Whistleblowers
- November 2009: Transparency International released the report “Alternative to Silence”, which assesses whistleblower laws in 10 European Union countries
- November 2009: Transparency International released draft international principles for whistleblower legislation
- June 2010: The National Network for the Right of Access to Information, of which our Lebanon chapter is a member, submitted a draft law on whistleblower protection to Parliament
- December 2010: Jamaica passed a whistleblower protection law based largely on Transparency International’s international best practices
- September 2011: Transparency International and eight whistleblower advocacy organisations urged G20 countries to implement comprehensive whistleblower legislation
- April 2012: Transparency International launched a public consultation on international best practices for whistleblower protection laws
- March 2013: Transparency International convened advocates from around the world for a conference in Berlin, Whistleblowing for Change
- November 2013: Transparency International releases the report ''Whistleblowing in Europe", assessing whistleblower protection laws in 27 European countries
Mark Worth, Whistleblower Programme Coordinator
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