The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) terminated the employment contract of whistleblower John O’Brien, who reported corruption in UNDP climate change projects. Government Accountability Project, Transparency International and the Whistleblowing International Network are gravely concerned about the continuing trend of UN whistleblowers reporting being singled out for retaliation and facing due process violations. The lack of access to credible independent review undermines trust and confidence in the UN justice system, with the chilling effect of dissuading UN staff from reporting wrongdoing and malpractice.
Last year, along with 40 additional experts and NGOs, we condemned the action of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights against whistleblower Ms. Emma Reilly. A UN dispute tribunal judge who was removed from Reilly’s case shortly before releasing his judgment, has now described the move as akin to a “a coup d’état” and added that “it was, in fact, an attack upon the independence of the judiciary because… no nation-state would be able to acceptably do that.”
In 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression recognised that existing UN whistleblower protection mechanisms lack real independence and effectiveness. Since then, civil society has repeatedly urged the UN to improve whistleblowing protection at its agencies, funds and programmes, putting forward a number of policy and structural reform recommendations.
Government Accountability Project, Transparency International and the Whistleblowing International Network will continue to serve as resources on how to address ongoing procedural issues and implement best practices. We once more call on the Secretary General to publicly commit to these urgent and necessary reforms of the UN internal justice system and finally bring UN whistleblower protection into the 21st century.
Updated on 29 June 2022: We have updated the quote attributed to the UN tribunal judge in line with the updates made to the article which the statement references.