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Latest UN whistleblower exposé shows need for urgent reforms

Civil society organisations call for an independent inquiry into whistleblower retaliation complaints

On 21 June 2022, a damning documentary on the UN’s mistreatment of whistleblowers aired in the UK. The Whistleblowers: Inside the UN, a BBC production, examines the fate of several individuals who spoke up about wrongdoing at the UN and raises serious questions about the working culture at the intergovernmental organisation, revealing the failure of its leadership to provide whistleblowers any protection or relief.

Whistleblowing and anti-corruption experts have long called for the UN to reform its internal justice system and strengthen protection for staff reporting wrongdoing. Government Accountability Project, Transparency International and the Whistleblowing International Network have repeatedly and publicly supported several intergovernmental whistleblowers including a long line of individuals who have complained of suffering retaliation for reporting abuses of power or malpractice at UN agencies.

We again urge UN Secretary General António Guterres to immediately order an independent inquiry and use his power to remedy the harm caused to UN staff who have already suffered for trying to do the right thing.

Such an inquiry must establish the specific shortcomings of UN accountability systems and lead to whistleblower protection reform that prioritises addressing the culture of impunity highlighted in the latest exposé. Serious structural reforms are needed to bring the UN systems in line with international consensus for best practice principles and to ensure UN staff feel safe to speak up when they witness harmful conduct at work.

Now is the time for change. The UN needs to protect whistleblowers because it is the right thing to do. Whistleblowers act as a failsafe ensuring that UN agencies can effectively deliver on their mission working globally to protect human rights, survive pandemics like COVID-19 and address existential climate change with integrity. We hope that the increased awareness generated from the BBC documentary coverage finally leads to a necessary reckoning within the highest echelons of the UN and leads to reform that is long overdue.

For any press enquiries, please contact

Transparency International Secretariat, [email protected]

Whistleblowing International Network, [email protected]

Government Accountability Project, [email protected]

Notes to editors

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