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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 wrongdoing. One of the most effective way to shine the light on corruption is whistleblowing. Unfortunately, whistleblowers often face retaliation in the form of harassment, firing, blacklisting, threats and even physical violence, and their disclosures are routinely ignored.
What we're doing
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 retaliation, and to provide them with easy-to-access avenues to make their disclosures, Transparency International has been engaged for over 10 years in a wide range of advocacy, public awareness and research activities. We work for the adoption of strong whistleblower protection laws, their enforcement by the authorities and their implementation in the workplace, both in the public and private sector. We raise public awareness of the importance of whistleblowing, to enhance the perception of the people who risk their livelihoods and sometimes their lives to expose corruption.
Advocating for the adoption of strong whistleblower protection legislation
To promote responsible whistleblowing and adequate protection of whistleblowers, we have developed international principles for whistleblower legislation and a Best Practice Guide for Whistleblowing Legislation, which many countries and international organisations have used to develop their own legislation and standards.
Transparency International National Chapters have been key players in whistleblowing legislation processes in numerous countries including France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia.
We also work at the regional and international level. For example, Transparency International had long called for comprehensive EU-wide whistleblower protection and, working with a large and diverse coalition of CSOs, trade unions and journalist associations (Whistleblower protection.eu), we made it happen. From putting the issue on the EU agenda to advocating every step of the way to make sure that an EU wide legislation was adopted – one that it is in line with best practice. An EU Directive on whistleblower protection was adopted in October 2019. The crucial role played by CSOs in achieving an agreement on a strong text was recognized by EU policy makers.
Pushing for the effective enforcement of whistleblower protection legislation by the authorities
Legislation is only the first step. For whistleblowers to be effectively protected, legislation must be properly enforced. Transparency International is monitoring the set-up and the on-going work of the authorities in charge of whistleblower protection in several counties.
In Slovakia for example, our chapter found that the labour inspectorates were not fit for the task and successfully advocated for the creation of a single dedicated whistleblower authority.
Supporting the effective implementation of whistleblowing legislation in the workplace.
Most whistleblowers first report their concerns within their organisation. It is thus essential that private companies and public institutions provide safe and effective mechanisms to receive and address those reports, as well as robust protection against retaliation.
Whistleblowing helps to protect companies from the effects of misconduct, including legal liability, serious financial losses and lasting reputational harm. Effective internal reporting mechanisms also foster a corporate culture of trust and responsiveness.
In several countries, Transparency International developed guidelines on how to set-up and operate effective internal reporting mechanisms, in line with national legislation and best practice (for example in Estonia, France, and Italy).
Chapters provide advice to companies on the issue of whistleblower protection through their Business Integrity Forums. Others work closely with public sector employers. In Italy, the chapter is providing a secure online reporting platform to public administration.
TI Ireland has set up a multi-stakeholder initiative for organisations in the public, private and non-profit sectors called Integrity at Work, specifically on the issue of whistleblowing.
Through our Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres, located in over 50 countries, we advise whistleblowers in making their disclosures and work to make sure that their disclosures are duly addressed by appropriate authorities.