Questions On Whistleblowing To UN In Wake Of Systemic Abuses

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GAP Submits Questions On Whistleblowing To UN Secretary General Candidates In Wake Of Systemic Abuses

33 Civil Society Organizations From Around the World Join GAP in Demanding UN Accountability

WASHINGTON – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), together with 33 civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world, is submitting a series of questions designed to elicit opinions on whistleblowing from the candidates for the post of Secretary General at the United Nations.


GAP is a CSO based in Washington, D.C. that has protected and defended whistleblowers for nearly 40 years. In the wake of the Oil-for-Food scandal at the UN, GAP helped to draft and promote a policy designed to shield UN whistleblowers from reprisal. The policy was adopted by the Secretariat in 2005 and an Ethics Office was established to enforce it in 2006.

Nonetheless, GAP’s experience shows that UN whistleblowers have suffered retaliation with impunity in the intervening years. Our data show that the Ethics Office provided relief to less than three percent of whistleblowers who requested it between 2006 and 2014. The same year those statistics were released, the UN Appeals Tribunal ruled that whistleblowers denied relief by the Ethics Office could not appeal to the UN justice system. In short, 97 percent of those who request protection from retaliation at the UN are denied it and, once denied, have no recourse.

“Whistleblowers are the key to fraud detection and prevention, and the ‘tone-at-the-top’ is the key to protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. ” Said Bea Edwards, GAP’s International Program Director. “The candidates’ responses to our questions should help UN Member States ensure that the next Secretary General is truly committed to accountability.

Despite his good governance rhetoric, Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary General, has not been a champion of whistleblowers. In 2015, GAP submitted to the US State Department a report on unaddressed retaliation directed at 10 UN whistleblowers from the Secretariat in New York, the peacekeeping missions, and the Funds, Programs and Specialized agencies. This year, more retaliation cases have been recorded.

As Ban approaches the end of his term, and the UN Member States prepare to select a new Secretary General, GAP and concerned members of the UNCAC Coalition and the Whistleblowing International Network are posing direct questions to the SG candidates about their views on whistleblower protection.

We will be releasing the candidates’ answers as we receive them, and will release a comparative compilation of their views before the election.

The organizations and individuals listed below have endorsed this initiative:

  1. Sophie Lemaître – Sherpa Programme/Illicit Financial Flows
  2. David Lewis, Head, Whistleblowing Research Unit at Middlesex University.
  3. John Christensen, Tax Justice Network
  4. Anna Myers – Whistleblowing International Director
  5. European Center for Press and Media Freedom
  6. South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies, BRAC Univ. Bangladesh
  7. Open Democracy Advice Center (South Africa)
  8. Public Concern at Work (UK)
  9. Whistleblowers Netzwerk (Germany)
  10. Blueprint for a Free Press
  11. Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe)
  12. Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (Haiti)
  13. Corruption Watch UK (UK)
  14. Pistaljka (Serbia)
  15. Transparency International (Ireland)
  16. Armenian Lawyers’ Association (Armenia)
  17. Indonesia Corruption Watch (Indonesia)
  18. Transparency International (Anti-corruption Center Armenia)
  19. Stefan Batory Foundation (Poland).
  20. Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
  21. Transparência e Integridade, Associação Cívica (TIAC) (Portugal)
  22. Transparency International (Sweden)
  23. Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada)
  24. Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad (Mexico)
  25. Koyenum Immalah Foundation (Nigeria)
  26. Water Governance Institute (Uganda)
  27. Transparency International Secretariat
  28. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India)
  29. Economics Research Center (ERC), (Azerbaijan)
  30. The Social Research and Development Center (Yemen)
  31. Transparency International (Georgia)
  32. Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization (PRWSWO)
  33. Groupe d’Action de Paix et de Formation pour la Transformation (GAPAFOT) (Central African Republic)

Whistleblowing And The United Nations

Questions for Candidates for the Post of Secretary General

  1. To fight corruption, governments are adopting policies that protect whistleblowers – those who report corruption and/or misconduct to authorities. Experience shows that whistleblower protection typically promotes transparency, accountability and the public interest. Do you believe that whistleblowers can serve similar functions in the UN system?
  2. Whistleblower protections within governments often provide, first, mechanisms for internal disclosures of misconduct (waste, abuse of authority, fraud, corruption danger to the public health and safety). Staff members are protected from retaliation if they report misconduct to authorities inside their agency. Do you believe that the UN mechanisms currently provided are effective? In what ways, if any, do you think the internal mechanisms could be improved?
  3. Experience shows that internal protections often fail to shield whistleblowers from reprisal. In those cases, the best whistleblower protection laws authorize staff members to report outside the institution, either to regulators, law enforcement or the press. Do you support such external disclosures? If so, please explain what you might do to implement a mechanism that would allow them. If not, please explain why not and describe what you might do as the UN Secretary General when internal protections are inadequate.
  4. At the national level, whistleblower protection frameworks typically limit external disclosures that involve matters of national security, such as weapons systems or troop activity. Disclosures that have implications for the due process rights of third parties may be similarly limited. Do you think there are issues within the UN system that should not be subject to external disclosure? If so, please explain what those might be?
  5. Despite existing policies at the UN, which declare retaliation to be misconduct, the United Nations has a poor record on disciplining retaliators. Would you, as Secretary General, commit yourself to insuring that proven retaliators are disciplined?
  6. The Secretary General must not only enforce anti-retaliation policies, he or she is also the management representative who defends the Organization in a dispute. How will you reconcile your role as the senior management official and your role as a neutral official responsible for protecting a whistleblower whose disclosure may have a negative impact on the reputation of the Organization?
  7. Misconduct in the Peacekeeping Operations has been an especially serious problem for the United Nations in recent years. How would you protect whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing in peacekeeping operations?

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. GAP was consulted by U.N. management when the organization created its initial protection against retaliation policy and has advised several staff associations within the U.N. system about whistleblower protections.

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