UN Watch. Recognizing that whistleblower rights are human rights, which must be promoted and protected within the U.N. system

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2015 – Today, a group of nine whistleblowers from the U.N. system sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Directors of U.N. Specialized Agencies urging them to do more to protect whistleblowers.

The letter claims that whistleblower policies in the U.N. system “afford little to no measure of real or meaningful protection for whistleblowers” and that “fear of reporting wrongdoing is widespread.” According to the letter, the “UN system of justice fails whistleblowers.”

The signatories worked for various agencies and programs within the U.N. system, including the U.N. Secretariat, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and U.N. Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). They exposed serious wrongdoing, gross misconduct and even criminal acts within the United Nations system and faced retaliation as a result. According to the letter, their experience shows that “retaliation against whistleblowers affects the entire U.N. system and goes largely unchecked at all levels, including in the Executive suites.”

Some of the letter’s key demands of the Secretary-General and the heads of UN agencies include:

  • Recognizing that whistleblower rights are human rights, which must be promoted and protected within the U.N. system.
  • Reviewing whistleblower protection for U.N. staff and for those serving in affiliated specialized agencies and international organisations   not protected by national laws.
  • Submitting the proposed revisions to the U.N. Secretariat protection against retaliation policy for public consultation.
  • Ending immediately the practice of subjecting U.N. whistleblowers to lengthy internal appeals processes for contesting the loss of their job or other adverse employment decisions.
  • Establishing an external independent mechanism for claims of retaliation against U.N. whistleblowers and provide regular reports to the U.N. General Assembly.
  • Providing an external arbitration option for all whistleblowers.
  • Recognizing that whistleblowers are vulnerable across the U.N. system, possibly for the duration of their careers, and providing them with appropriate psychological support and counseling, as well as career development.

The whistleblowers claim that without such reforms, wrongdoing at the U.N. will be unreported and will continue to go unchecked. They conclude that this will “damage the UN’s moral standing and, ultimately, its legitimacy.”

The Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization, supports the reforms proposed by the whistleblowers and signed-on to the letter.

“Numerous U.N. organizations fail to protect employees who expose misconduct from retaliation,” said Bea Edwards, GAP Executive Director and International Program Director. “We call on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and directors of U.N. agencies to address this problem and to vigorously enforce their own anti-retaliation policies.”

Contact: Andrew Harman

Phone: (202) 457-0034 ext. 156

Contact: Shelley Walden, International Program Consultant

Government Accountability Project (GAP) report here: 


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