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GAP established an international program in 2000 to strengthen whistleblower protection laws and policies globally. The program focuses on developing and strengthening whistleblower protection policies at inter-governmental organizations (IGO), which then themselves promote the measures in their member states. Since 2005, GAP has helped formulate policies adopted by four of the five Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), the United Nations Secretariat, the World Food Program, UNESCO, UNDP and many additional UN Funds and Programs. GAP has also trained international civil servants on whistleblower protections, and published studies of the UN internal justice system and IGO accountability practices.
Although many IGOs now have stronger whistleblower policies, their record of protecting whistleblowers remains poor. Consequently, much of GAP’s work focuses on retaliation cases within these organizations, as they illuminate loopholes in existing policies and accountability deficits. These organizations are instrumental in promoting legal and practical labor safeguards, advocating freedom of expression, and mandating judicial independence worldwide. Nonetheless, they have long been vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy on these issues because of their own retaliatory practices. So long as the leading IGOs like the UN, the Global Fund and the MDBs cannot present their own labor policy and practice as exemplary, they will lack the moral authority needed to advocate free speech and accountability in Member States.
- In 2015, GAP represented Anders Kompass, a senior official in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, when he was put under investigation by the United Nations for transmitting information on the sexual abuse of children by French troops in the Central African Republic to French authorities. Through our advocacy and strategic publicity, the independent panel investigating the abuse allegations exonerated Kompass. Soon afterward, the internal UN investigation of him was closed with no finding of misconduct. The Guardian newspaper, which first published the abuse allegations, covered the unfolding story for months, including when Kompass finally was able to speak about his ordeal.
- In early 2016, GAP clients Miranda Brown and James Pooley, gave extraordinary testimony before a hearing of joint subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about misconduct and whistleblower retaliation at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Stunned representatives excoriated the conduct of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, referring to the organization under his leadership as the “FIFA of UN agencies,” called for reforms to protect whistleblowers, including external arbitration of their claims.
- GAP client John Parsons, former head of the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General, won his case in the International Labor Organization’s tribunal in February 2016. The tribunal ruled that Parsons had been improperly dismissed in 2013, when he was fired after disclosing that the Fund, a public-private partnership focused on disease eradication, had been covering up fraud and mismanagement. Parsons was awarded nearly $1 million dollars in back pay and damages.
- In 2015, GAP’s efforts helped produce a report presented by David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the UN Secretariat and Member States. The report highlighted the plight of whistleblowers at the UN itself, and was accompanied by a side event hosted by Article 19 and publicized through a video produced by Human Rights Watch that featured GAP whistleblower client Aicha Elbasri.
The International Program will continue to advocate for whistleblower rights globally, including in IGOs and Member States. Projects on the horizon include:
- A House Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on UN Peacekeeping Operations, in which GAP client Aicha Elbasri will testify. The hearing will focus on serious problems in peacekeeping missions, including multiple allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by troops and the covering up mission failures to protect civilians.
- Cooperation with Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations which is looking into the Global Fund’s conduct in the case of GAP client John Parsons.
- Continue working with International Program Fellow, Dr. Susan Aaronson, who is researching whistleblowing and human rights in the context of IGOs. GAP will be co-leading a study group with Dr. Aaronson that will examine why whistleblowing in the UN has failed to gain traction as a strong tool to advance transparency in a time of strong public support for accountability.
- GAP is continuing its support for the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN), which we co-founded with other non-governmental organizations in four countries. WIN connects and strengthens international civil society organizations that defend and support whistleblowers. The Network provides counsel, tools and expertise needed by those working in their countries to address corruption, waste, fraud, abuse, illegality and threats to the public interest.