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I Whistle, You Whistle – Looking For Best Practices Around the World

Tom Devine Posted by Tom Devine.

Tom Devine is legal director of the Government Accountability Project, where he has worked to assist thousands of whistleblowers to come forward and has been involved in the all of the campaigns to pass or defend major whistleblower laws over the last two decades.

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While some high profile whistleblower cases have developed in the U.S. there is also much to learn from experiences of other countries and from international practice. The Open Government Guide has compiled a collection of whistleblowing materials from around the world that American advocates can use to enrich their own proposals for legal reforms. Whistleblower laws are becoming increasingly popular, but it is crucial that they can be enforced.  If the rights they offer are only symbolic this puts workers and others at greater risk, inviting individuals to make disclosures while offering no genuine protection or any commitment to any appropriate follow-up.

The Open Government Guide’s compilation includes standards and guidelines from around the world that U.S. whistleblowing champions will find useful in formulating improvements to federal and state legislation and pushing for their adoption and implementation. In addition to the Global Accountability Project’s very own International Best Practices For Whistleblower Policies, the collection features a study pulling together best practices from whistleblower protection laws enacted in twenty major countries worldwide, the Tshwane Principles on National Security and the Right to Information, and numerous other documents from across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Maybe even more useful are the real-life examples of good whistleblower protection measures and initiatives that the Open Government Guide has collected:

·       Canada’s Security of Information Act provides that no person is guilty of an offence if they can establish that they “acted in the public interest”. This means that they must show they acted in order to disclose an offence and that the “the public interest in the disclosure outweighed the public interest in non-disclosure”.

·       The Danish criminal code provides a public defence for publication of state secrets “where the person … is acting in the legitimate exercise of obvious public interest”.

·       Ghana’s dedicated Whistleblower Act is sweeping in its scope, protecting whistleblowing with regard to police and intelligence agencies, religious leaders, economic or other crimes, miscarriage of justice, environmental degradation, a danger to health or safety, or the waste, misappropriation or mismanagement of public resources.

·       South Africa’s Protected Disclosures Act, 2000 covers all whistleblowers from the public and private sectors including all those working in the police, the armed forces and in security, intelligence and communications.

·       Korea’s Anti-Corruption Commission can provide relief if a whistleblowing report causes damage or for expenses related to medical treatment, residential relocation, litigation, wage loss or for other reasons.

·       The Dutch government has piloted a free and confidential advice service that aims to advise and support individual whistleblowers in specific cases, provide general information on whistleblowing and procedures, and report regularly on patterns and developments in the field of whistleblowing and integrity. The center’s staff team includes four senior legal counsels, a communication consultant and an office manager.

Over the coming months and years, the Open Government Guide will continue to expand its collection of standards, guidelines and case studies related to whistleblowing. If you know of any legal innovations or interesting initiatives, please get in touch with us so that your experiences, too, can be shared worldwide.

In the meantime, you may also want to have a look at our 21 other collections covering other transparency- and accountability-related topics, including the right to Information, privacy and data protection, open government data, and police and public security.

Tania Sanchez, Open Government Guide Coordinator