Breaking the Silence: A New Message from the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative!
The one million Euro, EU-funded project titled ‘Breaking the Silence: Enhancing the Whistleblowing Policies and Culture in Western Balkans and Moldova’, implemented by the RAI Secretariat, commenced on April 1, 2020. This is a three-year project, which will cover the following jurisdictions: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The aim of the project is to help its partners in the government and non-governmental sector to:
• Improve the disclosure channels and protection mechanisms for whistleblowers by strengthening the legislative framework and institutional arrangements;
• Strengthen the capacity of civil society to support whistleblowing through public policy advocacy, public education, legal aid, and other support to whistleblowers;
• Enhance public awareness, especially of youth, about the importance of whistleblowing through a regional campaign, which will be sensitive to the individual context of each jurisdiction.
Whistleblowing is considered to be among the most effective ways to expose and fight crime and corruption in the public and private sectors. Based on previous research of RAI Secretariat on Whistleblower Protection in Southeast Europe, during the past decade, new whistleblower laws and practices have been conceived in all the abovementioned jurisdictions. At the same time, government agencies, CSOs, and the media are developing new expertise throughout the region to support whistleblowing through disclosure mechanisms to law enforcement, and other official channels, or the public, as well as the empowerment of whistleblowers and their protection.
This project will build upon previous experience of RAI Secretariat in improving whistleblowing practices, as well as results achieved to date in Western Balkans and Moldova. Some of the activities of the project include:
• Gap analysis of the existing legal framework on whistle-blower protection in the Western Balkans and Moldova and recommendations for improvements, especially considering the EU Directive on the Protection of Persons who Report Breaches of the Union Law adopted in September 2019;
• The assessment of whistleblowing institutional arrangements in Western Balkans and Moldova and capacity building based on a capacity needs assessment (e.g. training, expert advice, peer learning opportunities through annual stakeholder meetings);
• Public information and education campaign targeting the public, professional community, and youth.
While improvements to laws and institutional arrangements relevant to whistleblower protection are the first precondition to be met, changing the culture of silence requires a continued and orchestrated effort of all actors to demonstrate the support to whistleblower disclosures as one of the key tools in fighting corruption.
Taken together, when this project ends in 2023, RAI expects that:
• Disclosure channels and protection mechanisms for whistle-blowers in public institutions will be improved and civil society capacity strengthened
• General public, professional community, and public institutions will be more sensitized and informed about whistleblowing
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
Reporting of corruption and protection of persons who report or disclose information on a threat or harm to the public interest in the context of their work-based relationship (definition of “whistleblower” given in the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/REC(2014)7) take the important role in the overall anti-corruption efforts and activities over the world.
The protection of whistleblowers has been identified as a prominent and challenging issue for all South-east European countries. Most of countries are at the beginning stages of assembling reliable and responsive whistleblower protection mechanisms. Still, government and corporate whistleblowers in the region continue to be exposed to many types of retribution, from harassment and ostracism to dismissal and physical threats. Thus, national Anti-corruption strategies in Southeast Europe have covered whistleblower protection, by envisaging concrete measures and activities.
The Regional Anti-corruption Initiative (RAI) takes continuous efforts in raising awareness of whistleblower protection, strengthening public institutions’ capacities to protect whistleblowers, and supporting civil society organizations that work in the field of whistleblower advocacy. The regional cooperation aspect in the area of whistleblower protection has also been in focus of the RAI Work Plan for 2016 – 2017, which is based on the Public Awareness Objective identified under the Anti-Corruption Dimension of the South East Europe 2020 Strategy.
The Regional Anti-corruption Initiative in partnership with the Blueprint for Free Speech produced a regional research on whistleblower protection titled Whistleblower Protection in Southeast Europe: An Overview of Laws, Practice, and Recent Initiatives, describing the current state of play in Southeast Europe in the area of whistleblowing.
On 18-19 June 2015, Regional Anti-corruption Initiative, in cooperation with International Whistleblowing Research Network and administered by Middlesex University – London, UK, with support by Blueprint for Free Speech, organized the International Whistleblowing Research Network Conference. The event brought together representatives of national institutions and civil society organizations dealing with whistleblower protection.
The Regional Anti-corruption Initiative supports the Southeast Europe Whistleblower Coalition on whistleblower protection. In collaboration with Blueprint for Free Speech and with funding by the Regional Cooperation Council under the implementation of RCC’s Southeast Europe 2020 Strategy, RAI organized a Coalition-forming event in Belgrade, Serbia, on November 9-10, 2015. The Southeast Europe Whistleblower Coalition is the world’s first regional initiative dedicated to Whistleblowing. It serves as an umbrella function for policy-making, advocacy and awareness-raising efforts as well as a network for the exchange of knowledge, experiences and support.
As a continuation in its efforts, RAI in cooperation with its partners: RACVIAC – Centre for Security who will host the event, ReSPA – Regional School for Public Administration and Regional Cooperation Council is organizing the Workshop on Corruption Reporting and Whistleblower Protection. The event is scheduled for 10-11 May 2016, in Rakitje, Croatia. The objective of the Workshop is to increase the capacity of relevant public institutions on the protection of whistleblowers, as well as to increase awareness on needed legal solutions. The Workshop outcomes will also serve in determining the future regional activities in the field of whistleblower protection.
One of the strategic commitments of the Regional Anti-corruption Initiative is to provide support to member countries in the adoption and implementation of universal and other European legal instruments. There are numerous international instruments which also encourage or require enhanced protection for whistleblowers. These instruments are of high importance also for Southeast European countries, which aim at becoming parties and implement them into national legislations.
OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, 2009; OECD Recommendation on Further Combating Bribery in International Business Transactions, Recommendation IX(iii);
18 July 2016
We are pleased to announce that Regional Anti-corruption Initiative (RAI) concluded a contract with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) on 18 July on the award of a grant by the RCC for the implementation of the Action entitled: “Whistleblowers are important: Raising Awareness about the Whistleblowing in South East Europe”.
The project whose duration will be six months aims to improve the status and the protection of whistleblowers in the South East Europe, as well as to break stereotypes and prejudice about whistleblowers. The grant awarded by the RCC will enable RAI to produce a documentary about whistleblowers in the region through which the general public will be given an opportunity to learn about the importance of whistleblowing. RAI plans to gather stories about whistleblowers from the region in the documentary, hoping it will reach wider anti-corruption, justice and governance community. It is intended that the Documentary will be implemented using the Barometer Survey information and relying on Secretariat’s wide network of public servants dealing with whistleblowing in national governments, CSOs working on advocacy and/or protection of whistleblowers in the region and actual whistleblowers.
Besides telling the whistleblowing stories, the documentary aims to initiate a regional discussion on the ways of improving the status and protection of whistleblowers in South East Europe. The specific objective of the project is to raise awareness among the general public on the importance of whistleblowing in private and public sector.
RAI plans the documentary to be widely promoted and distributed across the regional universities and academic community for the purpose of sparking the discussion on whistleblowing. In addition, RAI intends to organize two regional events with the representatives of national governments and CSOs hoping to promote the concept of whistleblowing and strengthen the capacity of institutions to deal with whistleblowers.
For more information, please contact RAI Secretariat.