Whistleblower protection will foster new UN culture, says top official

22 December 2005

Outlining the United Nations new whistleblower protection policy, the Organization’s top management official today hailed it as an exceptional tool to root out misdeeds and mismanagement and ensure transparency by defending those who report misconduct against retaliation.

“We want to get to the real wrongdoing and the real corruption and the real fraud and want our staff to have the courage to come forward and be supported by the United Nations when they come forward and report misconduct,” Under-Secretary-General for Management Christopher Burnham told a news briefing.

“Hopefully this will help foster this culture of ‘I will not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do’,” he added, noting that that the Government Accountability Project labelled the new policy the “gold standard” and called it the first time any inter-governmental body has guaranteed freedom of expression.

But Mr. Burnham stressed that another ‘culture’, the transmission and dissemination of unsubstantiated rumours, is not a protected activity. “And one of the important things here, of course, is that that will also have to stop, this culture of the anonymous assassination hit mails that go around this place, accusing each other within the community of all kinds of untoward behaviour,” he said.

“It’s a surprising culture that I found when I got here in June of the kind of anonymous e-mail allegations that go around here. Ultimately we live in an internet society now, an internet world, and it’s going to be quite difficult to pursue individuals who spread these kinds of salacious character assassinations, accusations around the web.”

The new policy, signed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday, states: “Retaliation against individuals who have reported misconduct or who have cooperated with audits or investigations violates the fundamental obligation of all staff members to uphold the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity and to discharge their functions and regulate their conduct with the best interests of the Organization in view.”

It addresses concerns raised by staff in last year’s integrity perception survey and Mr. Annan hopes it will give full assurance to those seeking to report misconduct that their voice will be heard and that they will be protected from retaliation.


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