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How the United Nations Fails to Protect Whistleblowers

Given my clear interest in UN ethics matters given the case of Georges Tadonki, a UN Humanitarian Coordinator who faced life-threatening harrassment for having exposed a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, I wanted to point our readers’ attention toward an article published in The Guardian today by Julian Borger.  Excerpt below:

A landmark case brought by a former United Nations employee against the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has cast light on what activists describe as a pervasive culture of impunity in an organisation where whistleblowers are given minimal protection from reprisals.

James Wasserstrom, a veteran American diplomat, was sacked and then detained by UN police, who ransacked his flat, searched his car and put his picture on a wanted poster after he raised suspicions in 2007 about corruption in the senior ranks of the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik).

The UN’s dispute tribunal has ruled that the organisation’s ethics office failed to protect Wasserstrom against such reprisals from his bosses, and that the UN’s mechanisms for dealing with whistleblowers were “fundamentally flawed”, to the extent the organisation had failed to protect the basic rights of its own employees.

The case was directed against Ban as being directly responsible for the actions of the ethics office.

Of the 297 cases where whistleblowers complained of retaliation for trying to expose wrongdoing inside the UN, the ethics office fully sided with the complainant just once in six years, according to the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a watchdog organisation in Washington.

“Like any internal office in an institution, it is always subjected to huge pressures from above,” said Bea Edwards, GAP’s executive director. “It is very difficult for an official employed by the institution to be impartial.”