International instruments and guidelines for implementation

International instruments

Convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions (and related documents). OECD. 2011.  

The 1997 OECD convention (updated in 2011) on combatting bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions lays out a requirement for signatory states to establish reporting/whistleblowing mechanisms for public officials in clause III (7), with subsequent recommendations on how to go about this, including: assure broad accessibility, clear communication of reporting procedures, provision of alternatives to the normal chain of management for reporting and timely follow-up of reports.  

International principles for whistleblower legislation. Transparency International. 2013.

The Transparency International principles for whistleblower legislation are intended to serve as guidance for formulating new and improving existing whistleblower legislation. They should be adapted to national context and legal frameworks of a particular country and were created taking into account lessons learned from existing laws and their implementation in practice, input from whistleblower experts, government officials, research institutes, academia and NGOs on a global scale.  

There are 30 principles in total. Principle 15 covers reporting within the workplace and sets out criteria such as: highly visible and understandable procedures; maintenance of confidentiality and anonymity; and thorough, timely and independent investigation of disclosures, among others.  

Protection of whistleblowers: A brief guide for implementing a national framework. Council of Europe. 2015.  

This guideline developed by the Council of Europe targets policy makers from member states (and states that practitioners will also find this guide useful) and encourages them to establish normative, institutional and judicial frameworks which protect, in law and in practice, whistleblowers. It recognises the proactive role member states should take in bringing about a change in culture in workplaces, in public and private sectors. It is structured with a definition of key concepts followed by four steps: review, consultation, reform and evaluation.

Guidelines for implementation of international instruments

Anti-corruption ethics compliance handbook for business. OECD, UNODC and World Bank. 2013.

This handbook was developed “by companies, for companies” with assistance from the OECD, United Nations Office of Drugs and crime (UNODC) and the World Bank, as a practical tool containing compliance advice. It therefore considers whistleblowing as part of the wider framework of compliance. It is illustrated with numerous case studies, several of which include whistleblowing. The guide is structured in three parts: the international legal framework for combatting corruption, risk assessment; and developing and implementing an anti-corruption ethics and compliance programme.

Committing to effective whistleblower protections. OECD Publishing, Paris. OECD. 2016. 

This report analyses whistleblower protection standards, both legislative and organisational, in the public and private sectors. It highlights and analyses trends identified through the 2014 OECD Public Sector Whistleblower Protection Survey (completed by 32 OECD Public Governance Committee member countries) and supports its analysis with evaluation reports of the OECD Working Group on Bribery of the 41 States Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention. The report is global in scope and detailed in content. Private sector organisations can look to chapter 5 for information on private sector whistleblower protection, and chapters 2 and 3 are dedicated to the public sector.   

The United Nations Convention against Corruption: Resource guide on good practices in the protection of reporting persons. United Nations. 2015.  

This guide was developed by the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch of the UNODC and is directed at states looking to meet the requirements of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in relation to assisting and protecting reporting persons (whether members of the public or whistleblowers), as outlined in UNCAC Article 33 (Protection of reporting persons). It offers technical guidance on the legal and institutional reforms national actors can make to go about this. Despite being restricted to legislative best practices, it identifies businesses, public sector and non-profit organisations (among others) as relevant stakeholders to be consulted by signatory states.  

Section 2 of the guide on “Facilitating reports and protecting reporting persons” identifies essential policies and best practices applicable to employers in both the public and private sectors, such as: providing examples to distinguish whistleblowing from grievances; alternatives to reporting outside of line management; a right to confidentiality; access to an independent helpline offering confidential advice; advice on when and how a concern can be raised outside the organisation; and mention that it is a disciplinary matter to retaliate against a whistleblower or to maliciously make a false allegation.

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