Making whistleblowing work for Europe
by Transparency International Europe, agencies
14 Feb. 2019
The EU is poised to take a momentous step and adopt a new directive to protect whistleblowers across Europe. This could have a dramatic impact on the capacity and ability of whistleblowing to work in all our interests. We know that protecting those who speak up in the public interest saves lives, protects our environment, reveals and stops corruption, and stems the huge financial losses to business and governments that result from failures to address wrongdoing.
It is vital that an EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers protects the free flow of information necessary for responsible exercises of institutional authority. This is why we, the undersigned, have come together to urge the EU Council to do the right thing – and adopt the Parliament’s position on the reporting channels.
Protecting disclosures made outside the employment relationship is at the heart of providing real whistleblower protection. It must be understood that in doing so:
It allows law enforcement and regulatory bodies to do their jobs properly; It is the vital safety net for protecting the public interest and the public’s right to know when organisations are corrupt or fail to take responsibility; It ensures employers take seriously their responsibility to make it safe and acceptable to report internally; and there is no evidence this undermines internal channels as the genuine first port of call for individuals. It protects freedom of expression.
As it stands, we are very concerned that the EU is about to agree a directive that will dangerously reinforce the status quo and make it even harder for individuals to report breaches of law and wrongdoing.
It is right that organisations across all sectors are encouraged to take steps that make it easier and safer for those who work with them to report concerns, but it is essential that competent regulatory and law enforcement authorities have access to the information they need to fulfil their mandates.
By making it mandatory to report to the employer first – and obligatory to use the channel employers are required to set up with only risky and uncertain exceptions – the directive unwittingly builds in information control systems that will both hamper internal good management and make certain responsible disclosures to competent authorities illegal.
If this mandatory internal disclosure regime stands, the directive will have abandoned responsible Europeans who raise concerns appropriately to their employers through their supervisors or normal management channels of communication, who disclose information to competent authorities who have the power and mandate to address wrongdoing, or who provide information to the journalists who investigate and report in the public interest. They will suffer. Europe will suffer.
We remind the EU institutions, in trilogue negotiations right now, that their promise to better protect whistleblowers across Europe requires taking democratic accountability seriously. Regulatory authorities, governments and businesses across Europe are actively seeking information from those who speak up so that they can better protect and deliver services and protect the rights of the communities they serve.
The EU has a moral and legal responsibility to adopt a directive that builds on the Council of Europe Recommendation and international best practice consensus that protects the voluntary choice of channels for those who disclose wrongdoing.
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A new abnormal: It is still two minutes to midnight
by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.
In the nuclear realm, the United States abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and announced it would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), grave steps towards a complete dismantlement of the global arms control process. Although the United States and North Korea moved away from the bellicose rhetoric of 2017, the urgent North Korean nuclear dilemma remains unresolved. Meanwhile, the world’s nuclear nations proceeded with programs of “nuclear modernization” that are all but indistinguishable from a worldwide arms race, and the military doctrines of Russia and the United States have increasingly eroded the long-held taboo against the use of nuclear weapons.
On the climate change front, global carbon dioxide emissions—which seemed to plateau earlier this decade—resumed an upward climb in 2017 and 2018. To halt the worst effects of climate change, the countries of the world must cut net worldwide carbon dioxide emissions to zero by well before the end of the century.
By such a measure, the world community failed dismally last year. At the same time, the main global accord on addressing climate change—the 2015 Paris agreement—has become increasingly beleaguered. The United States announced it will withdraw from that pact, and at the December climate summit in Poland, the United States allied itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait (all major petroleum-producing countries) to undercut an expert report on climate change impacts that the Paris climate conference had itself commissioned.
Amid these unfortunate nuclear and climate developments, there was a rise during the last year in the intentional corruption of the information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends. In many forums, including particularly social media, nationalist leaders and their surrogates lied shamelessly, insisting that their lies were truth, and the truth “fake news.” These intentional attempts to distort reality exaggerate social divisions, undermine trust in science, and diminish confidence in elections and democratic institutions.
Because these distortions attack the rational discourse required for solving the complex problems facing humanity, cyber-enabled information warfare aggravates other major global dangers—including those posed by nuclear weapons and climate change—as it undermines civilization generally.
There is nothing normal about the complex and frightening reality just described.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today sets the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight—the closest it has ever been to apocalypse. Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world.
The current international security situation—what we call the “new abnormal”—has extended over two years now. It’s a state as worrisome as the most dangerous times of the Cold War, a state that features an unpredictable and shifting landscape of simmering disputes that multiply the chances for major military conflict to erupt.
This new abnormal is simply too volatile and dangerous to accept as a continuing state of world affairs.
Dire as the present may seem, there is nothing hopeless or predestined about the future. The Bulletin resolutely believes that human beings can manage the dangers posed by the technology that humans create. Indeed, in the 1990s, leaders in the United States and the Soviet Union took bold action that made nuclear war markedly less likely—and that led the Bulletin to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock far from midnight.
But threats must be acknowledged before they can be effectively confronted. The current situation—in which intersecting nuclear, climate, and information warfare threats all go insufficiently recognized and addressed, when they are not simply ignored or denied—is unsustainable.
The longer world leaders and citizens carelessly inhabit this new and abnormal reality, the more likely the world is to experience catastrophe of historic proportions.
* Access the full report via the link below or see: http://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/
* Basel Appeal on Disarmament and Sustainable Security - An Open Letter from elected officials and experts from more than 40 countries on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament measures to preserve peace and achieve sustainable security: http://bit.ly/2UvD4tb
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