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Breaking the silence: strengths and weaknesses in G20 whistleblower protection laws

10 Sep 2014

Executive summary


The G20 countries committed in 2010 and 2012 to put in place adequate measures to protect whistleblowers, and to provide them with safe, reliable avenues to report fraud, corruption and other wrongdoing. While much has been achieved as a result of the G20 commitment, on the whole much remains to be done to meet this important goal. Many G20 countries’ whistleblower protection laws continue to fail to meet international standards, and fall significantly short of best practice.

Lacking strong legal protections, government and corporate employees who report wrongdoing to their managers or to regulators can face dismissal, harassment and other forms of retribution. With employees deterred from coming forward, government and corporate misconduct can be perpetuated. Serious wrongdoing such as corruption, fraud, financial malpractice, public health threats, unsafe consumer products and environmental damage can persist without remedy.


This report analyses the current state of whistleblower protection rules in each of the G20 countries, applying to the identification of wrongdoing in both the public and private sectors.

It is the first independent evaluation of G20 countries’ whistleblowing laws for both the private and public sectors, having been researched by an international team of experts drawn from civil society and academia. While G20 countries do self-reporting on implementation, to date this reporting has been “broad brush”, and tends towards a more flattering and less useful picture of progress than may really be the case (see Appendix 1).

By contrast, this report uses recognised principles to provide a more in-depth picture of the state of progress, and whether a case for continued high-level cooperation remains. Each country’s laws were assessed against a set of 14 criteria (see Table below), developed from five internationally recognised sets of whistleblower principles for best legislative practice.

The report is based on a public consultation draft released in June 2014. Earlier draft findings and the consultation draft were distributed to a wide range of experts and whistleblowing-related NGOs in G20 countries. The consultation draft was also submitted to all G20 governments for comment, through the T20 (Think20) engagement group and the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group. We are grateful for the valuable comments and suggestions received (see Acknowledgements), many of which led to refinements and improvements in this final report.

This report only analyses the content of laws related to whistleblower protection in each country. This written law is only part of what is necessary to ensure those who reveal wrongdoing are protected in practice, with actual implementation of any law representing a different and ongoing challenge for G20 countries. We stress that positive assessment of the presence and comprehensiveness of legal provisions in this report is not a measure of the extent or quality of actual whistleblower protection in any country. Further, in countries with lower scores, there may be cultural or other norms that in fact indirectly assist in practical protection of whistleblowers.

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