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20 Oct 2015

Arnaud Poitevin, PhD candidate at Centre national de la recherche scientifique; lecturer, Université Sorbonne Paris Cité

Whistleblowing: A powerful tool to monitor human rights compliance

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Whistleblowers are individuals who disclose information about illicit activities and/or behaviour harmful to the public interest, facing the risk of serious retaliations...[Now,] the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (Part I, Chapter II) explicitly recommend the implementation of whistleblowing safeguards...The UNGPs themselves (Principle 29 et seq.) affirm the responsibility of business enterprises to establish or participate in effective operational-level grievance mechanisms...These new frameworks imply that whistleblowing protection should now cover the whole spectrum of business operations (including human rights issues) and stakeholders (including local communities, authorities, trade unions and civil society organizations, as well as the entire global value chains). In other words, all business stakeholders should have access to (1) a whistleblowing platform and (2) protection against retaliation...[W]histleblowing schemes should rather be considered an excellent and affordable tool to map, measure and remedy compliance gaps in business operations and, thus, ensure a significant part of their responsibility to perform human rights due diligence...However, comprehensive and reliable studies addressing the issue remain rare, especially on data specifically related to human rights compliance...This is why I recently submitted a study to the UN Working Group on business and human rights, arguing that that there is a deep rationale today to strengthen international and domestic safeguards concerning whistleblowers...