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Understanding Whistleblower Protection: International laws, practices and trends

The accountancy profession has a central role to play in championing the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation as well as accountability for wrongdoers. Learn how more jurisdictions are recognizing the importance of dedicated whistleblower protection law.

Whistleblowing and whistleblower protection are critical public policy issues worldwide. Whistleblowers play a pivotal role in exposing financial wrongdoing, economic crimes, misconduct, fraud and corruption. Therefore, it is essential to have robust whistleblowing protection laws to safeguard and support the contributions of whistleblowers, promote a culture of accountability and integrity in the public and private sectors and encourage the reporting of wrongdoing. For whistleblower protection laws to positively contribute to the prevention and detection of corruption worldwide, people need to know that laws and practices exist and work effectively.

Recognizing the critical importance of empowering individuals to "speak up" against wrongdoing, some jurisdictions have taken steps to enhance their existing frameworks. However, a 2021 report titled Are Whistleblowing Laws Working? A Global Study of Whistleblower Protection Litigation, conducted by the International Bar Association and the Government Accountability Project, shed light on the deficiencies and shortcomings of whistleblower laws worldwide. Despite significant multilateral instruments like the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the G20 Whistleblower Action Plan, and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, progress in strengthening whistleblower protection remains challenging. 

As policymakers continue to consider new whistleblower protection developments at the global and national levels, a joint report, Understanding Whistleblower Protection: Laws, Practices, Trends and Key Implementation Considerations by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and CPA Canada offers evidence-based research and practical perspectives on whistleblower protection legislation. The report, developed with contributions from the Whistleblowing International Network, provides professional accountancy organizations (PAOs), professional accountants, relevant authorities and policymakers globally with insights on current issues in adopting and implementing whistleblower protection legislation and key policy considerations to help ensure that local frameworks are fit for purpose.

The accountancy profession is a key stakeholder in whistleblower protection. Professional accountants have a central role to play in supporting a speak-up culture in their organizations, regardless of size or whether those organizations are in the private or public sector. With this report, we call on PAOs worldwide to actively engage in whistleblowing related policy discussions in their jurisdictions, thereby demonstrating their commitment to the public interest. At the same time, as leaders in the global accounting community, we call on professional accountants to promote the adoption of effective whistleblower channels across organizations, governments, and not-for-profit entities as an integral element to promote ethical and responsible business.