Whistleblowers face serious social, political and legal hindrances that obstruct their public service, thus discouraging the disclosure of harmful activities and reinforcing the opacity of the status quo.
“A Change of Direction” is an international group of NGOs and research institutions that is promoting a new integrated framework for research, awareness-raising and public advocacy for protecting whistleblowers in Europe. This project stems from the conviction that stronger rights are essential to encourage public officials, employees and citizens to report corruption and misconduct within government and companies. The project reflects the European Union’s growing attention to fighting corruption toward strengthening European institutions.
The goal of “A Change of Direction” is to enable prospective whistleblowers to benefit from better and more updated information about their legal rights and obligations, access to safe and reliable channels to report wrongdoing, and adequate organizational support.
This project contributes to curbing corruption risks within government institutions and corporations, reinforcing a culture of accountability and trust, and helping the formation of new “partnerships” between employees and citizens, and governments and corporations within European institutions and at country level.
The project is the first on this scale in Europe to unite the fields of academia and advocacy on the issue of whistleblower protection. A multidisciplinary group of researchers from diverse areas joined a team of activists and investigative journalists to develop policy proposals, political campaigns, public awareness initiatives, and resources for whistleblowers that are informed both by credible research and practical experience. Thus, value is added in both directions - to academia and to advocacy - to work toward a productive and protective framework for whistleblowers.
The project has a duration of two years (March 2016 – February 2018) and is co-funded by the European Commission through the Internal Security Fund programme.
To translate our concern into a ground-level practical approach, we face four main issues: protection from retaliation, disclosure channels, investigation of disclosures, and negative cultural attitudes toward whistleblowers.
In order to engage and change this reality, we will adopt a holistic and thorough approach encompassing the following working areas.
The proposals regarding a specific norm protecting whistleblowers must come together with proposals on non-specific norms that affect the issue as well in the European Union and its members.
Whistleblowers should be provided with the adequate tools and guarantees to regulate their actions and ensure their security; however, this also implies their responsibility to perform their actions in a clear and comprehensive set of rights and obligations.
We campaign for whistleblowers who have exposed corruption and public health dangers, and who have unjustly suffered retaliation because of their bravery; we also work closely with policy-makers and elected officials, urging them to enact strong legal rights and protections for whistleblowers.
Whistleblowers face the resistance stemming from traditional group cultures and a hierarchical understanding of social organizations where obedience is valued more than accountability.