Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection 1st Meeting – November 9-10, 2015 – Belgrade, Serbia
A report by the Regional Anti-corruption Initiative and Blueprint for Free Speech shows that Southeast Europe is among most active regions in the world in developing, passing and implementing whistleblower protection laws. Leadership by governments and NGOs has been the key to these advancements, together with growing public support and guidance from regional and international organizations.
Within the improving environment, we are seeing more cases of victimized whistleblowers regaining their jobs, receiving financial compensation and being cleared of defamation charges. Citizens and the media are starting to recognize the value of whistleblowers and are approaching them with less skepticism. The progress is further supported by the many anti-corruption efforts being carried out by international and regional organisations. Each country within greater Southeast Europe has at least one NGO that focuses on whistleblowing – and some countries have several groups.
In the midst of the said exciting developments it has been recognized that national NGOs need to establish regional coalition. Regional Anti-corruption Initiative in collaboration with Blueprint for Free Speech and with funding by the Regional Cooperation Council under implementation of RCC’s South East Europe 2020 Strategy, held a coalition-forming event in Belgrade, Serbia, on November 9-10, 2015.
The Southeast Europe Whistleblower Coalition will be the world’s first regional initiative dedicated to Whistleblowing. The Coalition will serve an umbrella function for policy-making, advocacy and awareness-raising efforts as well as a network for exchange of knowledge, experiences and support.
The Conference was opened by Mr. Davor Dubravica, Chairperson of RAI, who welcomed all the participants and expressed gratitude to Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and Blueprint for Free Speech for their collaboration and support in organization of the event.
Mr. Dubravica stressed out the importance of the topic for the region of Southeast Europe. He emphasized the role of non-governmental organizations and journalists in the area of whistleblower protection. At the end of his speech, Mr. Dubravica expressed commitment of RAI to support the event and NGOs in future activities in this field.
Mark Worth, Blueprint for Free Speech, welcomed all the participants and expressed thank to RAI and RCC for their efforts in organization of the Conference. Mr. Worth presented briefly the role and mission of the Blueprint for Free Speech. He pointed out on whistle-blower protection as the general human right and topic of significant interest for all countries. Mr. Worth stated that the Southeast Europe Whistleblower Coalition will be the world’s first regional initiative dedicated to Whistleblowing.
After opening remarks, all participants introduced themselves and gave a brief introduction into their organization, current involvement in whistleblower protection, current work, upcoming actions, needs and future plans.
Ms. Veronika Nad from Blueprint for Free Speech, presented the draft of Mission Statement, that has been previously distributed to all participants.
Ms. Jasna Panjeta, Program and Outreach Officer in RAI Secretariat, and Mr. Mark Worth jointly elaborated general Coalition priorities and objectives, but also expectations from the Coalition in the future. It was stated that the Southeast Europe Whistleblower Coalition will be the world’s first regional initiative dedicated to Whistleblowing. The Coalition will serve as umbrella function for policy-making, advocacy and awareness-raising efforts as well as a network for exchange of knowledge, experiences and support. Ms. Panjeta stressed out the importance of the Mission Statement in terms of setting the joint direction of the Coalition as well as the outreach and fundraising activities. Participants expressed their initial views on the form of the Mission Statement, by proposing amendments and addenda to the Statement.
The attendees also explored new ideas and suggestions for the Coalition work. These are:
Building of capacities in area of whistle-blower protection in the Southeast Europe;
Identification of gaps/vulnerabilities;
Strengthening the civil society role;
Establishment of the partnership with public sector;
Enhancing of informal discussion with private sector;
To provide the expertise to the relevant bodies;
Legal aid and assistance to whistleblowers;
Establishment of the cooperation/partnership with UNCAC review Coalition;
Advocacy campaigns on regional and local level;
Keeping record on relevant cases in the region;
Fostering of investigating journalism;
Organization of the public hearing of whistleblowers;
Need to include whistleblower area as objective in all applicable action plans and reports;
To organize regional meetings of whistleblowers;
Setting the platform for whistleblowers, consisting of four pillars: education, reporting tool, research/online surveys, advocacy;
Providing the list of pro-bono lawyers.
Upon brainstorming and reviewing of all ideas from the first day, the shortlist of Project ideas for Coalition has been developed. Furthermore, key priorities have been identified and composed within four main pillars: 1. Legal framework, 2. Media,3. Public outreach and 4. Whistleblower protection modalities.
Through the moderation and introduction remarks by Mr. Arjan Dyrmishi, participants discussed on the Coalition one-year plan, in particullar on:
- a) projects and fundraising,
- b) roles and responsibilities & appointing interim coordinator,
- c) coalition development/expansion.
It has been stressed out the role of Blueprint for Free Speech as the leading actor in the Coalition further work.
Revised draft Mission Statement was presented to participants by Ms. Veronika Nad. Participants also discussed on the possible name of the Coalition, model of visual identity (logo), engagement of the Coalition coordinator and possible Coalition funding.
Participants agreed on the following conclusions:
Mission Statement will be submitted to all participants/organizations for the final consideration and electronic signature;
To continue activities in forthcoming period, by: supporting of new/improved national laws and practices on whistleblower protection in Southeast Europe, engagement with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process, regular publishing of whistleblower stories and key whistleblower cases.
The Conference was closed by RAI Chairman Mr. Davor Dubravica, who thanked all the participants for active participation and encouraging work whishing success in further Coalition work. Mr. Dubravica also expressed readiness and RAI commitment to support the Coalition in the future.