The Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection (hereinafter: the Coalition) held its first video Annual Meeting on 30 November 2020, with the support of the Regional Anti-corruption Initiative Secretariat (RAI Secretariat), provided under its EU funded project ‘Breaking the Silence: Enhancing whistleblowing policies and culture in Western Balkans and Moldova’ (hereinafter: the Project). The meeting was hosted by one of the members of the Coalition, the Center for the Study of Democracy and Governance from Albania.
At the meeting, RAI Secretariat presented activities and results of the Project to date, which included a presentation of findings and recommendations of the gap analysis of the whistleblowing legislative frameworks in the project’s beneficiary jurisdictions in line with the EU Directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of [European] Union law” (“EU whistleblowing rules”). In addition, the meeting provided a panel for the members of the Coalition to discuss the results of their recent efforts in whistleblowing campaigning for fighting corruption in the region.
By first thanking RAI for a continued support to the Coalition’s work, Mr. Arjan Dyrmishi, the Coordinator of the Coalition, who moderated the meeting, talked about the increased visibility of the Coalition, emphasizing the significant impact it provided in the adoption of new whistleblowing laws, improvements in legislative mechanisms in the protection of whistleblowers, and in investigations of whistleblowing cases.
The Head of RAI Secretariat, Mr. Vladan Joksimovic, welcomed the participants by emphasizing the continued commitment of RAI Secretariat to whistleblower protection, the collaboration with the Coalition and regional exchange of expertise and experiences in improving whistleblower protection in SEE.
The Project Manager, Ms. Elmerina Ahmetaj Hrelja, and Project Officer, Ms. Amra Softic, spoke about major goals and activities of the Project, as well as efforts to raise public awareness about whistleblowing as an anti-corruption tool. These included a Project infographic, project-branded protective masks, pilot survey on youth views and understanding about whistleblowing, which was first tested in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ending with the presentation of the video story Breaking the Silence – Youth Video featuring a fantastic group of young people from the SEE and their messages why young people, as creators of positive changes, should not keep silent when it comes to whistleblowing.
Mr. Mark Worth, RAI Secretariat Whistleblowing Expert led the panel discussion of members of the Coalition on challenges in whistleblower protection in SEE, and measures undertaken to address them. These measures included: the provision of alternate whistleblower disclosure channels (online, anonymous, and confidential), the provision of advice and support to whistleblowers via hot-lines, monitoring and reporting about challenges in the enforcement of whistleblower protection laws and advocacy for their improvement.
The meeting ended on a high note by Ms. Elmerina Ahmetaj Hrelja who emphasized the importance of continued collaboration between RAI Secretariat and the Coalition in order to address real needs in the field and achieve synergy of efforts – all for the benefit of SEE societies because protecting whistleblowers means protecting the public interest.
The support of the RAI Secretariat to the establishment and growth of the SEE Coalition on Whistleblower Protection created an additional impetus and turned the tide for whistleblowing in the SEE Region.