National Whistleblower Center Responds to United Nations Call for Input On the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Published on October 15, 2021

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NWC Responds to UN Call for Input On the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

WASHINGTON, D.C. | October 15, 2021 — National Whistleblower Center (NWC) submitted a comment to the United Nations’ (UN) Office of the High Commissioner’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders today in response to the UN’s call for input regarding a report to the Human Rights Council on human rights defenders and anti-corruption work. The comment will inform a report that will be presented at the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council on March 22, 2022. In August 2021, NWC supported research on how whistleblowers can prevent nature crime to protect human rights.

In the comment, NWC identifies whistleblower protection as a key form of support the United States provides for human rights defenders and makes several recommendations regarding strengthening whistleblower protection laws. Dozens of U.S. laws protect human rights defenders who report acts of corruption, including fraud, bribery, money laundering, and illegal pollution, to regulators. The comment argues that environmental protectors are human rights defenders, as they expose dangerous polluters, defend clean water and air, and oppose the expansion of detrimental corporate fossil fuel ambitions.

As noted in the comment, U.S. whistleblower protection laws can vary significantly in their scope. One such U.S. protection the comment highlights as a crucial whistleblower protection paradigm is the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA), which offers significant financial rewards to whistleblowers who report violations of federal laws and regulations in financial markets. Anti-retaliatory and anonymity protections in the DFA have made it successful in bringing about enforcement actions for illicit financial conduct especially regarding environmental violations. Additionally, NWC’s comment describes the transnational application of many U.S. whistleblower protection laws, like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and international policies, as whistleblower protections in one country can impact the global community.

Siri Nelson, NWC Executive Director, said, “Whistleblowers are essential to protecting our most fundamental human rights – breathable air, clean drinking water, an inhabitable planet – and they must be protected in return. The U.S. must do more to incentivize whistleblowers to come forward and ensure they have the means to anonymously and safely report environmental violations without fear of retaliation.”

Further, NWC calls on Congress to take action to ensure that existing programs are effectively administered and to protect climate whistleblowers, as often these whistleblowers are protecting human rights and preventing harms that most impact marginalized communities.

For more information, please contact Nick Younger at

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