Sunday Read: CoSP10 & Whistleblower Reform in 2024

National Whistleblower Center
4 min readJan 29, 2024
This article highlighting the campaigns and policy priorities of the National Whistleblower Center is sent as part of our “Sunday Read” series. For more information like this, please join our mailing list.

In December 2023, National Whistleblower Center (NWC) had the privilege of attending and addressing the 10th Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (or CoSP10 to the UNCAC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

From December 11th to December 15th, 2023, the three-person NWC delegation engaged with 3,000 people, including 2,000 government representatives from 160 countries and more than 900 civil society organizations, along with private sector professionals.

Through this trip, NWC advanced the critical dialogue on the role whistleblowers play in global society, but there is still much more to accomplish. In this Sunday Read, we will review some of the progress made at CoSP10 and provide ideas for ways that meetings like the UN’s CoSP can improve programs and approaches to whistleblower activity.

Recapping CoSP10

CoSP10 was a major meeting of representatives from countries that signed the UN Convention Against Corruption. The conference included non-governmental organizations, journalists, and other stakeholders concerned with anti-corruption efforts. The conference served as a forum for an intense review and discussion of rewards and compensation for whistleblowers.

At CoSP10, NWC spoke several times and presented written materials which educated leaders and representatives from around the world on environmental crimes, asset recovery, ownership transparency, political financing, victims of corruption. Many of the countries in attendance have whistleblower programs that are fully mature, while others are still developing national standards or might not even have any programs at all. These countries turn to CoSP for guidance and — at the very least — a starting point for whistleblower protections.

NWC Makes a Statement

As one of two organizations who submitted statements on whistleblowing, our delegation helped to ensure that whistleblowing was a priority throughout the world’s largest global anti-corruption gathering.

NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson laid out the “A.C.E.” model for whistleblower programs which is centered around three essential components:

Anonymity

Compensation

Enforcement

This model is more fully explained in NWC’s written statement submitted to CoSP10.

“We support every single effort to include anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers,” Nelson said. “However, we challenge this community to have the courage to support compensation for whistleblowers, to have reward programs that incentivize them to come forward, and to really invest in following up on their tips.”

The True Value of Rewards and Suggestions for Strengthening the CoSP Whistleblower Resolution

The CoSP Whistleblower Resolution (CAC/COSP/2023/Rev.1) addresses the crucial issue of safeguarding individuals who expose or report corruption and related offenses to competent authorities. Make no mistake — protection is a cornerstone of whistleblower practice.

But the provisions protect the defendant more than the whistleblower. They are focused on fairness toward the defendant and goodwill and the chance to refute the whistleblower’s claims.

The whistleblower, on the other hand, is provided with confidentiality and protection from retaliation. This is critical, but financial rewards are not offered and as previously mentioned, we were disappointed in the removal of language on rewards in the final whistleblower resolution. Reward laws are as critical as anti-retaliation protections.

“The fact that reward laws are missing is counter to NWC’s policies and standpoint,” said NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson. “Goodwill is admirable, but that should not be our focus. The undisputed benefit of whistleblowing is to provide quality information to law enforcement. And if that quality information is delivered by someone with a vendetta, then that should not be the core issue. The core issue is whether the information was credible and helpful to a successful investigation. Successful investigations stop corruption. The rewards attract everybody.”

Indeed, rewards generate whistleblower activity and bolster confidence. This is clear to see from the performance of successful whistleblower programs in the United States. On November 14, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) made its fiscal year 2023 report public. Its Whistleblower Program, which was created by Congress in 2010 and fully implemented in August 2011, issued whistleblower awards totaling nearly $600 million in the prior fiscal year.

As previously reported, the SEC received more than 18,000 whistleblower tips in fiscal year 2023, a milestone that far exceeded the 12,300 whistleblower tips received in fiscal year 2022. The SEC received more than 40,000 tips, complaints, and referrals in total, a 13% increase over fiscal year 2022.

Since its inception, the SEC has awarded more than $1 billion to whistleblowers. Its enforcement actions from whistleblower tips have resulted in more than $6 billion in financial remedies. Clearly, the incentives have a strong return rate.

“Parties who signed the resolution but did not want to adopt financial incentives should look to the success of the SEC’s program as evidence of the impact of mandatory rewards.” Nelson added.

Looking to CoSP11

The CoSP10 experience was a wonderful way to cap off 2023. The dialogues around whistleblower rights and protections solidified NWC’s standing as the leading advocate for whistleblower rewards.

But the work is just beginning. Convincing foreign governments and cultures to tackle corruption is a challenge on its own; to change their approach to whistleblower protections via confidentiality and monetary rewards will undoubtedly be an uphill battle. This is a cause we champion year-round and will continue leading up to the 11th CoSP event in 2025.

The enactment and use of effective reward programs is critical to the global fight against corruption. NWC is at the forefront of ensuring these programs and effective rules are created with truth and financial incentives at their foundation.

Support NWC

The NWC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and our awareness-building work is made possible with the support of our generous donors. Please consider donating $100 today to help us continue our important advocacy for whistleblowing and whistleblowers around the world. Donors of $100 or more will receive a copy of Rules for Whistleblowers: A Handbook for Doing What’s Right, written by NWC Chairman Stephen M. Kohn, Esq. Support whistleblowers. Support the truth.

This story was written by Justin Smulison, a professional writer, podcaster, and event host based in New York.

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National Whistleblower Center

National Whistleblower Center is the leading nonprofit working with whistleblowers around the world to fight corruption and protect people and the environment.