FICSA is closely following discussions relating to the revision of the whistle-blower protection policy at the UN, as it sets the tone for the other common system organizations. We have observed, from firsthand experience at WIPO, however, that the most robust policy is only as effective as those in charge of enforcing it.
While we are encouraged by constructive staff/management relations in some organizations, a number of our member associations/unions have transmitted to us their grave preoccupations with deteriorations in staff/management relations in several of their organizations.
In the past few years the staff federations have expressed major concerns regarding protection of whistle-blowers and denounced the unwillingness of organizations to hold the perpetrators of wrongdoing accountable for their actions when the latter are at the highest levels of an organization. There is no better example than the case at WIPO where the OIOS investigation report found that “The established facts constitute reasonable grounds to conclude that the conduct of Mr. Francis Gurry [WIPO Director General] may be inconsistent with the standards expected of a staff member of the World Intellectual Property Organization”. Therefore, OIOS concluded, in its report, by writing that “It is recommended that the Chair of the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization consider taking appropriate action against Mr. Francis Gurry”.
It is with deep regret that we have to inform you today that the overseers of WIPO, after having spent numerous months of effort just to obtain a copy of the OIOS investigation report, which they themselves had commissioned, took no action other than to decide that the whistle-blower policy should perhaps be strengthened, a policy which will serve no purpose if the leaders of WIPO have no intention of enforcing it. Who will protect those persons who actually believed in the whistle-blower protection policy? Will they simply be forgotten about by the Member States? In which case, it would be better for the Member States to clearly inform staff that should they report wrongdoing they risk retaliation. Alternatively, Member States could decide to take concrete action to demonstrate that they will not tolerate wrongdoing in the organizations and to enforce the whistle-blower protection policies put in place by them.
FICSA continues to advocate for amicable solutions to ongoing alarming situations, and will continue to closely monitor developments at WIPO and in other problematic organizations in order to deter abuse.