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UNODC undertakes 3-day follow-up workshop on Whistleblower Protection as Ethiopia finalizes its Draft Proclamation on Protection of Witnesses & Whistleblowers

Direstor of WP at MoJ speakingAddis Ababa (Ethiopia), 13 November 2021 – As part of its project “Accelerating the Implementation of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Africa”, UNODC has been providing support to the Government of Ethiopia to review its legislation and policies relating to the protection of Witnesses and Whistleblowers. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Development Cooperation (BMZ) and operates in 5 African countries since its inception in 2019: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana and Morocco. 

The project enables countries to prevent and combat corruption by enabling them to fully utilize the benefits of the Implementation Review Mechanism of UNCAC. To this end, UNODC Headquarters collaborated with the UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia to undertake a 3-day hybrid-format workshop with 11 representatives from 2 Criminal Justice institutions, namely the Ministry of Justice and the Federal High Court to support them on how to integrate dedicated provisions related to the protection of whistle-blowers in their legal framework. The event took place from 11-13 November 2021 and had participation from representatives at the rank of public prosecutor and judge from the above-mentioned institutions respectively. This workshop comes at a time when Ethiopia is finalizing its review of a Draft Proclamation on Witness and Whistle Blower Protection..

As it stands, the Proclamation 699/2010 encompasses the Protection of Witnesses and Whistleblowers of Criminal Offences in one. UNODC was first involved in the review of these frameworks in 2019, where an initial assessment by an expert revealed some gaps in the existing legislation – namely, a strong focus on Criminal Offences and a bias towards the Witness Protection program. In this regard, a workshop on Whistleblower protection was undertaken in June 2021 as it was deemed necessary to strengthen the component of Whistleblower protection so that it could be undertaken in parallel to the work on Witness Protection. As an activity following that session in June 2021, it was agreed that the drafting process would commence while factoring in the results from the assessment and workshop on the topic.

VWB Protection View of entire meeting with AshleySpeaking during this workshop, UNODC consultant and expert on Whistle Blower protection – Mr. Ashley Savage said that, while there are a number of proposed options as part of the ongoing process, the drafting team may consider putting in place a separate section of the draft law dealing with whistleblowers taking into account the current stage of the drafting process and drawing upon international best practice. Nevertheless, he also emphasized that this should only be a guiding tool, with the need for a localized solution being a crucial component in the drafting process for the legislation in the respective project countries, including Ethiopia. 

Ms. Louise Portas, Programme Officer at the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch (CEB) at the UNODC Headquarters in Vienna – Austria, also reiterated this point by underlining the need to take relevant lessons from the conceptual developments and tried out practices related to the protection of whistleblowers, which is distinct from the protection of witnesses or citizen reporting in criminal cases. In conclusion, she offered UNODC’s expertise, represented by the Whistleblower consultant, to the teams in Ethiopia to explore how this and other relevant issues could be addressed.

On his side, Mr. Abraham Ayalew from the Programme Office in Ethiopia thanked the participants at the workshop for their open-mindedness as well as eagerness to capitalize upon the expertise and technical assistance offered by UNODC while bearing in mind the national legal framework. 

The CWB Protection Screenshot of Jennifer and Ashleyoordinator of the BMZ-funded project and a Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer at the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch (CEB) at UNODC Hq., Ms. Jennifer Bradford similarly expressed gratitude to the national counterparts for their determination and steadfast attitude towards the realisation of what would be a powerful addition to Ethiopia’s legislation.

According to Ms. Wubet Gashaw - the Director for Witness Protection at the Ministry of Justice, the guidance UNODC had provided through the current workshop would be invaluable for the finalization of the ongoing legislative drafting process focusing on witness protection. She also added that the conceptual clarity on the distinct characteristics of a Whistleblower protection regime vis-à-vis the protection of witnesses was eye-opening and most valuable. The Director also requested that UNODC continue to provide technical assistance through to the finalization of the drafting process and undertook to revert following consultations with senior leadership and other key partners. She invited the UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia to be involved in such consultations in the homestretch towards the finalization of the draft proclamation.

VWB Protection View of entire meeting with AshleyThe successful finalization and adoption of the proposed proclamation will provide effective Whistle-blower reporting and protection mechanisms crucial to fighting corruption. Corruption has been feared to be one of the biggest threats even as the world still grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is hoped that UNODC’s technical advice will be factored in during the finalization of the drafting process. What would follow next would be a validation workshop that would popularize the draft legislation developed through the previous tasks and provide key institutional actors and stakeholders with the opportunity to offer additional input and comments. Following this step that would involve eliciting support for the adoption of the draft legislation, the Ministry of Justice would then finalize the draft legislation with additional relevant inputs and submit the final version for approval to the Council of Ministers and ultimately to the House of Peoples’ Representatives.

For more information, please contact: 

Mr. Abraham Ayalew -

National Programme Officer

UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia