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Whistleblowing in aid organisations: Successful approaches for reporting and protection

Amid the crucial role whistleblowing plays in assisting aid organisations, customised processes and practices are being developed to suit each organisation’s needs and culture. Challenges exist with departmental independence, and staff and beneficiaries’ protection. This prompts the adoption of protection-first, victim-centred approaches, including gender-based whistleblowing channels, ombudsperson guidance, and support from top management to investigate corruption and prevent whistleblower retaliation. It is time for a nuanced, context-specific evolution in whistleblowing processes for a more transparent and accountable aid sector.

26 April 2024
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Whistleblowing in aid organisations: Successful approaches for reporting and protection

Main points

  • All aid organisations rely on whistleblowing to find out about corruption and other irregularities; however, significant variations exist in their policies and practices.
  • There is a need to tailor whistleblowing channels to specific contexts, operational environments, and target audiences – while ensuring gender and inclusivity considerations – to improve accessibility. Best practices include engaging with trustworthy local organisations for receiving alerts, and relying on locally trained staff for face-to-face interactions.
  • Whistleblowing management processes emphasise the principles of anonymity and confidentiality, security, and credibility, with a victim-centred approach. Yet, some departments in aid organisations lack independence in handling reports, potentially compromising response capabilities and prioritising organisational interests over individuals.
  • Best practices emphasise a ‘speak-up’ and anti-corruption culture supported by the top management, as well as an ombudsperson providing neutral ethical advice.
  • The ability of aid organisations to ensure whistleblower protection in recipient countries is limited by diverse legal frameworks and power dynamics. Enhancing whistleblower protection would require securing collaboration with legal authorities and offering guidance to potential whistleblowers.

Cite this publication

Nicaise, G. ; Worth, M. (2024) Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2024:2)

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About the authors

Guillaume Nicaise is a senior adviser at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute. He leads the work on corruption risk management, organisational integrity, and the private sector. Guillaume has a doctorate in socio-anthropology, specialising in norms transfer and norms implementation, with a special focus on good governance mechanisms (transparency, accountability, and civic participation).

Mark Worth

Mark Worth is the Executive Director of Whistleblowing International, an organisation that assists whistleblowers, investigates corruption cases, and provides research and policy analysis. Mark is a public interest advocate, investigative journalist, trainer, and advisor to the UN, EU, and Council of Europe. He is the founder of many organisations and campaigns, including the European Center for Whistleblower Rights and the Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)