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More effective protection needed for public sector whistle-blowers – Modern Diplomacy

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Delegates attending a meeting held to discuss better protection for whistle-blowers working in the public sector have concluded that more effective legislation and protection mechanisms should be put in place, to protect whistle-blowers and combat corruption and other wrongdoing.

The ILO Technical meeting on the protection of whistle-blowers in the public service sector  looked at the challenges countries face in ensuring these protections. Representatives from governments, employers and workers concluded that governments, in cooperation with employers and public sector worker organizations, should put legislation and policies in place to combat any form of retaliation, violence and harassment linked with disclosures.

Protecting public service workers, including those working in public sector oversight bodies is “fundamental to the advancement of decent work, efficient public service delivery, and social justice, and also a useful tool against corruption,” said Luis C. Melero, Vice-Chairperson of the Government Group.

The meeting concluded that corruption and other forms of wrongdoing distort public administration and government budgets, leading to the inefficient provision of public services, reduced public investment, decent work deficits and slower economic growth.

“Protecting whistle-blowers in the public sector can make it easier to detect bribery solicitation, misuse of public funds, waste, fraud, and other forms of corruption across the economy,” said Paul Mckay, Employers’ Vice-Chairperson. “Anticorruption measures are part of an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises.”

Attendees discussed how social dialogue can help identify strategies to strengthen the protection of whistle-blowers and be part of the architecture that protects the impartiality of the public service sector and its workers from undue influence. It can also help develop a culture of transparency, accountability, and zero tolerance for corruption and wrongdoing in the sector. The meeting highlighted the important role of governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in promoting such a culture.

“Governments and social partners recognized that there are normative gaps in whistleblower protection and that social dialogue is key to design a pathway towards a global normative framework in line with the ILO mandate,” said Wim Vandekerckhove, Workers’ Vice-Chairperson.

“We should ensure the legitimacy of whistle-blowers within the public service. We must provide collective action networks to protect whistle-blowers from being isolated or made obvious targets for retaliation,” said Judge Dhaya Pillay, Chair of the meeting.

The conclusions and recommendations adopted by the meeting, which took place 26–30 September, in Geneva, are designed to assist governments, employers and workers safeguard the efficiency and impartiality of the public service sector and adequately protect whistle-blowers.
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A political solution in Haiti continues to be elusive, and on its own is no longer sufficient to address the crisis and save thousands of lives that otherwise will be lost, the UN Special Representative in the country warned the Security Council on Monday.Ms. Helen La Lime urged ambassadors to act decisively and help address the persistent scourges of insecurity and corruption, that along with a health crisis are “accelerating Haiti’s downward spiral”.
Earlier on Monday, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres told journalists that the current blockade of vital humanitarian and civilian supplies in the capital of Port-au-Prince by heavily-armed gangs, and the growing risk posed by cholera, necessitates “armed action” to create a life-saving humanitarian corridor.
“I am talking of something to be done based on strict humanitarian criteria, independent of the political dimensions of the problem that need to be solved by the Haitians themselves”, he explained, adding that he had been urging the Security Council to act, to strengthen the national police force with training and equipment, but the current crisis “meant that more needed to be done”.
Ms. La Lime underscored that in just a few weeks, dozens of cholera cases have been confirmed, with more than half resulting in death, and hundreds more suspected in the West and Centre Departments.
And while undocumented cases of the deadly waterborne disease mount through parts of the Capital, gangs continue to blockade the Varreux terminal where most of the country’s fuel is stored.
“The consequences for Haiti’s basic infrastructure have been severe, disrupting operations at the country’s hospitals and water suppliers, impacting cholera response”, she told council members, underscoring that without fuel, trash cannot be removed from neighbourhoods, while torrential rains promote flooding, which mixes with refuse “to create insalubrious conditions ripe for the spread of disease”.
She warned that so far, neither the work of the Police nor appeals by diplomatic corps, including the UN, for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor, have been successful.
The Special Representative said that nearly a thousand kidnappings have been reported in 2022 alone, and general insecurity continues to prevent millions of children from attending classes, isolates entire neighbourhoods, and leaves families open to extortion, with some burnt alive in their own homes.
“It is to be hoped that this weekend’s arrivals in Port-au-Prince of important Haitian-purchased tactical equipment, delivered by Canada and the US, will assist the police in regaining control of the situation”, she emphasised.
Ms. La Lime underscored that any enhanced security support to the National Police should also be accompanied by support to the justice system: both to ensure proper accountability, but also to re-enforce nationally led initiatives, such as the proposed judicial units specialized in prosecuting gang-related offences, as well as financial crimes.
“Under such a state of persistent civil unrest, violence, and looting (including of World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warehouses), basic rights are being flagrantly undermined across the country. Gangs continue to injure, kidnap, rape and kill”, she described.
And if this was not enough, the economic deprivation is also leaving the population in its most vulnerable state in years: with gang violence preventing a proportional humanitarian response to cholera and food shortages.
A record 4.7 million people face acute hunger, including tens of thousands who are now on the “brink of starvation”.
“To support Haitian institutions in their drive for civic order and accountability – and to save thousands of lives that will otherwise be lost – members of this Council must act, and decisively so, to help address the persistent scourges of insecurity and corruption in Haiti”, she concluded.
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Rising inflation and the Ukraine war have triggered a 19 per cent increase in child poverty across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), published on Monday, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The impact of the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in eastern Europe and Central Asia, warns that ripple effects of the surge could result in a steep rise in school dropouts and infant mortality.
Data from 22 countries across the region shows that children are bearing the heaviest burden of the economic crisis stemming from Russia’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine.
While they make up only 25 per cent of the population, they account for nearly 40 per cent of the additional 10.4 million people forced into poverty this year.
Children all over the region are being swept up in this war’s terrible wake”, said UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan. 
Sparked by the Ukraine war and a cost-of-living crisis across the region, Russia accounts for nearly three-quarters of the increase in child poverty – with an additional 2.8 million now living in households below the poverty line.
Ukraine is home to half a million additional children living in poverty, the second largest share, followed by Romania, where there has been an increase of 110,000, the study notes.
“Beyond the obvious horrors of war – the killing and maiming of children, mass displacement – the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine are having a devastating impact on children across eastern Europe and Central Asia”, said Ms. Khan. 
The consequences of child poverty stretch far beyond families living in financial distress.
The sharp increase could result in an additional 4,500 babies dying before their first birthdays and learning losses could mean an extra 117,000 dropping out of school this year alone, the study says.
“If we don’t support these children and families now, the steep rise in child poverty will almost certainly result in lost lives, lost learning, and lost futures”, warned the UNICEF official.
The poorer a family is, the higher the proportion of income that must go towards food, fuel, and other necessities.
When the cost of basic goods soars, the money available to meet other needs such as healthcare and education, falls, the study points out.
The subsequent cost-of-living crisis means that the poorest children are even less likely to access essential services, and are more at risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse.
And for many, childhood poverty lasts a lifetime, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of hardship and deprivation.
When governments reduce public expenditure, raise taxes, or add austerity measures to boost their economies, they diminish support services for those that depend on it.
“Austerity measures will hurt children most of all – plunging even more children into poverty and making it harder for families who are already struggling”, said Ms. Khan.
The study makes recommendations to help those in financial distress, such as providing universal cash benefits for children; expanding social assistance to families with children in need; and protecting social spending.
It also suggests supporting health, nutrition, and social care services to pregnant mothers, infants, and preschoolers as well as introducing price regulations on basic food items for families.
Meanwhile, UNICEF has partnered with the EU Commission and several EU countries to pilot the EU Child Guarantee initiative to mitigate the impact of poverty on children.
With more children and families being pushed into poverty, a robust response is essential, across the region.
UNICEF is calling for expanded support to strengthen social protection systems in high and middle-income countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and social protection programme funding for vulnerable children and families.
“We have to protect and expand social support for vulnerable families before the situation gets any worse”, underscored the UNICEF Regional Director.
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In Mozambique, more than 20 per cent of girls aged between 13 and 17 have been married or live with someone as if they were married. Women’s support groups are putting thousands of them on the road to financial independence, making them less vulnerable to gender-based violence.Teresa Gala is a 44-year-old mother of five. She was married at 14, and had to leave school because of her new circumstances. For more than three decades, her days were filled with domestic chores and taking care of her children. During the agricultural season, Ms. Gala added to her daily routine by working on her family farm.
However, her thoughts always remained focused on having her own business, one that would give her financial independence.
“Since I didn’t study and didn’t have my livelihood, I always had to ask my husband for money, “says Ms. Gala. “Being aware that he didn’t earn much, sometimes I asked almost nothing, but I still heard ‘no’ many times. It was very humiliating”.
Three decades ago, when she got married, there was almost no debate about child marriage in the country, but things are changing for the better. Since 2019, the Spotlight Initiative, a global initiative of the United Nations funded by the European Union, has been supporting the approval and implementation of Mozambican laws that protect women and girls from gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as early marriages.
In 2021, life improved for Ms. Gala, when she joined the Tambara Women’s Association (ASMTA) in Manica province, an organization backed by the Spotlight Initiative. These associations and women’s groups create support networks where women can learn and grow together economically, and create trusting relationships and safe spaces to address issues related to gender-based violence and women’s rights. In Mozambique, over the past year, the Spotlight Initiative supported more than 9,000 women in this way.
Through the group, Ms. Gala had access to a “business kit” which included the initial funds for her to start a company selling yogurt made from Malambe (baobab tree fruit) and Maheu (a fermented corn drink).
In the Tambara district, where Ms. Gala lives, temperatures easily reach over 40 degrees Celsius but, by investing her first profits in a freezer, she was able to make Maheu and Malembe ice cream, which was an immediate hit with her customers.
With more money coming in, Ms. Gala was able to buy a cell phone, enabling her to communicate with clients and social contacts, and join the national mobile financial system.
With proceeds from her micro-enterprise, she now contributes to the household expenses and pays the university fees for one of her daughters, who is studying for a health degree.
“My business makes me feel more respected at home. Today I am a financially stable woman, with savings, who contributes to household expenses and the education of my children”, she says. “I no longer have to wait for my husband to meet my financial needs”.
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