Environmental Whistleblowers

Brazilian scientists reported in November that 3,769 square miles of forest cover had been lost in a one year – the biggest decline in a decade.

The New York Times reports that President Jair Bolsonaro “who has long argued that conservation policies stymie economic development, has been disdainful of the environmental measures that reduced the Amazon deforestation rate between 2004 and 2012. His government has weakened enforcement of environmental laws by cutting funding and personnel at key government agencies, and it has scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, mining and ranching.”

At the same time, more than 150 environmental activists were murdered in worldwide last year, according to one report.

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When laws are weak or ignored and informers risk their lives, whistleblower laws can offer protection. The National Whistleblower Center announced a new program Monday to help environmental whistleblowers worldwide get lawyers, remain anonymous and get rewarded. The program will focus on the logging and fossil fuel industries.

Corruption and organized crime sound like urban problems. But illegal logging by criminal gangs is a well-established barrier to ending deforestation. It happens in countries with weak rule of law and systemic corruption, according to Interpol, the international law enforcement agency. The tropical forests are vast and often remote, thus hard to monitor.
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Whistleblowers play a big role in rooting out corporate crime and government misdeeds that take place behind closed doors. They also have a role in flagging environmental crimes that happen out-of-site on the high seas.

On April 16, a panel of environmentalists, advocates and lawyers will discuss marine pollution laws and the role private citizens and whistleblowers play in the detecting off-shore crimes. The webinar will cover both the benefits and challenges of using “unconventional actors” in marine law compliance efforts.

Event sponsors include the Environmental Law Institute, the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) and National Whistleblower Center (NWC).

The groups note on website for the event that it is part of an ongoing series of discussions examining “how whistleblower laws, emerging technologies, and citizen engagement are transforming the landscape of environmental enforcement today. The series aims to build capacity among government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals about whistleblower considerations.”
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corruption TimberProtecting and incentivizing whistleblowers is essential to combat environmental crimes

The world is facing daunting environmental challenges, many exacerbated by corruption. A number of the planet’s protected species are disappearing rapidly, due in part to the illegal trade in flora and fauna, and corruption comes into play as traffickers often rely on fraudulent paperwork to move parts from endangered species and illegal timber across borders.
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This week the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) met with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) General Counsel Peter Davidson and Senior Counsel James Uthmeier to discuss the implementation of whistleblower laws in their agency. NWC was represented by Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn, Managing Director of the Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program Scott Hajost, and Co-Chairperson of the Board Dr. Gina Green.

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Esmond Martin, after decades of working undercover investigating the illegal wildlife trade, was found stabbed to death in his Nairobi home earlier this week.

Martin was an extraordinarily intelligent man. An American geographer from New York, Martin published books and extensive reports on Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Laos. But it may have been Martin’s bravery that got him killed.


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Picture this: while at work you become aware of conduct that you believe is unethical, illegal, or qualifies as government waste, fraud, or abuse. You decide you want to blow the whistle. But before you act, be careful! Most corporate and government networks log traffic. Your work computer and phone are not private. When you use a company or department computer, assume everything you do is monitored. These computers are an easy way for your employer to determine you are the whistleblower.

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