Strengthening Whistleblower Protection & UNCAC Review Transparency in Mexico: A Civil Society Success Story

15 February 2024 –

With support from the UNCAC Coalition, civil society in Mexico is involved in strengthening the national whistleblower protection framework, and increasing transparency around Mexico’s UNCAC review.

How are civil society voices making a difference in the fight against corruption? Stories like this one from our member organization in Mexico is one way we can measure impact.

Image posted on DLM’s X account to raise awareness about what states need to and can do for a stronger Mexican whistleblower protection framework

While much of our work as a Coalition is internationally focused, having an impact at a national level is a top priority as an organization dedicated to fighting corruption. Our priority is to strengthen the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) around the world.

DLM’s presentation of the parallel report on UNCAC implementation in Mexico to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Administration and other CSOs

A stronger legal framework on the protection of whistleblowers and victims of corruption and greater transparency within Mexico’s 2nd cycle UNCAC review, are part of advocacy efforts by Derechos Humanos y Litigio Estratégico Mexicano A.C. (DLM), a civil society member organization of the UNCAC Coalition. By holding meetings with different stakeholders, DLM was able to raise awareness about and grow the interest of senators, deputies and Congressional commissions as well as ministries and public institutions in advancing whistleblower protection and other pressing anti-corruption issues in Mexico. DLM’s multi-stakeholder engagement has strengthened coordination between civil society and Mexican authorities, building collaboration mechanisms and a strong foundation to work on in years to come.

These efforts are part of an initiative from the UNCAC Coalition, funding civil society organizations to act on recommendations they developed through a civil society parallel report on UNCAC implementation. This initiative enables our members and affiliates to advocate for reforms in their countries. See other examples here.

In analyzing the implementation and compliance (or lack thereof) of the UNCAC in Mexico, DLM identified key areas for improvement. The research informed the development of a civil society parallel report, with the UNCAC Coalition’s support to provide a civil society perspective to accompany the government’s own report on compliance. DLM’s parallel report was published in December 2022 and contained detailed recommendations to address gaps in the legal framework and promote actual implementation on the ground. In June 2023, the organization began follow-up activities to promote key recommendations laid out in the report.

Goals of the project

Drawing on its analysis of the state of anti-corruption and UNCAC implementation in Mexico, DLM set out to promote good governance, transparency and accountability through two key objectives: 

  1. Advocate for an initiative for a Federal Law for the Protection of Whistleblowers and Victims of Corruption. Bills have been frozen in the Mexican Congress since 2020. The discussion and eventual approval of a national law would guarantee the effective implementation of articles 8.4 and 13.2 of the UNCAC, ensuring effective reporting channels and protection mechanisms given the omissions and deficiencies of the current legislative framework.
  2. Promote transparency and publish the results of Mexico’s 2nd UNCAC review cycle self-assessment checklist and full country report.  DLM’s parallel report highlighted the classification of information and the failure to publish the results of the country’s self-assessment checklist, as well as Mexico’s full report for the second cycle of the review mechanism. Compliance with the UNCAC Coalition’s Transparency Pledge and UNCAC obligations was sought, as well as follow-up on the recommendations of the review mechanism and the parallel report.

Advocacy activities

Multi-stakeholder meeting at the School of Government and Public Transformation of the Tecnológico de Monterrey

To build support for these issues, DLM:

  • Hosted a multi-stakeholder meeting on strengthening the fight against corruption in Mexico through whistleblowing and whistleblower protection, bringing together 30 experts from both civil society and the private sector at the School of Government and Public Transformation of the Tecnológico de Monterrey, to discuss and identify challenges, opportunities, lessons learned and main concerns, to map actions and efforts and come up with ways to contribute to developing effective whistleblowing mechanisms and protection measures. 
  • Held several advocacy meetings with key stakeholders to discuss and gather support for the recommendations stemming from their UNCAC parallel report, with a focus on the recommendations for the development of a strong whistleblower protection framework, including with governmental and public bodies, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP). 
  • Working Group meeting on the whistleblower in the fight against corruption in Mexico, October 2023

    DLM also participated in two Working Group Meetings on whistleblowers in the fight against corruption in Mexico, together with many other civil society organizations, numerous public institutions, the UK embassy, and UNODC Mexico. These meetings were organized by the Citizen Participation Committee of the National Anti-Corruption System (CPC-SNA), the US embassy and other US institutions in Mexico, to identify recommendations, challenges and obstacles, and build a community of specialists working together to push for reforms and improvement in the matter as an organized collective.

  • Drafted and sent legal advocacy letters to seven relevant commissions made up of 72 senators and six additional commissions made up of 173 deputies, with the aim of the commissions’ consideration of the main findings and recommendations of their parallel report, particularly the priority recommendations for the discussion and design of public policies to strengthen mechanisms for reporting and the protection of whistleblowers.
  • Disseminated the parallel report recommendations to the Mexican delegation to the 10th UNCAC Conference of the States Parties (CoSP10), which helped lay the path for DLM becoming an official member of the delegation and counselor to the Mexican delegation to the CoSP. 
  • Submitted three requests for access to public information for the release of Mexico’s 2nd UNCAC review cycle self-assessment checklist and full report, as well as information on the involvement of civil society in the review, follow-up on the implementation of the UNCAC, and the adoption of anti-corruption actions and measures with respect to the report’s recommendations.

Success and results

Through outreach and advocacy activities, DLM was able to build alliances and cooperation networks between Mexican authorities and civil society with the support of international organizations, and raise awareness about the findings and recommendations of the UNCAC review parallel report, the importance of their implementation and the need to follow up on the outcomes of the official review process as well. 

These actions helped revive the issue of whistleblowing and protection of corruption whistleblowers in the parliamentary debate, to generate greater interest and commitment on the part of legislators towards the victims and whistleblowers of corruption. Concrete successes of these follow-up activities were that DLM:

DLM (on the far right), on a panel at the commemoration event of the 20th anniversary of the UNCAC in Mérida, Mexico
  • Fostered multi-stakeholder discussions about the fight against corruption in Mexico. 
  • Came up with ways to promote specific strategic actions in coordination with the responsible authorities to influence the discussion on the need to adapt the legal framework on whistleblower protection. One outcome of this is DLM’s policy paper analyzing the implementation of article 33 of the UNCAC in Mexico (in Spanish; English translation available here).
  • Raised awareness and increased the interest and active participation of senators, deputies and congressional commissions in advancing anti-corruption issues, specifically the protection of whistleblowers, in Congress, some of whom they had individual meetings with.
  • Obtained Mexico’s previously unpublished self-assessment checklist and information on actions taken to implement 1st and 2nd UNCAC review cycle recommendations through access to information requests. The full country report was unfortunately not released to DLM since it is still pending approval by UNODC. However, it is hoped that Mexico will comply with its Transparency Pledge commitment and publish both key documents on its UNODC country profile page.

    DLM at the Plenary, as part and counsel of the Mexican Delegation to the 10th CoSP in Atlanta
  • Was invited to speak at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the UNCAC event in Mérida, Mexico on 5 December 2023 on behalf of civil society stakeholders. The event, which aimed to discuss the state of implementation of the Convention, the role of non-governmental stakeholders and current challenges, was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CPC-SNA and UNODC Mexico. In its intervention, DLM was able to further promote the findings of their parallel report and call for action regarding implementation, the involvement of CSOs in the prevention and fight against corruption and the importance of international cooperation for better outcomes.
  • Was included in and acted as counsel of the official Mexican delegation to the 10th Conference of the States Parties to the UNCAC – an outcome of their efforts to strengthen their collaboration with the Directorate General for the United Nations, the Directorate for Drugs and the Fight against Corruption and the Sub-Directorate for General Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This allowed DLM, and through them other Mexican CSOs, to contribute their specialized expertise to Mexico’s official positions and the Mexican delegation to cover more ground at the conference. These efforts resulted in the Mexican delegation promoting the differentiated impact of corruption on women, migrant persons and vulnerable groups, highlighting the need for recognition of victims of corruption and the importance of actively including CSOs in the fight against corruption, later negotiated in the resolutions adopted in the conference by States Parties.

Next steps

DLM’s activities and advocacy have increased visibility of civil society’s impact, opening up new spaces for citizen participation and strengthening coordination between civil society and public institutions. Although some of the President’s recent initiatives have delayed the discussion of the Federal Law for the Protection of Whistleblowers and Victims in Congress, most stakeholders in Mexico are now aware of the importance of such a law in preventing and sanctioning corruption. With a more organized civil society, DLM will continue to advocate for the strengthening of whistleblower protection and the implementation and monitoring of stronger anti-corruption measures in Mexico.