A major driver for promoting whistleblower protection internationally has, so far, been as a tool in the fight against corruption. In this area the distinction between whistleblowing (speaking up about or reporting potential or actual wrongdoing or risk) and acting as a witness in a criminal case can become blurry. While witness protection is very important, it is different to whistleblower protection. While in some instances a whistleblower may be required to testify in a court as to what they have witnessed, in many more instances someone who reports corruption will need protection and support short of and other than witness protection (eg. workplace protection).

Importantly, more interest and attention is now being paid to the wider democratic value of whistleblowing to protecting human rights and promoting more open government and access to information.

Finally, the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013 brought the plight of national security whistleblowers into sharp relief. Edward Snowden’s revelations have sparked an important debate about the substance the limits of surveillance and privacy as a matter of democratic and public accountability, but also about how to ensure that national security whistleblowers are better protected when they speak up in the public interest, and whether it might be necessary to extend human rights protection to those who reveal government wrongdoing.