Communication Flows in International Economic Law
The phenomenon of WikiLeaks disclosures no doubt lends itself to analysis from the perspective of International Relations and General International Law, in particular in terms of diplomatic immunity, extraterritorial exercises of criminal jurisdiction, and human rights. But WikiLeaks disclosures also raise questions in terms of international economic relations and International Economic Law. Like the IMF WikiLeaks claims to be a publisher of ‘last resort’. And it has made disclosures that directly touch upon international economic affairs, for instance disclosures about State level corruption, pro-American procurement preferences; illegal activities in banks, internal bank documents, for example with reference to collapse of the banking sector; issues touching upon the environment and climate, for example toxic dumping and oil well blow outs. WikiLeaks disclosures in the non-economic sector can also impact upon the national and international economy.
‘Public interest’ disclosures in the economic sphere – whether about individuals, multinational companies, governments or international economic organisations are positive in the long term. Such transparency in domestic foreign economic practice and in the working practices of international economic organisations generally can inhibit economic decisions that are distortive of the market mechanisms and subversive of good governance. In the domestic sphere States are beginning to afford protection to Whistleblowers from adverse consequences of their actions. The thrust of international efforts have been to push for this. Thus, the UN Convention Against Corruption (2005) and the International Chamber of Commerce Guidelines on Whistleblowing contemplate the adoption of national Whistleblowing legislation. In somewhat similar vein transparency has a formal setting in the IMF and the WTO that is focused at national measures. But what of the international civil servant working in any of the Bretton Woods related institutions; or the various country delegates and representatives sent to represent their governments in international economic organisations? How protected are they were they to blow the whistle? Certainly the World Bank has set up an Alertline (Hotline) with respect to some of its activities. Hitherto investment arbitration proceedings and WTO dispute settlement processes are beginning to have public hearings.
However, for individuals’ trade secrets and business confidential information needs protection. By the same token States need to guard against the harm that may arise consequent upon whistleblowing from currency fluctuation, stock market speculation and flight of capital. But here too might there be a long term perspective that upholds the interests of the international community and international economic order as a whole?