What is an Ombudsman?

An Ombudsman at the United Nations helps staff to resolve workplace conflicts in an informal, confidential manner with the aim of maintaining a harmonious workplace environment. An Ombudsman does not advocate for any party in a dispute. The word Om-buds-man is Swedish in origin and has referred historically to a representative or agent of justice. In the United Nations, the term has come to designate an informal third party who assists in seeing that all members of the work force are treated equitably and that justice is done.

The Ombudsman system is an informal grievance procedure established within UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS and UN-Women, where an Ombudsman may consider conflicts of any nature arising from employment within UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS and UN-Women and related funds and programmes. Individuals can contact the Ombudsman at any stage, for help on any work-related problem where a perspective outside of formal channels would be helpful.

The objective of an Ombudsman intervention in a dispute is one of conciliation by seeking mutually acceptable solutions through informal means. The process is confidential and is performed in an independent and neutral manner. The Ombudsman acts in the joint interest of the individual and the employing organization on matters arising from employment. The Ombudsman is an advocate for due process and fair treatment of all contract holders within UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS and UN-Women.

No person who brings a matter to the attention of the Ombudsman or provides information to the Ombudsman should be subject to retaliation because of such action.

The Ombudsman is protected from any obligation to testify as a witness in any formal proceeding in the UN Dispute Tribunal as well as the UN Appeals Tribunal.