Ethics Advice and Guidance
Conflicts of Interest
Risks of conflicts of interest can generally be found at two levels:
- as organizational conflicts of interest; and
- as personal conflicts of interest.
An organizational conflict of interest arises where, because of other activities or relationships, an organization is unable to render impartial services, the organization's objectivity in performing mandated work is or might be impaired, or the organization has an unfair competitive advantage. A personal conflict of interest is a situation where a person's private interests — such as outside professional relationships or personal financial assets — interfere or may be perceived to interfere with his/her performance of official duties.
As staff, we should always strive to avoid situations where we benefit personally or allow others to benefit personally from the decisions we make for the UN. We need to be aware of how our actions, in the absence of an explanation, may appear or be interpreted by others. Sometimes, the perception of a conflict of interest raises as much ethical concern as does an actual conflict of interest. Conflict of interest situations do not necessarily imply wrongdoing. However, if they are not identified and managed appropriately, they can compromise our work and the Organization's integrity. When each of us avoids the perception and the reality of a conflict of interest, we can help preserve our independence and impartiality. One of the key steps in avoiding or resolving a conflict of interest is to ensure that we place the UN's interests above our own.
The UN is sensitive to the ways in which a staff member's private financial affairs could create potential conflicts of interest. Staff must refrain from managing or holding financial interests in any business if either the individual or the business has the opportunity to benefit from such an association by way of the staff member's position with the United Nations.
The UN's Financial Disclosure Programme helps covered staff to recognize, disclose, and mitigate possible personal conflicts of interest. Staff members at the D-1 level and above are required to file financial disclosure statements, in respect of themselves, their spouses and their dependent children. These statements include a certification that personal assets and liabilities do not pose a conflict of interest between the official duties of the staff member and the interests of the United Nations.
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