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How can an ombudsman help me?

Advantages of using ombudsman services

  • Discuss a problem off-the-record and in confidentiality outside normal United Nations channels.

  • Explore alternatives for resolving a problem and learn what resources are in the system.

  • Increase your potential and confidence to deal with conflict.

  • Receive coaching and guidance on how to present an issue or concern.

  • Explore ways to get a problem to the surface without being at risk of retaliation.

Possible activities with an ombudsman’s assistance

Evaluation of options

An ombudsman listens carefully to details of a work-related issue brought by an individual and helps to develop a range of options to address the issue.

Upward feedback

An ombudsman can give feedback and make recommendations for change or options for addressing issues as a neutral third party to other stakeholders in the organization with the express permission of the visitor.


An ombudsman can also assist visitors to resolve their own grievances by providing appropriate guidance, clarification on procedures or any information that may be relevant to the issue at hand. The ombudsman can provide information on how to proceed to formal means of dispute resolution through the established organizational mechanisms.

Conflict Coaching

Coaching can help to strengthen an individual’s ability and confidence to resolve a particular dispute, prevent or minimize disputes, as well as generally manage conflicts in his or her environment. Through guidance and counseling, employees can explore options and help themselves to integrate their goals and objectives with those of the organization.

Informal fact-finding

Although an ombudsman does not conduct formal investigations, s/he often informally researches the facts of a grievance, which, with the agreement of the visitor, may involve contact with human resources personnel, supervisors or other senior administrators.

Shuttle diplomacy

Ombudsmen may also use shuttle diplomacy between the visitor and a colleague or management. During shuttle diplomacy, the ombudsman remains neutral and keeps requested confidentiality. The ombudsman "shuttles" back and forth until the parties are ready to talk together or they have reached a better understanding and can reach an acceptable solution.

If a case is amenable to mediation, an ombudsman may recommend mediation. Mediation is voluntary and both parties must agree for it to take place.

Presentations and Training

The ombudsmen are available for presentations at staff meetings, inductions, briefings, trainings sessions and conferences. To request a presentation please contact the Office.

Early warning system

Ombudsmen are also catalysts for change and it is a very important part of their function to define systemic malfunctions in the organization and to make recommendations for change in polices and practices to address such malfunctions.

For more information on the impact of the United Nations Ombudsman, see for instance: "Measures taken to address seven systemic human resources issues raised in the context of the reform of the internal system of administration of justice" (A/63/132) .