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.
- An ombudsman is a designated, independent neutral who provides confidential, off the record and impartial assistance for the informal resolution of concerns and conflicts that are related to employment with the United Nations. The service is available to all United Nations employees, including former employees and retirees regardless of their type of contract and location.
- An ombudsman can assist you in looking at the issue you are facing from all perspectives, helping you to identify options and to assess them with a view to determining the best option for you.
- In all interactions, an ombudsman acts with strict confidentiality and impartiality. She/he does not serve as an advocate for any person in a dispute within an organization, nor for the organization; rather, she/he advocates for due process and procedural fairness and works to facilitate a solution that is acceptable to all parties.
- An ombudsman will neither impose a solution nor make a managerial decision that will lead to an outcome. The process is entirely controlled by the employee who contacts an ombudsman.
- All communications with an ombudsman are considered privileged. An ombudsman will never mention individual names without express permission and cannot be obligated to testify in any formal proceedings.
Possible activities with an ombudsman’s assistance
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ombudsmen are available for presentations at staff meetings, inductions, briefings, trainings sessions and conferences. To request a presentation please contact the Office.
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) .