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Frequently Asked Questions


What is an ombudsman?

In the United Nations, the Ombudsman is an ‘organizational Ombudsman’ whose role is to provide workplace conflict resolution services to UN personnel worldwide. an ombudsman, as a neutral person, listens to you (an ear for all), helps you gain perspective and explores options confidentially.

What to expect from an ombudsman?

We are a team of conflict-resolution experts committed to improve the way we all work together. Together, we will review potential options while you remain in full control of the process — we enable you to identify a way forward to address the issues you face.

When was the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services created?

Established on 15 October 2002, the Office is the informal pillar of the system of administration of justice at the United Nations.

Who is the current United Nations Ombudsman?

The current Ombudsman of the United Nations, Ms. Shireen L. Dodson of the United States, was appointed in 2018. 2018. At the Assistant-Secretary-General level, she oversees the work of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services worldwide.


Is contacting, and working with, an ombudsman always confidential?

Every interaction with an ombudsman or conflict-resolution expert is confidential. We guarantee you strict confidentiality in exploring your options about any work-related concern. We will not speak to other parties unless we have your explicit consent.

What principles guide the work of an ombudsman?

Our work is guided by these four principles:

  • Independence
    As an office independent of any other organizational entities, the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services exercises sole discretion over whether and how to act regarding workplace-related concerns.
  • Neutrality
    As the only designated neutrals in the Organization, we do not take sides. An ombudsman considers the legitimate concerns and interests of all individuals affected by the matter under consideration.
  • Confidentiality
    We provide you with strict confidentiality in exploring your options about any workplace-related concern. We will not speak to other parties unless we have your explicit consent.
  • Informality
    As the informal pillar of the United Nations system of the administration of justice, we address many disputes quickly without recourse to formal procedures using only informal means.

Do you work with the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)?

No, our work is strictly confidential. All exchanges between you and our office are kept between us. We cannot be compelled to testify in the United Nations Dispute Tribunal or the United Nations Appeals Tribunal nor do we investigate or keep records of cases. We will only reach out to other parties or offices with your consent.


How does an ombudsman work?

Our first step is to listen to you to understand your specific workplace-related concerns. During our first conversation(s), we will help you review options. Depending on your preference and your situation, we may then provide individual sessions, including conflict coaching, facilitate difficult conversations or conduct mediations between two or more parties, or tailor group interventions to address specific conflicts. We are here to support you in the next steps you will choose to take.

What will an ombudsman not do?

An ombudsman will not:

  • be an advocate for either party in a conflict nor take any sides in a complaint;
  • be a deciding official;
  • direct that a certain action be taken;
  • replace any administrative process;
  • be compelled to testify in the United Nations Dispute and Appeals Tribunals or participate in any formal proceedings.


What type of issues can I discuss with an Ombudsman?

You can ask for help from us regarding any type of work-related conflict or concern, big or small. The earlier you come to us the better, to prevent the situation from escalating.

Do you need assistance to speak with your manager? Are you expecting to have a difficult conversation with a colleague? Is your team suffering from an open or hidden conflict? Do you have a question on benefits or the application of a policy, but don’t know where to ask? Even if you have already filed a formal complaint, we are here to support you.

We can help with almost any work-related concern. Here are some of the most common issues visitors bring to us:

  • interpersonal conflicts, harassment, discrimination, and abuse of authority;
  • job and career;
  • administrative services;
  • wellbeing and health;
  • oorganizational and leadership;
  • values and standards.

Whatever is bothering you, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here for you.

What do you mean by workplace conflict?

Conflict is a part of life. It is natural, inevitable and even necessary. In such a diverse workplace as the United Nations, many situations arise where real or perceived differences in views, behaviour or communication can easily result in conflict. How you approach and handle such situations is what matters. Effective handling of workplace-related conflict requires making sense of it, understanding its complexity and learning new tools. At times you may need someone else to support you or to intervene.

The conflict-resolution experts in the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services are by your side to help you review options, explore new perspectives, and facilitate difficult conversations. Contacting an ombudsman or mediator is always a first safe and confidential step and a good alternative to a formal complaint process.

I don't know what to do anymore, or whom to turn to...

You are not alone. We are here to listen to you. Together, we will explore options confidentially, and – depending on your particular situation – we can offer referrals to people who can, for example, help with the way forward you chose or facilitate conversations between parties in conflict.

I need to talk to a difficult person. Can you help me?

Yes, we can help you prepare for that conversation, or even facilitate it if you so choose.

I have a problem with my supervisor. Can you help?

We are here to help you. Contact us and we will work with you on finding an option that works for you.


How I contact an ombudsman for assistance?

We are ready to help anyone working at the United Nations Secretariat, regardless of employment categories and levels, type of contract, or geographical location, as well as former employees and retirees. Just reach out to us. You can send a confidential email to, call +1-917-367-5731 or contact your Regional Ombudsman directly. Remember: no issue is too big or too small. In addition, members of our team visit other duty stations either virtually or in person. Our team of ombudsman and conflict-resolution experts provide confidential services to anyone in any duty station in any of the six official United Nations languages.

How can I request a mediation for a workplace issue?

After discussion with one of our ombudsman or conflict-resolution experts, you may choose to invite the other party/parties to resolve the workplace issue with a mediation. Sometimes, as deemed appropriate, the formal system of justice may refer a dispute to be mediated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

I am already in the formal system; can I still come to you?

Yes, you can reach out to an ombudsman at any time, even if you are already in the formal system. Our exchanges will be confidential.


I want to comment about the services I received; where can I write?

We encourage you to let us know how we did! Please send us your comments, feedback and testimonials by email at We strive for excellence in what we do and want our visitors to get the best service.