June 14, 2016

Internal Report Surveys Ombuds Programs Throughout UN System

The United Nations Joint Inspection Unit, the independent external oversight body for the intergovernmental organization, has published the results of an analysis of Organizational Ombuds programs in 19 different UN-affiliates. The report calls for improved communication with stakeholders, updated terms of reference, professionalizing and standardizing operations, and easier reporting of trends. The full report, published in December 2015, is now available online.

This is the full text of the summary from the Joint Inspection Unit:
Does the Ombudsman really provide an independent, confidential and impartial service in the United Nations system organizations? Are these services accessible to all employees? Do the present legal regulations of the work of the Ombudsman ensure the needed conditions for the efficient functioning of this informal conflict resolution mechanism? What needs to be changed or improved in that area across the United Nations system?
These are the issues dealt with by the report on the basis of the analysis of the Ombudsman activity in 19 out of 28 JIU participating organizations which provide such services to their employees. Common understanding of the role of the organizational ombudsman and the principles guiding his or her work should be improved. The review calls for a more client-service oriented approach whereby the clients are given a choice of using any United Nations system organization’s ombudsman residing in or visiting their location. The terms of reference of the ombudsman in United Nations system organizations are not comprehensive enough, and most are more than a decade old, thus they need to be revised and promulgated. It is suggested to elaborate a United Nations system harmonized case management manual to ensure the same level of services across the United Nations system. The professionalization of Ombudsman work through continuous training and ombudsman certification process is also among the recommendations of the review. Accountability of the ombudsman and appraisal of his/her performance should include management and staff representatives in order to uphold the ombudsman’s independence. The legislative bodies of all organizations should make it possible for the ombudsman to report to them on systemic issues so that in case of conflicting priorities or limited resources, the member States can articulate their main concerns and priorities. The United Nations and Related International Organizations network of ombudsman and mediators, which is larger than the United Nations system, should organize a United Nations subgroup in order to deal with the United Nations specific challenges and the recommendations contained in this report.
(UN JIU News Release.)

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