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    Annual Report 2020 New York (HQ) Bangkok Copenhagen Dakar Istanbul Panama


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    Contents Introduction 2 I. Overview of the Work of the Office 4 A. Overview of cases 4 B. Outreach and training activities 5 II. Observations and Recommendations Concerning Conflict in 2020 8 A. Anti-racism and workplace conflict resolution 8 B. Working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic 9 C. Restructuring and realignment 11 D. Mediation 13 E. Arbitration 15 F. Confidentiality: implications and consequences 17 G. Respectful Workplace Facilitators Programme 18 III. Looking Ahead 20 Working Together to Find Solutions


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 2 Introduction For the Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes, as for offices 2020 was a highly productive around the world, the year 2020 was dominated by year that saw significant the COVID-19 pandemic. The active threat to the health and safety of the Office personnel, as well continuing development of conflict as to the health and safety of the global United management services. Nations workforce, meant instituting a number of changes to office procedures and developing new ways for the Office to interact with the people it conducted by the Office over the course of the serves. Nonetheless, 2020 was a highly productive year included 30 global webinars presented in four year that saw the completion of projects started languages on a range of topics; capacity-building in 2019, significant continuing development of workshops presented in different modalities, both conflict management, and further expansion pre- and post-pandemic, reaching hundreds of in the development of conflict management colleagues on such topics as “Civility and Respect services. at Work”; various e-learning modules designed to explain the work of the Office; training sessions Not surprisingly considering the pandemic, the for personnel working in human resources units total number of actual cases received by the about the mediation process and its benefits; and Office went down; this statistic appears consistent 10 inter-agency global webinars on mediation with the experience of other ombudsman offices covering personnel from all five organizations. Full during this time. The heavily reduced in-person details of the above are provided in section I of the interaction among staff may be the primary present report. reason for fewer requests for intervention by the Office. Section II.A calls attention to an ongoing issue for the United Nations community and the world that Closer inspection reveals, however, that the Office’s played a huge role in 2020: racism and its impact. case load is strikingly high when one considers Complex issues arise in identifying its occurrence; that in the past, a significant percentage of cases determining ways in which it, or perceptions of resulted from the Ombudsman team visiting, in it, may underlie or affect workplace conflict; and person, around 20 country offices per year. Those developing mechanisms to address it, particularly visits, which did not take place during most of in situations where it has been a long-term 2020 and are still not taking place at the time of problem. The Ombudsman encourages all of the publication of the present report, have consistently five organizations to pool their funding, expertise, revealed a substantial number of cases. and resources to address this vital issue. Faced with the need to eradicate racism for all aspects of This historical pattern reinforces the importance of work in the United Nations system, it is essential, in the Office restructuring process which, especially the view of the Ombudsman, to avoid duplication when mission travels resume, will allow the of efforts and the re-invention of what has already Ombudsman team to periodically visit country been developed in the system. offices in all regions. Restructuring is almost complete as of the writing of the present report, Sections II.B and II.C identify several areas of with the imminent opening of a sixth location, concern in the five organizations observed by the in Copenhagen, in addition to those in Bangkok, Office during 2020. Restructuring and realignment, Dakar, Istanbul, Panama and New York. while largely completed successfully, were subject to some staff concerns and dissatisfaction, mostly Finally, the notable increase in the conflict- shown by requests for better communication. prevention services offered by the Office provided Working conditions during the pandemic tended staff of the five organizations served with the to cause increased stress and uncertainty, as capacity for self-help at a time when it was critically staff worried about the impact of the pandemic needed owing to the restricted movement of both in general and on worker mobility and people around the globe. The training programmes relocation in particular. The need for transparent


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    3 Annual Report 2020 communication, as well as extra precautions confusion, the Office launched its first inter- about the confidentiality of communication and agency webinar on arbitration and, following up information-sharing overall, became apparent. on its previous recommendations, is now in the process of creating lists of experienced counsel Section II.D covers perhaps the greatest and arbitrators as resources for non-staff needing achievements of the year, in mediation services: services. The section also describes additional 2020 was a record year for mediation cases and ways the five organizations can bring about awareness-raising programmes. The number of improvements in this area. mediations, which mainly involved supervisor/ supervisee conflict, increased significantly, with Section II.F explains the nature of confidentiality in surveys showing a high degree of satisfaction with the work of the Office and examines the exception the experience. The Global Mediation Panel grew for imminent risk, both governed by the terms to 62 members during the year. Further, in a major of reference. In this section, the Ombudsman development, all five organizations that the Office makes recommendations to address the issue of serves signed a pledge committing, worldwide, preserving the confidentiality of interactions with to considering the possibility of mediation for any the Office of the Ombudsman. workplace conflict between the agencies and their personnel. This initiative is already inspiring other Section II.G provides an account of the work of organizations even outside the United Nations the Respectful Workplace Facilitators (RWF) system. programme, which teaches conflict-resolution skills that can be used locally and explains how Section II.E describes the strides made by the matters can be referred to the Office when Office and its recommendations for improving necessary. Despite the pandemic, the RWF arbitration mechanisms for non-staff personnel. programme managed both live and virtual As part of its efforts to clear up an area rife with trainings around the world over the course of 2020, and it is hoped that its early successes will encourage all five organizations served by the Office to adopt the RWF programme in all country All five organizations that the Office offices. serves signed a pledge committing, Finally, in section III, the Ombudsman looks ahead worldwide, to considering the and shares his plans for the work of the Office as possibility of mediation for any its restructuring nears completion. The Office workplace conflict between the continues its work with enthusiasm and optimism, armed with the tools, resources, and experience agencies and their personnel. developed both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 4 I. Overview of the Work of the Office A. Overview of cases During the reporting period, the Office of the in the past a significant number of cases were Ombudsman received 331 cases, representing a generated during and after Ombudsman team 24 per cent decrease from the previous year. This member visits to country offices. Furthermore, decrease is most likely due to the lockdown, with and confirming the importance of being close to fewer staff working in one physical location. Another the places where conflict is experienced, a number most likely factor contributing to the decrease is of additional cases that came to the attention of the inability of the Ombudsman team to travel; the Ombudsman were dealt with locally by the Respectful Workplace Facilitators (RWFs), who started their work during 2020. Lastly, more than 660+ issues dealt with 3,600 people attended the webinars offered by the Office in 2020. The primary aim of these webinars was to impart principles and skills for colleagues to handle difficult workplace situations on their own. Several colleagues who took the webinars 331 cases received indicated that, using the skills learned, they were able to prevent or manage a conflict without third- party intervention. Section II of the present report contains an 3,608 people attended webinars account of the types of issues that were received offered by the Office in 2020 during this period. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of the 331 cases received; 78 per cent of the cases were from the field and 22 per cent were from headquarters Several colleagues who took the locations (Figure 2). This proportion is in keeping webinars indicated that, using with the usual trend of previous years, with most cases addressed through voice-over-internet the skills learned, they were able protocol or telephone. Figure 3 shows the amount to prevent or manage a conflict and success rate of the mediation cases received without third-party intervention. by the Office of the Ombudsman. FIGURE 1. CASES RECEIVED FROM 1 JANUARY TO 31 DECEMBER 2020 151 104 37 25 14 UNDP UNICEF UNOPS UNFPA UN WOMEN


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    5 Annual Report 2020 FIGURE 2. PERCENTAGE OF CASES AT FIGURE 3. NUMBER AND SUCCESS RATE OF MEDIATION CASES OFFICES AWAY FROM HEADQUARTERS AND AT HEADQUARTERS 40 cases received by 3 the Office. A mediated solution was reached in an impressive 22 97% of cases 78 FIGURE 4. ISSUES ADDRESSED FROM 1 JANUARY TO 31 Offices away from headquarters DECEMBER 2020 Headquarters In reporting on issues brought 5 7 forward by staff, the Office uses the 28 issue categories established by the 8 International Ombudsman Association, with input from the ombudsman offices of the United Nations system. 10 The average number of issues brought forward per case is two. These issues are often interconnected. Figure 16 24 4 shows the percentage of issues raised during the reporting period. Evaluative Relationships The three main issues reported to Job and Career the Ombudsman were the evaluative Compensation and Benefits relationship category (the supervisor/ Peer and Colleague Relationships supervisee relationship) - 28 per cent Organizational, Leadership and Management of cases; job- and career-related issues Legal, Regulatory, Financial and Compliance - 24 per cent; and compensation and Safety, Health, Wellbeing, Stress and Worklife benefits - 16 per cent. Values, Ethics and Standards 1 B. Outreach and training activities In past years, missions to the field were topics. For the first time, each series was presented the primary way for the Office to facilitate multiple times to make the material accessible informational sessions and capacity-building in varying time zones and to offer it in multiple workshops. The Ombudsman team coped official United Nations languages. In total, the with the travel restrictions imposed during the team presented 30 webinars that reached 3,608 COVID-19 pandemic by modifying informational colleagues in four different languages: Arabic, and capacity-building materials and by increasing English, French and Spanish. The webinar topics the number of virtual presentations. included: “Getting to Know Your Ombudsman”; “Effective Communication”; “Managing Emotions”; In both the second and third quarters, the Office “Intercultural Interaction”; “Introduction to presented global webinar series on a range of Mediation”; and “Introduction to Arbitration.”


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 6 The Office facilitated capacity-building workshops Fundamental Concerns in Your Most Important at the request of colleagues in specific units, Conversations”, “Intercultural Interaction”, country offices and regional offices. The Office “Psychological Safety in Teams”, and “Mediation as facilitated 16 ad hoc requests and reached an Effective Way of Resolving Disputes”. Delivery 590 colleagues, with UNICEF and UN Women for these products will be staggered throughout representing the largest percentage of these 2021. requests. During the period under review, the Office also presented 18 other informational To promote the use of mediation services, the Office and capacity-building workshops, reaching 934 held 14 specialized training sessions for human colleagues. resources professionals of all regions, involving over 450 UNICEF colleagues working in human Prior to, and noticeably more following the death resources. These sessions provided the colleagues of George Floyd and the movements for systemic with an overview of the mediation process and equity and racial and social justice, the Office noted referral techniques, as well as demonstrating the an increase in requests for the “Civility and Respect effectiveness of mediation for workplace conflicts. at Work” course. The Office also received requests The programme strengthened collaboration for future webinars on “Unconscious Bias.” Across between the Office and the Division of Human the different presentation modalities, the Office Resources, which frequently refers appropriate facilitated 64 informational and capacity-building cases to mediation. In addition to these specialized sessions, reaching 5,132 colleagues. sessions, the Office also conducted 10 inter-agency global webinars on mediation in Arabic, English, Lastly, the Office continued to create e-learning French, and Spanish covering over 816 personnel modules on subjects relating to the work of the from all organizations served by the Office. Figure Office. In 2020, development of the following 5 shows the participation rate of each organization courses commenced: “Challenging Conversations by topic. at Work (and Beyond)”, “Managing Emotions and FIGURE 5. PARTICIPATION RATE BY ORGANIZATION AND BY TOPIC Getting to know your 926 Ombudsman Mediation: A Practical 816 Introduction Effective Communication 738 Managing Emotions 583 Intercultural Interaction 488 (Only Summer 2020) Arbitration (Only 57 Fall 2020) 0 200 400 600 800 1000 UNDP UNOPS UNICEF UNFPA UN WOMEN Other The Office collected and analysed data from respectively. Increasing language accessibility the Zoom platform and solicited anonymous for the sessions is an area that colleagues noted feedback for each presentation to learn how to could be improved. The webinar series for 2021 improve services. Figure 6 shows the scores for will accordingly include sessions in Chinese and overall satisfaction and interest in future services, Russian.


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    7 Annual Report 2020 FIGURE 6. COMBINED WEBINAR SURVEY RESULTS Ombudsman Mediation Communications Arbitration Emotions 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Satisfaction Rating (Avg) Future Interest Rating (Avg) The Ombudsman encourages managers and staff and the wish for more, similar courses expressed of all the organizations to make the fullest use of by those who participated are solid indicators that the online courses and webinars offered by the the courses are powerful, cost-effective ways of Office. The high ratings for all the courses offered strengthening conflict-management skills.


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 8 II. Observations and Recommendations Concerning Conflict in 2020 A. Anti-racism and workplace conflict resolution At the launch of the racism Awareness and Action to the attention of the Office where issues relating campaign, the Secretary-General said, “Our to longstanding racism appeared to be prevalent organization was founded on the principles of in one region. This situation was reported in the dignity and worth of the human person, without media. Management had addressed the concerns distinctions of race, colour, ethnic or national origin. at a senior level and taken action; nonetheless, We support Member States in developing legal some staff remained unsatisfied with the action tools and building capacity to address racism in taken and reached out to the Ombudsman. Staff all its forms. This creates a special responsibility for confirmed that while their concerns had not all of us who have the privilege of working for the been fully satisfied by the explanations of senior United Nations – to examine and address racism managers, they were allayed by the fact that their and racial discrimination inside our Organization.” concerns were being dealt with and addressed at both the Ombudsman and senior-management The Office of the Ombudsman for United levels. Staff gained a clearer understanding of how Nations Funds and Programmes and the Office and why responsible management decisions were of the United Nations Ombudsman responded made, and expressed satisfaction that decisions immediately to the Secretary-General’s call to were made on the merits of the case and not on address this issue. Leadership throughout the the colour of a person’s skin. Staff also expressed system set the tone and invited the workforce satisfaction with the actions management took to examine their policies, practices and behaviour introspectively with a view to making recommendations that would ensure there would Racism affects all organizations in be no place for racism. the same way and it is incumbent Through its privileged position of serving five on decision-makers in each organizations, the Office was able to observe how organization to be aware of what is each organization engaged with staff on this issue. The Ombudsman has noticed that these efforts happening in other organizations did result in duplication, with each organization and to build knowledge and commissioning its own task force that reported expertise to combat racism jointly. recommendations to eradicate racism within its ranks. The Ombudsman has also noticed some divergence in approach among the five to resolve staff concerns and the steps taken to organizations and very little cross-fertilization of prevent recurrence. Staff did, however, remain ideas and findings. The Ombudsman would like unconvinced about what the future would hold for to encourage the five organizations to increase them. their coordination and collaboration on actions against racism. Racism affects all organizations The Office continues to raise awareness through in the same way and it is incumbent on decision- trainings on civility and respect in the workplace makers in each organization to be aware of what and on intercultural interaction. The Office is is happening in other organizations and to build also encouraged by the action plans of all five knowledge and expertise to combat racism jointly. organizations served, which emphasize the need for dialogue. Importantly, when such dialogue The Office of the Ombudsman is a safe space to takes place, a facilitator who has experience and have a conversation about a complex and delicate has been trained in facilitating discrimination, matter such as racism. For example, a concern came equity or racial injustice issues should lead it. These


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    9 Annual Report 2020 discussions should not be one-time interventions however, the Office of the Ombudsman has but continued efforts, emphasizing resources and helped to address workplace concerns that training on related themes such as psychological pertain to race, equity, diversity and inclusion in safety, bystander interventions, micro-aggressions multiple parts of the world. How these concerns and unconscious bias. manifest themselves may vary, but the result is usually the same: fundamental perceptions that Additionally, it has come to the attention of inequality and unfairness of treatment are based the Office that, because of the unrest that took on staff identities. Crafting solutions and leading place in the United States after the death of discussions on discrimination should take into George Floyd, racist behaviour is perceived as account the cultural and historical elements of the an “American” problem and not a reflection of setting where the discrimination took place. the situation in other countries. Over the years, Recommendations The Ombudsman encourages the five organizations to pool their funding, expertise and resources to avoid unnecessary duplication and strengthen efforts to combat racism in the workplace. The Ombudsman recommends continual monitoring to ensure that steps taken to combat racism in the five organizations remain in place and that any emerging concerns continue to be immediately addressed. B. Working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges to determine any underlying reasons that had and ways of working for the workforce of the five caused them to seek assistance. These are often organizations. This section of the report discusses not immediately apparent, or they are masked by how the organization manages decisions on other issues. staff mobility, particularly at a time when travel is restricted. In addition, the section discusses No matter what concern was raised, each the impact of the pandemic on a vulnerable part new visitor was asked if they were working of the workforce, UN volunteers (UNVs), and the remotely, and whether they wanted to alert effect that lockdown protocols have had on staff the Ombudsman to any issues that might be ability to manage workload. exacerbating their concerns during lockdown, such as those relating to health, including medical Most of the cases brought to the attention of the and mental health concerns; family issues; job and Office of the Ombudsman during 2020, including career issues; any ongoing conflicts; or any other those still active from 2019, were affected by the issues. Conflicts often arise as a hidden part of onset of COVID-19. The most important factors other issues, and it is important for ombudsmen were added stress levels, uncertainty about the to keep this in mind for more effective and future, and lack of information about the threat empathetic interventions. Answers varied widely of COVID-19. The usual level and types of conflict and the range of cases often had new elements changed significantly. Initially, it seemed that because of rotational issues, not being able to conflict was reduced because everyone’s attention travel, minor health issues, sleep problems and was focused on the virus. Remote work also was family concerns, including worries about relatives a significant factor in reducing conflict because catching the virus. Working remotely also caused staff members were not physically close to the some concerns, especially when combined with manager or other staff causing conflict. As time family matters, such as home schooling. Many went on, the amount of conflict crept up, but it visitors had been evacuated and had to relocate, does not appear to have reached the usual level often under difficult circumstances. Some cases because of other concerns such as health, travel, involved staff actually resigning because of and relocation. It was particularly important to health issues or prolonged illnesses. There were, allow ample time for discussion with colleagues of course, variations due to the level and severity


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 10 of COVID-19 in particular countries. This made it discuss cases, a structured and regular meeting difficult to find single solutions for the concerns proved to be beneficial for everyone. In addition, brought to the attention of the Ombudsman. there was concern about workload and burnout during the lockdown. The blurred lines between The practices in dealing with visitors did not work and home created a constant cycle of stress. change significantly, although some factors Staff perceived that they had a heavier workload became more important. Visitors were often since they began to work from home. very concerned about confidentiality and wanted assurance that their contact would not be shared The United Nations Staff Union, including local with others. This reassurance and the guarantee offices, the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS/UN Women of confidentiality are always clearly stated at Staff Council and the UNICEF Global Staff the beginning of the first meeting with a visitor Association, have provided daily communications, (see also section II.F Nevertheless, with working staff breakfasts and other kinds of gatherings conditions changing so significantly, the assurance to provide the most up-to-date information that information would not be shared with other to staff members. Senior management also parties became even more critical. Regular communicates with staff on a regular basis. A case management meetings among staff of the recent report of interest is the United Nations Office of the Ombudsman were more frequent System COVID-19 Staff Health and Well-being and proved to be of great assistance. It gave the survey 2020, which was prepared in partnership Ombudsman team, who were mostly working between the United Nations System Workplace remotely, a chance to have regular contact and Mental Health and Well-being Implementation information-exchange through avenues such as Board and Agenda Consulting. An executive video meetings, webinars and other video-based summary and the full report are available on the arrangements. Although there is always a certain internet. amount of informal contact among colleagues to Recommendation It is important that the five organizations monitor continued efforts to provide mental health and well-being services to ensure appropriate follow-up for staff so that they are adequately supported. United Nations Volunteers by technicalities in calculating their allowances, such as the daily subsistence allowance, or other The period under review was particularly terms and conditions of their contracts. In some challenging for several UNVs, who were forced to instances, UNVs were required to demobilize make important decisions under pressure. Some during the pandemic and faced quarantine upon programme units demanded that UNVs continue return to their homes, which posed additional to travel to difficult locations despite widespread logistical and financial challenges for them as they COVID-19 safety concerns and lockdowns. Some worked through procedural requirements in the UNVs were asked to change flights at their own system. expense or to travel to distant locations to board humanitarian flights. UNVs were also challenged Recommendation In general, more care should be given to support UNVs during difficult emergencies that limit travel. UNVs must be afforded the same respect and treatment as other United Nations staff, especially during times of crisis.


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    11 Annual Report 2020 C. Restructuring and realignment The Office of the Ombudsman received numerous The Ombudsman notes in visitors who wanted to share their concerns about particular the negative long-term multiple restructuring and realignment exercises, both proposed and under way. Not surprisingly, consequences of realignment these types of concerns were compounded and exercises perceived to be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleagues mismanaged. expressed fear that without a job they would be without health or medical insurance amid a global health crisis. They also referred to the stress they felt about the competitiveness of the job market that those who were interviewed were not given during a global health crisis, with overwhelming adequate time with the interviewer to provide numbers of candidates for increasingly fewer comprehensive inputs about the restructuring positions. process. As a result, staff challenged the findings of the reports that led to realignment or In most of the cases involving restructuring, restructuring. the Ombudsman observed that leadership responded to concerns with temporary measures, Staff in leadership positions in country offices and such as extending contracts and postponing other offices away from headquarters mentioned implementation dates. These measures were that exercises were at times delayed owing to well received and appreciated by impacted requests from headquarters for more information colleagues. Their appreciation underscores a or changes in priorities. This stop-and-start common response from visitors to restructuring: approach complicated the implementation of they accept senior management’s authority the realignment or restructuring processes with and understand its responsibility to respond inevitable cascading impacts, such as speculation to the goals and needs of the organization and confusion. through restructuring and realignment exercises. However, in turn they expect senior management The Ombudsman notes in particular the negative to keep them well informed throughout the long-term consequences of realignment exercises process, practice respectful communication and perceived to be mismanaged. Staff expressed respond to their concerns comprehensively and concerns about low team morale, feelings of in timely fashion. betrayal, broken trust and a loss of faith and commitment to the organization. Restructuring The concerns regarding senior management and realignment exercises should serve the communications typically focused on the mission and mandate of an office and should fact that it was incomplete, inconsistent and therefore be implemented in a way that bolsters sometimes non-existent. Colleagues from the enthusiasm of impacted staff and strengthens the five organizations also expressed some their commitment to the organization; otherwise, dissatisfaction with the tone of communication the goals of the restructuring or realignment may from senior management, perceiving it to be cold be undermined. and at times disrespectful. In summary, restructuring and realignment The Office notes that these concerns about the exercises will likely be challenging for all involved. tone of communication were raised by impacted This is why a thoughtfully planned, transparent, colleagues who had concerns about the and respectful process will be to the benefit of the transparency and completeness of the process organization. Similar elements affect the overall preceding the exercise. Visitors often remarked question of mobility, which the Ombudsman that too few colleagues were interviewed, and addresses in the following paragraphs.


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 12 Recommendations The Ombudsman recommends that, prior to each restructuring or realignment exercise, senior management create a communication strategy that includes dedicated, regular meetings for updates on the process. The Ombudsman recommends the establishment of dedicated restructuring or realignment focal points both in the field and at headquarters to enable senior leadership to address concerns raised by staff, particularly by impacted colleagues. Mobility The unusual stress imposed on staff who have to meet the demands of their professional At the time of writing the present report, the responsibilities away from the office, most COVID-19 pandemic remains challenging: the often in a home setting shared by other family organizations are still observing social distancing members, has been brought to the attention and the workforce has not yet fully returned to of the Ombudsman, as noted in section II.B. In offices. Under these circumstances, the question some situations, this has meant that instead of mobility may need to be re-visited, especially of being relocated to new duty stations, some concerning relocation of staff. While the need for staff members have started their new positions international staff to be deployed to country offices working virtually. The organizations have provided efficiently and as soon as possible will remain a support to the extent possible, including attention cornerstone of United Nations global work, it may to medical health issues that have arisen during be necessary for all organizations to re-examine the pandemic. The uncertainty of when staff will when it is in their best economic interests to be able to move physically to assume their new relocate central services. COVID-19 has required a responsibilities has added to their stress, especially re-thinking of the potential of remote, virtual work in current circumstances. on a global scale, not only in the United Nations. At the same time, the importance of maintaining a healthy, harmonious and productive workplace must remain uppermost. Recommendation The Ombudsman recommends that all staff be consulted and participate in the process of changes proposed in the organizational structure that will affect them.


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    13 Annual Report 2020 D. Mediation The Mediation Pledge around the world, only a quarter were selected for interviews. Following a thorough recruitment By the first quarter of 2021, all five organizations exercise that included a rigorous interview process served by the Office had each signed the following and reference checking, both with previous/ Mediation Pledge: current employers and mediation clients, the Global Mediation Panel now includes 62 on-call In the event of a workplace conflict between [the mediators who are available to mediate conflicts organization] and a member of its personnel, involving all personnel of the five organizations the organization is prepared to discuss the served. Throughout 2020, this group of mediators possibility of resolving the conflict through attended information sessions, managed and Mediation. coordinated by the Office, that also involved numerous colleagues from staff, management and other independent offices. These sessions At the request of the member of personnel or of provided the mediators an opportunity to learn [the organization], an initial discussion on the about workplace culture, challenges, and policies suitability of Mediation will be hosted by the of the organizations to handle conflicts more Mediation Unit of the Office of the Ombudsman effectively. for United Nations Funds and Programmes. Although the Office originally designed the Global Mediation Panel to provide in-person mediation At any time during the mediation process after services to the personnel of the five organizations the initial discussion, if one or both parties that the Office currently serves, the pandemic believe that Mediation is not viable in their necessitated modification of that model. Consistent with the practice of the Office, which case, either party may withdraw and proceed provides for both in-person and online mediations, with formal options to resolve the matter. the Panel can now provide online mediation services as needed. Further, the mediators of the This landmark development reflects a powerful Global Mediation Panel may be called to mediate spirit of inter-agency cooperation and a conflicts arising in country offices both in their recognition of the value of mediation as part of a home base and in neighbouring countries if multifaceted conflict-resolution system. The main high-quality mediation resources are limited or goal of the Pledge is to reinforce the organizations’ unavailable. commitment to resolve workplace conflicts in an informal manner, including by preventing such Throughout 2020, the nine Members of the Board conflicts from escalating to litigation in the RME were actively engaged in regional meetings with or UNDT processes. The Ombudsman hopes that the mediators from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle this Pledge and its implementation by the five East and Latin America. In these meetings, regional organizations will serve as an inspiration for other and other directors made presentations on the organizations both within the United Nations and opportunities and challenges in the respective beyond. regions so that the mediators can fully understand the organizational context and background of the The Ombudsman further believes that the Pledge, conflicts that they are mediating. if adopted by any organization, can be seen as a step toward Sustainable Development Goal 16, Mediation resources and in particular its action item 3: to “ensure equal access to justice for all.” During the reporting period, the Office also upgraded its mediation resources. Specifically, the The Global Mediation Panel and the Office developed a new page for mediation that International Advisory Board now represents a one-stop shop for all mediation materials: https://fpombudsman.org/what-we-do/ In May 2020, the Office launched a process to seek mediation/. This page includes, among other items: applications from additional qualified mediators a mediation guide (available in Arabic, English, to join the Global Mediation Panel, which already French, and Spanish); a mediation training flyer; numbered over 30. Of over 200 applications from a guide for lawyers and parties in mediation; and


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 14 a copy of the Office agreement to mediate. The of the Office. Most of these cases involved outreach and training programmes of the Office evaluative relationships between supervisees are described in section I.B of the report. and supervisors, an area in which mediation can encourage constructive dialogue and thus Increase in mediation cases contribute to improve the overall organizational culture. With the signing of the Mediation Pledge The Office conducted a total of 40 mediations in by all five organizations, the Ombudsman expects 2020 (with settlements achieved in 97 per cent that staff and management will increasingly turn of all finalized cases). Mediation now accounts to mediation as a means of informal resolution of for a greater proportion – almost double that of workplace conflict. previous years – of cases brought to the attention FIGURE 7. BREAKDOWN OF ISSUES IN MEDIATION CASES (%) 38 18 18 16 7 2 1 Evaluative Relationships Job and Career Compensation and Benefits Peer and Colleague Relationships Legal, Regulatory, Financial and Compliance Safety, Health, Wellbeing, Stress and Worklife Values, Ethics and Standards At the time of writing the present report, the one manager stated that “… it was a very useful, Office is finalizing an e-learning course on productive, learning and growth opportunity… The mediation. In addition, the Office has launched mediators were very professional, understanding, a new programme titled “A Conversation with empathetic, used the right approaches and a Mediator” to conduct training for and e-visits made us value each other in ways we had not to over 20 country offices. The mediators of the done before. I now see the relevance of the Office Global Mediation Panel are participating in these more than before and would recommend this sessions to raise awareness about mediation and process or procedure for any manager or staff to offer support to personnel in managing their who find themselves in the situation we both did.” potential conflicts. A consultant reported that: “The mediator was outstanding. With his exceptional mediator and The Office also developed an e-survey to monitor legal skills, the mediator was able to understand the quality of its mediation services. These surveys the issues and facilitate the mediation process.” confirmed that personnel are highly satisfied with the mediation services and that all respondents One of the users, although greatly satisfied with were willing to recommend mediation to other the process, flagged that senior management colleagues regardless of the outcome in their own had not treated her positively when she requested cases. mediation. In this regard, the Ombudsman reminds management of all organizations that When asked to rate the overall level of satisfaction mediation and other support mechanisms of with the mediation process, the average rating the Office should be strongly encouraged to received was 4.6 on a one-to-five scale (one being build harmonious working environments in unsatisfied and five being very satisfied). Notably, the organization. The Ombudsman urges the all of the users chose to identify themselves organizations to set up policies to encourage -having the choice to stay anonymous - with some managers to become advocates for mediation. users leaving complimentary comments. Namely, Recommendation The Ombudsman recommends that the five organizations set up policies to encourage managers to become advocates for mediation and address any practices that discourage personnel from mediating conflicts amicably.


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    15 Annual Report 2020 E. Arbitration Non-staff personnel contracts and informal Trade Law (UNCITRAL), each organization has dispute resolution designed its arbitration mechanisms differently. For example, some organizations have established The Ombudsman has previously addressed the strict deadlines within which amicable resolution inequities and lack of information for non-staff can be pursued. In addition, the Ombudsman personnel of the five organizations regarding observes with great concern that no organization adjudication of workplace disputes. In addition, includes mediation or any other services of the Office has repeatedly sought to offer concrete the Office of the Ombudsman as a preliminary solutions to this concern. Referring to the contractual step for resolving disputes informally recommendations included in his annual report with non-staff personnel. Overall, in contrast to for 2019, the Ombudsman wishes to reiterate the staff personnel, non-staff colleagues are less aware importance of the availability of legal recourse of informal conflict resolution resources available through arbitration and other means for non-staff to them when facing a conflict in the workplace. personnel of the five organizations. This is often because their contracts are short- term in nature. Currently, contracts of non-staff members specify arbitration as the sole formal legal remedy in The Ombudsman has studied these mechanisms matters that cannot be resolved through informal, and plans to discuss them on an inter-agency amicable methods. Although non-staff contracts basis with the five organizations in the second of all five organizations state that arbitration with half of 2021 with a view to the harmonization individual contractors follows the arbitration rules of procedures for arbitration in cases involving of the United Nations Commission on International personnel holding non-staff contracts. Recommendation The Ombudsman recommends that, for non-staff personnel, all five organizations include mediation and other informal resolution mechanisms offered by the Office as a preliminary step to resolving a conflict prior to referring the matter to arbitration. Interim measures to clarify arbitration and counsel to demonstrate the need for, and procedures for non-staff personnel efficiency of, a proposed arbitration facility. As the Ombudsman has indicated in previous In 2020, the Ombudsman acted on those annual reports, the UNCITRAL arbitration rules are recommendations. Namely, the Office offered an most frequently used in high-profile international inter-agency webinar on arbitration as part of its commercial, investment or State-to-State fall global webinar series. The webinar attracted arbitrations. These rules and their mechanisms over 50 participants, including both non-staff are not suitable for workplace conflicts. Therefore, personnel and staff supervisors. The participants the Ombudsman proposed in his 2019 report the of the course overwhelmingly found the training establishment of an arbitration training session informative and noted their willingness to attend and the development of a panel of arbitrators similar events in the future, confirming the interest in learning more about arbitration. FIGURE 8. SATISFACTION RATINGS FOR ARBITRATION WEBINAR 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Satisfaction Rating (Avg) Future Interest Rating (Avg)


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 16 Several matters that the Office handled during become even more significant in these times 2020 made the need for such training clear. of pandemic turbulence, when flexibility and During the year, the Office received several efficiency have become more important than ever. requests for assistance that concerned arbitration. In those cases, non-staff visitors had little The Counsel and Arbitrators Lists understanding about the arbitration process. As a result, parties submitted the case to the wrong Acting on the recommendation contained in arbitral institutions or initiated an arbitration the 2019 annual report, the Office is currently using the wrong rules. For example, in one case, establishing two lists - the Counsel List and the the visitor wrote to UNCITRAL requesting to start Arbitrators List - that include the names of highly an arbitration case, in the mistaken belief that the skilled and experienced on-call professionals reference to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules in the identified by the Office based on stringent contract meant UNCITRAL would administer the standards. Both lists will be available to both arbitration case. In another matter, the non-staff non-staff personnel and the representatives of member had filed a case with the UNDT, and the the five organizations. The Office will not take UNDT had concluded that the application was part in arbitrations, nor will the Office take any manifestly inadmissible and therefore struck it out responsibility for the services of selected counsel in its entirety. In yet another case, a member of and arbitrators. personnel had launched an arbitration in his local jurisdiction, believing incorrectly that he could Counsel and arbitrators who have joined the two choose any arbitral institution to administer the recommended lists will subscribe to a pledge case at his sole discretion. These flaws resulted drawn up by the Office to ensure the efficiency of in significant, additional delays and frustrations the arbitration process. for the parties, coupled with wastes of valuable time and resources for the organizations involved, By establishing these procedures as well as including those of the UNDT. offering training sessions and lists, the Office will make arbitration far more accessible, especially In 2020, the Office was able to successfully for the weaker party, but also more efficient, conclude two matters, using mediation, that benefitting all parties concerned. At the same had initially been sent to arbitration. However, time, streamlining access to arbitration, with the Office became aware of these matters - and mediation as a pre-condition, puts the parties subsequently offered mediation to resolve them in a better position to appreciate the process - very late in the process. Nonetheless, both and outcome control that mediation provides as the non-staff personnel and the organizations compared to arbitration. Maximizing the efficiency involved saved time and resources and found a of an adjudicative mechanism such as arbitration solution that worked for the parties. by integrating it with mediation is particularly pertinent at present when the organizations are Because of such experiences, the Ombudsman creating new contract modalities, some of which reinforces his past recommendations concerning do not allow the contract holder to resort to UNDT the need for training, which would allow more in case of a dispute. matters like the ones described above to be resolved without unnecessary delay, financial burden, or frustration. These considerations have Recommendation The Ombudsman urges the organizations to support and sponsor the creation of an independent arbitration programme that will build on the work of the Office in training non-staff personnel and staff supervisors on arbitration, and in developing the lists of counsel and arbitrators.


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    17 Annual Report 2020 F. Confidentiality: implications and consequences The guarantee of confidentiality is one of the The Ombudsman has consistently adhered to best cardinal operating principles of the Office of practices concerning confidentiality and the view the Ombudsman and is contained in the terms that “imminent harm” is to be interpreted narrowly, of reference (TOR) of the Office of the United covering only limited situations concerning Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (ST/ personal injury or death. These standards clearly SGB/2016/7). The other three operating principles apply when the information in question involves are independence, neutrality and informality, and confidential information concerning or provided these four principles are the foundation on which by individuals who come to the Office, even when all ombudsman work is undertaken in the United the matter goes on to formal proceedings. Nations; other institutions and organizations worldwide follow similar principles. The However, a different question regarding Ombudsman may reveal confidential information confidentiality arises that concerns certain specific only with the “express permission” of the individual parameters when a case that has been addressed who provided the information. Furthermore, by the Office has gone to (or might be going to) the TOR also specify that this privilege belongs formal proceedings. For proceedings before the to the Office and that others cannot waive UNDT or other formal adjudicative mechanisms the confidentiality of the Office. In all initial within the United Nations, there are instances conversations with a member of the Ombudsman where the parties are required to submit evidence team, this principle is carefully explained so to establish the start and end of the prior informal that visitors seeking assistance from the Office conflict-resolution process, including mediation, understand this, the other principles and their to determine deadlines. Specifically, Staff Rule own obligation not to breach confidentiality. 11.4 states “[w]here mediation has been pursued by either party … and the mediation is deemed When the Office was originally established in 2002, to have failed …, the staff member may file an some units in the organizations saw the principle application with the Dispute Tribunal within 90 of confidentiality as a unilateral declaration on the calendar days of the end of the mediation.” It is part of the Ombudsman and consequently chose unclear whether the UNDT may require a party to ignore it. However, the Rules of Procedure of to produce such evidence if the other party in a the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, approved mediation objects to its disclosure given that such by the General Assembly in resolution 64/119 of information does not involve the “imminent risk” 16 December 2009, stipulate that “all documents exception. In light of the stipulations contained in prepared for and oral statements made during any the Rules of Procedure, the UNDT probably would informal conflict-resolution process or mediation not be able to do so. are absolutely privileged and confidential and shall never be disclosed to the Dispute Tribunal.” Because it can affect the parties’ ability to pursue formal proceedings after pursuing informal ones, Exceptions: Imminent Risk of Serious Harm the ability to establish receivability may be critical and Other Implications in certain matters. Consequently, to allow the parties to confirm to the UNDT any relevant dates In the TOR promulgated in 2016, the only exception concerning the intervention of the Ombudsman, to the obligation of confidentiality is “where there without disclosing the substance of the discussions, appears to be imminent risk of serious harm and and in light of the reliance on the permission of when there is no other reasonable option for the parties to reveal information contained in the confidentially handling the matter.” The definition TOR, the Office of the Ombudsman has amended of the phrase “imminent risk” and what specific its agreement to mediate. The agreement now instances might fall within that exception have allows for the Office of the Ombudsman to issue given rise to much debate since the establishment a certificate confirming the start and end dates of of the Office and are currently frequent topics of the mediation process. Such a certificate can be debate in public and private ombudsman forums. issued upon the request of either party.


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 18 Recommendation The organizations should clarify in their policies and practices the requirement and the importance of preserving confidentiality of exchanges and interactions with the Office of the Ombudsman. The organizations should also define the consequences of breaches of confidentiality by personnel. G. Respectful Workplace Facilitators Programme The Respectful Workplace Facilitators (RWF) Although the RWF programme was limited by programme is built on a peer network of staff from the exigency of the pandemic, which forced UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women in over 40 country colleagues to work from home and grapple offices. Cohorts from the programme met in with novel logistical challenges, the programme Istanbul and Nairobi for in-person training before nonetheless helped bring forward a number of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and those issues, including allegations of fraud, nepotism, trained in person became operational in 2020, discrimination, and harassment, as well as when they began to support their colleagues in interpersonal disputes and issues of stress and the field. Those who could not attend an in-person burnout. As part of the integrated conflict- training were invited to virtual trainings, which management and issue-resolution systems of the are ongoing. Cohorts in French and Spanish were United Nations, the RWFs are trained to work with also assembled to begin virtual training in 2021. the Office of the Ombudsman to refer colleagues All RWFs are also continuing to hone their skills and visitors to the appropriate resources within through online collaboration and learning. the system, including formal avenues within the internal justice system where applicable. The RWF programme is modelled after similar successful initiatives at the World Bank Group, Surveys were sent out to RWFs and the country the International Monetary Fund, the World Food offices to assess the impact of the programme, Programme, and the Office of the United Nations which will take some time to be fully socialized High Commissioner for Refugees. These kinds of within the system. Even so, early impact measures peer support mechanisms, when integral parts indicate that the RWFs are learning powerful of a confidential outlet such as the Office of the conflict-resolution skills that are adding value to Ombudsman, have proved to be highly effective at staff in the field, and that visibility of this resource raising and addressing a wide variety of workplace is growing steadily. conflicts and issues in ways that minimize the risk of retaliation.


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    19 Annual Report 2020 Participating offices UNDP UNFPA UN WOMEN BANGLADESH MOLDOVA BARBADOS MOZAMBIQUE BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA NIGERIA BOTSWANA PACIFIC REGIONAL SUB-OFFICE (FIJI) BRAZIL PANAMA BURKINA FASO PAPUA NEW GUINEA CAMBODIA PERU EGYPT SAMOA ETHIOPIA SENEGAL JORDAN SIERRA LEONE KENYA SOUTH AFRICA KUWAIT SOUTH SUDAN KYRGYZSTAN SRI LANKA LACRO RO (PANAMA) SUDAN LACRO SRO (JAMAICA) TUNISIA LIBYA TURKEY MACEDONIA UGANDA MALAYSIA UKRAINE MALI ZIMBABWE MEXICO During the reporting period, RWFs received a total duties. The terms of reference restrict RWFs to of 23 cases. The issues they helped to address three hours per week. The RWF team of the Office show that the information and skills taught in the of the Ombudsman has noticed that the COVID-19 RWF programme are being used. pandemic has contributed to an increased workload for many of the RWFs, which has limited A few RWFs have indicated that they find it their immediate reach. challenging to find the time to perform their RWF FIGURE 9. ISSUES RWFs HAVE HANDLED (%) 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Safety, health, well-being, stress and work/life balance Peer and colleague relationships Job and career Organizational, leadership and management Values, ethics and standards Evaluative relationships Recommendation Noting the early successes of this programme, the Ombudsman recommends that the programme be consolidated and adopted by all five organizations that it serves. The Ombudsman also recommends that the programme be expanded to cover all country offices globally.


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    Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes 20 III. Looking Ahead The Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations mediation services an attractive and user- Funds and Programmes has emerged from the friendly option for all. Finally, the signing of the challenges of 2020 equipped to deal with the Mediation Pledge by all the five organizations continuing pandemic and its after-effects, as well is an important recognition of the value placed as to move forward in the post-pandemic world. on mediation by the organizations served by the Office. The continuing work of the Office on expanding its website, training, webinars, workshops, and online With the completion of its restructuring, the dispute mechanisms means that, both during Office now has six offices worldwide (with the the pandemic and after, people around the world Copenhagen office opening in the second half of will have easy access to the Office resources. The 2021). These offices enable better outreach to a educational mission of the Office to bring together wider range of communities, as well as increasing personnel from all five organizations will continue the odds that senior management and staff will both online, and when possible, in person. The turn to the Office for assistance dealing with Conversation with a Mediator Programme, one conflict-resolution services such as mediation. of the newest initiatives offered by the Office, includes training and access to the Office staff and Challenges continue, as they always will, particularly mediators in a unique way that combines many concerning the need for better communication aspects of the Office mission. with staff and the need to address the extent to which racism plays a role in the United Nations The Ombudsman notes that the continuing community. But armed with the tools, resources, work of the Office, especially on educating staff and experience developed both before and during and management about the benefits of effective the pandemic, the Ombudsman team looks conflict management for a healthy workplace, forward to the future with renewed optimism and will continue to pay dividends. In particular, the excitement. expanded Global Mediation Panel will make


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    Our Team (2020-2021) Giuseppe De Palo Kentaro Kanyomozi Ombudsman Deputy Ombudsman Mushegh Nelima Okhoya Carla Nehme Maria Migoya- Fernando Navarro Manukyan Ombudsman Ombudsman Specialist Fernandez Capacity Building and Mediation Specialist Specialist Mediation and Conflict Conflict Resolution Resolution Officer Expert James Lee Linda Schieber Eskandar Rastegar Kevin Brown Tamar Gur Senior Conflict Resolution Consultant Ombudsman Consultant Consultant RWF Programme Expert Ombudsman Ombudsman Expert Mary B. Trevor Lucille Boettger Michael Ati Alipour * Vikram Kapoor * Mediation Editor Conflict Coaching Rosenblum Conflict Resolution RWF Programme Consultant Consultant Administrative Expert Expert Assistant Jessica Sanderson Mediation Intern New York (HQ) Bangkok Copenhagen Dakar Istanbul Panama * No longer a member of the team as of the writing of the present report


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    Members of the Ombudsman team with the late Eric de Coninck, then Regional Chief of Human Resources for East Asia and the Pacific at UNICEF, after a training session with his team in Bangkok. Eric is pictured in the front row, third from the left.


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    Independence Neutrality Confidentiality Informality +1 646 781 4083 (HQ) 304 East 45th St ombudsmediation@fpombudsman.org Room FF-671 www.fpombudsman.org New York, NY 10017, USA


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