UN Ethics Office Meetings

By: Katherine Marshall

September 20, 2006

At the April Oxford Ethics Forum, I met Tunku Aziz who I had worked with some years ago in the context of the Asia Anti-Corruption Advisory Group. He is currently serving at the United Nations as Ethics Officer, in an assignment reporting to the Secretary General, with the objective of launching a UN ethics office and recommending a future course of action to the SG (his assignment ends in December). Mr. Aziz invited me to give a presentation to his team. After some months of trying to coordinate schedules with INT I took advantage of being in New York to follow up.

Briefly, the current small UN Ethics office is very much at a development stage, with a mandate that is somewhat similar to the World Bank Ethics Office - that is, it focuses on core issues of financial disclosure for staff, whistleblower protection and policy, and training and orientation on ethics. They are, they indicated, in contact with both the Ethics Office and with INT. They expect to launch a more permanent program, presumably larger program early next year.

Our discussions and my presentation (attached) focused on the broader ethics mandate that the Development Dialogue on Values and Ethics has pursued as its mandate, linked to globalization issues and the wide array of ethical issues and dilemmas that confront staff working on development. There is nothing comparable to this mandate within the UN system proper, though, as I have noted before, issues of values and ethics tend to form more part of daily discourse in UN agencies like UNHCR, UNFPA and UNICEF than it does in the World Bank, which consciously focuses on technical dimensions of issues.

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UN Ethics Office Meetings