Ethics code for UN Secretariat staff extended to cover all funds and programmes

Ethics code for UN Secretariat staff extended to cover all funds and programmes

Ban Ki-moon
Employees working in the funds and programmes of the United Nations are now covered by the same system of ethical protections and programmes as their colleagues in the UN Secretariat after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a bulletin on the issue today.

The bulletin’s release follows a meeting in late October of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) of top officials from across the UN system in which they agreed to establish an ethical code and system within which they will all operate.

Announcing the bulletin’s release, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe noted that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged, when he took office in January, that the UN would commit itself to the highest standards of ethics, integrity, accountability and transparency.

She said that even after this UN-wide ethical code is established, Mr. Ban will continue to work with the leadership of the specialized agencies to ensure that the ethical standards and programmes are as uniform and harmonized as possible.

“As we strive for ‘One United Nations,’ the United Nations must be governed by a single code of ethical standards,” Ms. Okabe said.

As part of the system-wide code unveiled today, an ethics committee will be established and tasked with devising “a unified set of standards and policies” for the UN system, reviewing the annual reports of the ethics offices of the Secretariat and the various funds and programmes, and consulting on any important or complex cases or issues raised by an ethics office.

This committee will be headed by Robert Benson, the Director of the UN Ethics Office, and also include any heads of ethics offices in the specialized agencies.

Mr. Benson told reporters today that individual funds and programmes have the option of appointing or designating their own ethics officers. If they do not by next month, then staff working for that fund or programme will be covered by the ethics office of the UN Secretariat, including on issues concerning protection for whistleblowers from retaliation.

Similarly, if the ethics office of a fund or programme has not provided advice or formally considered a request for protection from retaliation within 45 days of a request from a staff member, then that employee is entitled to refer the matter to the newly established UN Ethics Committee.

The individual ethics office will be charged with: developing standards, training and education on ethics issue for their specialized agency; providing guidance to the agency management to ensure the UN principles and policies are being followed; provide confidential advice to staff; help protect staff against retaliation; and administer the financial disclosure programme of senior staff at the agency.

In response to questions from journalists, Mr. Benson said he believed that many funds and programmes already had plans to designate an ethics officer, including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The need for a common ethics code among all UN entities has gained increased momentum in recent months along with issues relating to whistleblower protection and the disclosure of information by the various entities.

At the World Summit at UN Headquarters in New York in September 2005, Member States called for a scrupulous application of existing standards of conduct and the development of a system-wide code of ethics for all UN personnel.