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The Role of Ethics and Compliance in UNHCR - Global Context and Specific Challenges -
N/A (2013)
  • Ngonlardje K. MBAIDJOL, Dr.

UNHCR’s primary purpose is, to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to possibly resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people. In more than five decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff close to 7,000 people (international and local staff combined) are on duty in more than 110 countries to help about 34 million persons.

UNHCR’s evolving role and the operational challenges that the UN refugee agency is facing in its daily work make it the right candidate for a strengthened ethical rules and regulations accompanied with a clear compliance programme to help the staff respond to and mitigat the consequences of the many ethical dilemmas that may occur not only in field operations but also at Headquarters. Moreover, the importance of ethical behavior in the workplace need no demonstration for it bears such names as: Integrity, Accountability, Transparency, Truthfulness, Non-Discrimination, Respect for Diversity, Team-Spirit, Pride in Serving, Trust, Efficiency, Respectful Communication, Harmonious Workplace, Fairness, Representing UNHCR’s Persons of Concern, Politness, etc.

Based on specific efforts nurtured by the UN refugee agency to enhance ethics and compliance in the delivery of its mandate, the paper examines the long road towards some of the features of the ethics role in UNHCR by trying to respond to the following questions: Why having adopted an ethic code namely UNHCR Code of Conduct? i.e. how did the operational challenges, the global and the United Nations contexts influence the development of ethics and compliance programme in the refugee agency? How do the ethics governance evolved and is implemented in UNHCR? What are the ongoing commitments to nurture integrity and mitigate reputational risks in UNHCR?

The ongoing global developments concerning business ethics are seriously influencing the attitude of the UN Member States vis a vis the operational agencies they have created to carry out the humanitarian mandate of the global organization in line with its founding Charter. UN Member States and the donor community as a whole are raising the bar higher and higher to make sure that integrity, transparency and accountability remain the bedrock of the UN activities worldwide. UNHCR has been very smart in mitigating the reputational consequences of the operational ethical challenges it faced during the last decade by wisely investing in measures to successfully enhance accountability and nurture a culture of integrity. However, ethical challenges will continue haunting UNHCR operations for their geographic and issue specific variety ; but there are also opportunities to initiate ethics risk assessment processes in UNHCR that will help review what has been accomplished, what remains to be done to better ground successful practices in the organization and looking forward to what are the emerging ethical risks that may need to be mitigated.

Publication Date
Spring 2013
Citation Information
Ngonlardje K. MBAIDJOL. "The Role of Ethics and Compliance in UNHCR - Global Context and Specific Challenges -" N/A (2013)
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