Office of the Ombudsperson
The Office of the Ombudsperson at WIPO provides confidential, neutral, independent and informal assistance to all WIPO staff members and employees who have concerns arising from or affecting their work. The Ombudsperson plays a role in preventing conflict and restoring peaceful working relations, and offers an important in-house alternative to formal complaint-handling.
The Ombudsperson advocates for fair and equitable application of procedures and offers a portfolio of tailor-made informal conflict resolution services which strive to reach amicable and sustainable solutions acceptable to all parties and which foster respectable workplace principles and values. The Ombudsperson acts with strict confidentiality and will not reveal anyone’s identity, or take any action without the prior consent of the individual concerned. The Ombudsperson does not testify or produce documents in formal proceedings. Formal records are not kept, and any communications with the Ombudsperson are kept confidential. The office of the Ombudsperson does not receive notice of claims against the organization nor does it conduct investigations. And finally it does not act as a substitute for formal channels.
Being independent, the Ombudsperson reports directly to WIPO’s Director General. The Ombudsperson has no management authority and cannot create or change policy, or impose any given solution, but s/he will Identify systemic trends and risks that help managers make informed policy and management decisions that can help promote a more respectful and harmonious workplace. At the end of each calendar year, the Ombudsperson submits an annual report, including general caseload statistics, an analysis of trends and recommendations for the future.
The WIPO Ombudsperson practices in accordance with the International Ombudsman Association’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice
Our activities include:
Impartial and active listening
Throughout the consultation process, the Ombudsperson remains an impartial and active listener. Experience has shown that being able to openly discuss issues helps to obtain clarity on underlying interests and needs.
Evaluating available options
Together, the visitor and the Ombudsperson will review the various elements that contribute to a given conflict situation. Options are explored as to how best to address these issues, weighing the respective pros and cons. By enlarging the horizon in this way and considering the issues from new angles, new ways forward may emerge.
Providing information and making referrals
The Ombudsperson can advise on the available policies, rules and procedures or entry points for obtaining specialized advice with respect to administrative or legal issues. Depending on the nature of the case, a visitor may also be referred to other internal or external resources in order to obtain the appropriate assistance.
Informal fact finding
The Ombudsperson does not carry out formal investigations. Frequently, however, the Ombudsperson may be asked to look into and pursue an individual concern. Through informal fact finding, the Ombudsperson explores regulatory or legal provisions, administrative provisions, or establishes the facts underlying a given situation. This may imply some interaction with supervisors, the Human Resources Management Department and other in-house services.
Helping individuals to help themselves may be the chosen path of action in some cases. Staff can receive coaching to e.g. re-establish dialogue with a peer or supervisor or to address a concern in a direct manner. This may be in the form of role play, for example, or through advice on non-violent communication strategies and constructive writing techniques.
In some cases, the Ombudsperson may shuttle back and forth between parties, transmitting information and feedback, in order to resolve a particular issue. Shuttle diplomacy may be applied when there is a breakdown in communication between parties or when the resolution of a concern requires a step-by-step approach towards a desired outcome. It can also be useful in preparing the ground for parties to meet.
Upon request, and where appropriate, the Ombudsperson can act as a mediator, facilitating a structured process of communication between parties, and helping them to work towards mutually agreed solutions or to improve their working relationships.
Through interaction with individuals, and through careful evaluation of the various concerns raised over time, the Ombudsperson identifies trends and systemic issues and make recommendations to the Director General and other appropriate management levels regarding improvements to policies and practices that can help to promote a more harmonious and respectful workplace.