The Ombuds does not tell you everything!

In a recent article, the Ombuds advertises his own role in informal conflict resolution. Why not? Well, we can object to his article for at least three reasons.

Firstly, the realm of conflict resolution is not limited to formal procedures (review procedure or internal appeal) on the one hand and the Ombuds’ own informal process on the other hand. Recently a poster published by HR Department clearly showed that other mechanisms do exist to provide informal channels for conflict resolution, notably: HR services (HRAs, Social services …) and Staff Association (Delegates, Commission des cas particuliers …). And then, of course, the hierarchy also has a role to play. Clearly, the conflict resolution realm is colourful and diverse, with differences in approaches and participants that allow members of the personnel to find a channel that best suits the situation and their frame of mind. Is the conflict resolution realm black (formal) and white (Ombuds) as the Ombuds paints it? No, it is not!

Secondly, an administrative decision can only be challenged through a review procedure or internal appeal, two formal procedures. Going to see the Ombuds when your request to change home station has been denied or when you are denied a promotion will never result in the corresponding decision being changed, let alone being overturned. So, is the Ombuds right when he writes “I therefore encourage you to first try to resolve your dispute informally”? No; informal mechanisms cannot resolve all disputes.

Thirdly, formal procedures are not necessarily as the Ombuds caricatures them to be. For instance. As described in Administrative Circular 6 (AC6), the review procedure is “quicker and less cumbersome than the internal appeal” and it “enables the Administration to check the legal conditions in which the challenged decision was taken without convening the Joint Advisory Appeals Board”. Also, and regrettably often forgotten, the person who initiates a review procedure can “call upon a mediator to take part in it” (see AC6, section III “Review procedure with mediation”). The role of the mediator is “to try to settle the dispute between the parties concerned, in particular by promoting a mutual understanding of their different points of view, and to express an opinion, if so required, on the request for review.” Is this “leav[ing] it to the Organization to resolve the dispute” or does this put the “relationship between the two parties […] at great risk”? No; clearly not !

It is not the first time that we cannot avoid having doubts and being surprised, even shocked at times, after reading a piece published in the “Ombud’s Corner”. The Ombuds is nominated by and reports directly to the Director General. Will the Director General please look into this situation?

by Staff Association