How to report wrongdoing
Know your duties, and your rights.
Misconduct undermines the effectiveness, credibility and integrity of UNICEF, threatening our ability to meet the needs of children worldwide. All UNICEF personnel – regardless of how they're contracted or where they're stationed – are expected to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Those who violate UNICEF’s regulations and rules will be held accountable.
In the interest of those we exist to serve, personnel have a duty to report any form of suspected wrongdoing. They also have the right to be protected against retaliation.
No child in harm's way
What to report
In every context in which UNICEF operates, people trust us to assist and protect them. The vast majority of aid workers do so with professionalism and integrity. However, some abuse their position of power through the sexual exploitation or abuse of those who depend on them, including children.
Sexual exploitation refers to any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, perpetrated by aid workers against the children and families we serve.
Sexual abuse is the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions, perpetrated by aid workers against the children and families we serve.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 190 countries and territories, providing a first line of response for children at risk. Our Child Protection teams prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse across circumstances and settings. UNICEF also works with local partners and within the UN system to expand child safeguarding measures – internal procedures and policies that ensure our activities are carried out in a way that minimizes collateral risk to the communities we serve.
Our mission to support children requires a workplace that supports staff. But UNICEF is not yet that workplace for every member of our team. Each year, individuals come forward to share experiences of sexual harassment. We know our measures to prevent this have not reached all corners of our working environment. And one case is one too many. Help us stamp out sexual harassment by reporting suspected instances.
Sexual harassment in the workplace encompasses any unwelcome and improper conduct of a sexual nature that might be expected or perceived to cause offence or humiliation when such conduct interferes with work, is made a condition of employment, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Abuse of authority entails the improper use of a position of influence, power or authority against another person. It may also include behaviour that creates a hostile or offensive work environment, such as intimidation, threats, blackmail or coercion. In the workplace, this is particularly serious when affecting the career or psychological safety of a colleague.
Abuse of authority in any form is unacceptable – but not unfixable. UNICEF maintains various reporting, investigation and accountability mechanisms for suspected abuse of authority within our organization.
Worldwide, UNICEF is entrusted with voluntary contributions from governments, businesses and philanthropists seeking to protect children’s rights. We're determined to make every dollar count, and to share openly where our funds come from, where they go, and what they achieve.
Anyone can report waste or misuse of UNICEF funds, and your report will be acted upon.
Waste entails using UNICEF resources carelessly, extravagantly or to no purpose. This can occur when funds or assets are not used in accordance with the terms of agreements, plans or applicable policies and procedures. Misuse undermines the confidence partners place in us to carry out our mandate effectively and efficiently, ultimately disadvantaging the children we exist to serve.
When the misuse of resources is deceptive – such as when individuals seek to gain unlawful or unfair advantage over others – it may be considered corruption, fraud, collusion or coercion.
Since its inception, UNICEF has stood firmly against discrimination and racism. But we are not immune. Our personnel relay experiences of discrimination and racism, still, perpetrated by peers. They speak up about hurtful and disrespectful actions that betray our most fundamental values.
We will not accept this. UNICEF has one of the most diverse, socially aware workforces in the world – people dedicated to social justice for all. But we must seek constantly to do better.
We must, as an organization, continue to listen and learn – from our colleagues, but also from outside thinkers – so that we can take concrete actions to root out discrimination and to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, in our systems and ourselves.
Harassment in the workplace can take many forms – words, gestures or actions that tend to alarm, intimidate or belittle another person, including bullying. Overall, any unwelcome conduct that might be expected or perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another may constitute harassment, especially when it interferes with work or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
If you are experiencing or witnessing harassment from a colleague, UNICEF maintains both formal and informal mechanisms for reporting and mediation. Find the recourse that helps you feel most comfortable and safe.
A conflict of interest arises when, by act or omission, staff members’ personal interests cause them to discharge their official duties and responsibilities in a manner inconsistent with the interests of UNICEF.
UNICEF recognizes that engagement in outside activities may enhance personal well-being and professional development, even to the benefit of UNICEF’s mission. Such engagement is encouraged when it does not inhibit work performance or interfere with the integrity, independence and impartiality required of UNICEF personnel as international civil servants.
Not all outside activities constitute conflict of interest, but staff are obliged to seek an independent judgment from within UNICEF to determine whether they do.
All UNICEF personnel have a duty to report any breach of the UN Charter; the UN Staff Regulations and Rules; the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service; and any of UNICEF’s regulations, rules and internal policies, to officials formally designated to receive such reports by UNICEF or the UN. Anyone who submits such a report has the right to be protected against retaliation.
All UNICEF personnel also have a duty to cooperate with authorized audits and investigations. Any individual who does so has the right to be protected against retaliation.
Retaliation against these individuals is strictly prohibited. It violates the fundamental obligation of personnel to uphold the highest standards of civil service, and to carry out duties with efficiency and integrity.
Retaliation entails any direct or indirect detrimental action recommended, threatened or taken because an individual engaged in a protected activity like whistle-blowing. Protection against retaliation applies to all UNICEF personnel, regardless of contract type.
If you believe retaliatory action has been or will be taken against you for reporting suspected misconduct, know your rights. Contact the Ethics Office now.
For issues related to performance management, interpersonal conflicts or other workplace concerns, learn where to turn. UNICEF provides confidential informal and formal channels for seeking guidance, support and resolution.
How to report
The Office of Internal Audit and Investigations (OIAI) conducts independent, fact-based investigations into allegations of misconduct, fraud and other violations of UNICEF rules, regulations and policies. OIAI’s mission is to investigate reports of misconduct with professionalism, impartiality and fairness towards all parties, as well as to ensure trust in the process and respect for the outcome.
If you’re uncertain if a matter represents misconduct, please contact OIAI for a confidential consultation. The office operates with need-to-know confidentiality and will only share information with those who need it to process the matter.
The Ethics Office nurtures a culture of integrity and accountability to enhance trust in and credibility within UNICEF and the UN system. Founded on independence, impartiality and confidentiality, this team is responsible for providing advice and guidance, training and outreach, and policy input. They also administer UNICEF’s Policy on Whistle-Blower Protection against Retaliation, and UNICEF’s Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclosure Programme.
If you need confidential advice on ethical matters, or more information on how to report retaliation, please contact the Ethics Office. The office is strictly confidential and will not share any information you provide without your express consent.
UNICEF's Division of Human Resources works with HR practitioners, partners and clients globally to ensure that UNICEF personnel are provided with the work environment and support they need to give their best for every child. HR supports personnel with conduct-related matters by issuing and advising on relevant policies and procedures (including disciplinary actions), helping with performance management, and providing learning and well-being resources.
If you have questions or concerns related to employment issues, performance management, conflicts of interest, discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, abuse of authority or interpersonal conflicts, HR teams are here to guide you. The division operates with need-to-know confidentiality and will only share information with those who need it to process the matter.
The Office of the Ombudsmen offers dedicated, informal dispute-resolution services to all UNICEF personnel, in addition to personnel from UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS and UN Women. The office is a strictly confidential and neutral place to discuss workplace issues and explore options for addressing conflicts. It operates independently from UNICEF administration and does not take sides in disputes.
The Ombudsmen also provides mediation services, including through external on-call mediators who may be available in your country office. If mediation is the most appropriate tool to resolve a workplace conflict, mediators will help disputing parties discuss the issues, brainstorm solutions and reach a consensus.
Know your rights when reporting wrongs
UNICEF’s policy on whistle-blower protections sets out measures against retaliation for individuals who report misconduct, provide information in good faith on alleged wrongdoing, or cooperate with an authorized inspection.
All UNICEF personnel have a duty to report any breach of the UN Charter; the UN Staff Regulations and Rules; the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service; and any of UNICEF’s regulations, rules and internal policies, to UNICEF or UN officials. Anyone who submits such a report has the right to be protected against retaliation.
All UNICEF personnel also have a duty to cooperate with authorized audits, investigations and other oversight activities. Anyone who cooperates with such activities has the right to be protected against retaliation.
Retaliation against whistle-blowers is strictly prohibited. It violates the fundamental obligation of personnel to uphold the highest standards of civil service.
Retaliation entails any direct or indirect detrimental action recommended, threatened or taken because an individual engaged in a protected activity. Protection against retaliation applies to all UNICEF personnel, regardless of contract type.
All UNICEF personnel have the right to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially. Reports made to the Ethics Office and the Office of the Ombudsmen are strictly confidential and will not be shared without your express consent. The Office of Internal Audit and Investigation operates under need-to-know confidentiality, meaning the information you provide will be shared only with those who need it to process the matter. UNICEF’s Human Resources teams also maintain a need-to-know level of confidentiality.
Any report of suspected harm to a child will be shared with appropriate authorities.
If you’re seeking encouragement through the reporting process, or guidance to better understand our duty to report, you’re not alone.
UNICEF staff worldwide have teamed up as Peer Support Volunteers, Staff Representatives and Ethics Champions to provide informal and confidential support to colleagues who may have experienced, or suspect they’ve witnessed, wrongdoing. We’re here to listen and help you navigate options for recourse.
UNICEF's work to prevent wrongdoing
- I’m not ready to report, but I’d like informal guidance. Where can I go?
- Can I report anonymously?
- Are whistle-blowers protected from retaliation?
- What should I do if I believe I’ve been retaliated against?
- Where can I find annual reports from UNICEF’s Ethics Office?
- Where can I find more information on UNICEF's efforts to prevent wrongdoing in the workplace?
- Where can I find resources from the United Nations on reporting sexual exploitation and abuse?
- How can I report fraudulent UNICEF job offers?
1. I’m not ready to report, but I’d like informal guidance. Where can I go?
No matter the issue, you don’t have to navigate it alone. Numerous UNICEF offices – the Ethics Office, Human Resources, and the Office of the Ombudsmen, for example – offer informal guidance and support for anyone who may be experiencing misconduct in their work environment, or seeking to resolve other workplace-related concerns. One-on-one support from direct peers, informally and confidentially, is also available through Peer Support Volunteers, Staff Representatives and Ethics Champions.
For suspected wrongdoing related to child safeguarding, it's your duty to report immediately. Please do not wait to contact the Ethics Office.
2. Can I report anonymously?
Reports made to the Ethics Office and the Office of the Ombudsmen are strictly confidential and will not be shared without your express consent. The Office of Internal Audit and Investigation operates under need-to-know confidentiality, meaning the information you provide will be shared only with those who need it to process the matter. Any report of suspected harm to a child will be shared with appropriate authorities.
You are not required to give your name or identifying information while reporting. If you choose to report to UNICEF anonymously, please provide enough information to enable a meaningful review of the matter. If you do provide contact information, we’ll follow up with you directly. Either way, be assured that the matter will be handled with care and sensitivity.
3. Are whistle-blowers protected from retaliation?
Yes. All UNICEF personnel who suspect wrongdoing are obligated to report it – and any personnel who submits a good-faith report, or who cooperates with official investigations, has the right to be protected against retaliation. Protection against retaliation applies to all UNICEF personnel, regardless of contract type. Know your right to be protected. Contact the Ethics Office to learn more.
4. What should I do if I believe I’ve been retaliated against?
Retaliation entails any direct or indirect detrimental action recommended, threatened or taken because an individual engaged in a protected activity, such as whistle-blowing. If you believe retaliatory action has been or will be taken against you for reporting suspected misconduct, contact the Ethics Office now.
5. Where can I find annual reports from UNICEF’s Ethics Office?
The Ethics Office undertakes a range of activities to support UNICEF personnel worldwide and promote the highest ethical standards among our global workforce. Each year, the office submits to the UNICEF Executive Board a report on its work and observations, as well as its recommendations to improve UNICEF's workplace so that staff are better able to carry out their duties on behalf of children. Read our annual reports.
6. Where can I find more information on UNICEF’s efforts to prevent wrongdoing in the workplace?
In 2018, UNICEF commissioned a series of initiatives to address issues in the workplace, including an independent taskforce to report on workplace gender discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse of authority. The report’s findings and recommendations are available here.
7. Where can I find resources from the United Nations on reporting sexual exploitation and abuse?
The United Nations mandates that all staff members and affiliated personnel report sexual exploitation and abuse. Reports may be submitted anonymously, and information provided will be treated confidentially and disclosed only to those who have a legitimate need to know. Learn more on how to report here.
Data on allegations reported to the United Nations are also available here.
8. How can I report fraudulent UNICEF job offers?
UNICEF is aware of fictitious employment offers that circulate via email, social media and online job boards. Fraudulent correspondence often appears legitimate: It may feature a UNICEF logo, or originate from an official-looking website or email address. Many of these schemes consist of an alleged offer of employment with UNICEF in return for fees or personal information.
Be advised that UNICEF does not advertise employment opportunities, nor do we engage in recruitment, outside official channels. UNICEF never charges a fee or requests banking information at any stage of the recruitment process. Learn more about fraudulent job offers.