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Ethics Office

Promoting ethical values at UNHCR

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international efforts to save lives and forge a better future for millions forced to flee their homes. The Ethics Office plays a pivotal role in supporting the execution of the organization's mandate by fostering ethical conduct, integrity, transparency, and accountability. All employees must uphold the core tenets of the UN international civil service: independence, impartiality, and neutrality. 

About us

Established in 2008, the Ethics Office operates under the principles of independence, impartiality, and confidentiality. It strives to instil a culture of ethics within UNHCR's workforce, spanning 20,000 individuals across seven regions and 168 countries. The office ensures employees comprehend, adhere to and apply the highest ethical standards. It provides confidential advice to a broad spectrum of personnel, including staff, consultants, volunteers, interns, and affiliates, to facilitate sound ethical decision-making.

The Ethics Office operates through five key strategic areas: 

  • Providing advice and guidance.
  • Protecting personnel against retaliation.
  • Delivering training, education, and outreach.
  • Developing ethics-related policies and guidelines.
  • Administering the Financial Disclosure Programme.

The Ethics Office also collaborates with the UN and other organizations' ethics offices, actively participating in the Ethics Network of Multilateral Organizations (ENMO) and the Ethics Panel of the United Nations (EPUN) to foster harmonization and coherence as well as share best practices.

The Ethics Office's work

The Ethics Office supports and nurtures an ethical and values-based culture while promoting integrity and accountability within UNHCR. We ensure that all personnel understand and are empowered to act with integrity and conduct business ethically.

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Advice and guidance

The Ethics Office provides confidential advice and guidance based on UNHCR's rules and regulations, supporting employees in ethical matters, especially related to conflict of interest.

We share knowledge on how to adhere to the values and principles outlined in the UNHCR Code of Conduct, empowering employees to make ethical decisions that do not jeopardize themselves, the Organization, or the people with and for whom UNHCR works.


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Protection against retaliation

At UNHCR, we are committed to a safe and respectful workplace, encouraging a speak-up culture.

The Protection against Retaliation policy, administered by the Ethics Office, safeguards all UNHCR personnel who engage in protected activities. Through the application of this policy, the Ethics Office aims to prevent retaliation risks and address and correct any detriment caused by retaliatory actions.


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Training, education and outreach

The Ethics Office develops and manages a mandatory continuous dialogue on UNHCR's Code of Conduct principles, encouraging ongoing conversations among teams to build trust and collaboration.

The Code of Conduct supports private and professional ethical decision-making, central to our efforts to deliver on UNHCR's mandate. It highlights that all UNHCR personnel - irrespective of position or grade - are personally and collectively responsible for maintaining a harmonious working environment.


A well-communicated and strongly enforced non-retaliation policy is a central building block in reinforcing a culture of ethics.

Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees


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Standard setting and policy advocacy

The Ethics Office develops, revises, and disseminates ethics-related policies and guidelines in consultation with relevant stakeholders.


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Conflict of Interest and UN Financial Disclosure Programme

The Ethics Office manages the UN Financial Disclosure Programme, which aims to eliminate conflicts of interest between employees’ interests and affiliations, including those of their immediate family members and their UNHCR obligations. 

Employees participate in the annual exercise, with designated job categories prompted to make disclosures that allow the organization to identify, manage and mitigate any conflict-of-interest risk. The specific categories of employees disclose their assets, liabilities, investments and outside activities. The programme enhances transparency, public confidence, and trust in UNHCR.


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UNHCR's Code of Conduct

UNHCR's Code of Conduct brings to life the organization's core values: integrity, professionalism, respect for diversity, and ensuring accountability and transparency. They are central to our mandate and our efforts to serve the people with and for whom UNHCR works:

  • We put people first;
  • We go wherever needed and get the job done;
  • We support resilience;
  • We protect people's rights;
  • We deliver the best possible outcome.


Read the Code of Conduct


Contact us

For any further information, please contact the Ethics Office at [email protected].