Fair and equal treatment

The United Nations is a diverse environment with a multi-cultural atmosphere. Fair and equal treatment of all staff members is the underlying principle upon which the United Nations functions. All forms of discrimination and harassment are prohibited.

United Nations core values require respect for the diversity of all staff. Staff members are expected to be aware of, to uphold and to respect these principles. These values include belief in fundamental human rights and the equal rights of men and women. Staff members are expected to have respect for all cultures and not to discriminate against any individual or group of individuals. Any form of discrimination or harassment is prohibited. The United Nations has a zero tolerance policy.

The United Nations cannot tolerate discrimination or harassment in any form; it is the duty of all staff members to ensure that the staff is treated, and treats one another, with respect, dignity and regard for personal privacy. The United Nations has a zero tolerance policy on any form of harassment or discrimination. See also ST/IC/2003/17: "Our Core Values Prohibit Discrimination and Harassment".

The United Nations has several ways for staff members to report incidents of discrimination and harassment:

  • Ombudsman: the Ombudsman is an impartial and independent person who addresses employment-related problems of staff members. He/she is a neutral person and maintains strict confidentiality unless given permission to do otherwise or if there appears to be the threat of serious harm.
  • Panels on discrimination and other grievances: the panels investigate grievances submitted by staff members that may include allegations of discriminatory treatment in the United Nations.
  • Office of Human Resources and Office of Internal Oversight Services: staff members can report alleged misconduct or other offenses to OHRM or OIOS.
  • Ethics Office: The Ethics Office reports directly to the Secretary-General and provides confidential advice and guidance to staff members on standards of conduct and ethical issues, and also administers an ethics helpline.


Specific instances of prohibited conduct
Rule 101.2 (d)
Any form of discrimination or harassment, including sexual or gender harassment, as well as physical or verbal abuse at the workplace or in connection with work, is prohibited.

The following guiding principles, found in the Standards of Conduct in the International Civil Service, can be helpful for this topic:

20. Harassment in any shape or form is an affront to human dignity and international civil servants must avoid it. They should not engage in any form of harassment and must be above any suspicion of it. International civil servants have the right to an environment free of harassment. It is the responsibility of organizations to explain their interpretation of the term and to establish rules and provide guidance on what constitutes harassment and how it will be dealt with.
Respect for different customs and culture
36. The world is home to a myriad of different peoples, languages, cultures, customs and traditions. It is self-evident that a genuine respect for them all is fundamental for an international civil servant. Any behaviour that is not acceptable in a particular cultural context must be avoided. However, if a tradition is directly contrary to any human rights instrument adopted by the United Nations system, the international civil servant must be guided by it. International civil servants should avoid an ostentatious lifestyle and any display of an inflated sense of personal importance.