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Ethics @ UNDP

Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but we must take it because our conscience tells us that it is right.
—Martin Luther King

UNDP is committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards which must guide all of our actions and decisions. Our staff and other personnel are critical to establishing and reinforcing a strong ethical culture at UNDP. They understand and appreciate how essential it is to the success of our important work, and crucial to fostering trust in and maintaining the credibility of UNDP, that we exemplify UNDP’s values in all that we do at UNDP. Member states and donor states expect that UNDP will exemplify the highest ethical standards; they entrust us with their funds and resources and expect that we will operate with unwavering integrity in delivering on our mission.


  • Integrity

  • Accountability

  • Transparency

  • Professionalism

  • Mutual Respect

  • Results Orientation (Through Principled Performance)

Ethics at UNDP is fundamentally about keeping the interests of UNDP and the public we serve, ahead of our own self-interests. We have established (and encourage), from the top of the organization down, an overall environment that supports ethical behavior and decision-making. We instill in every staff member not only an obligation to do what's right in everything we do, but also expect that this culture will guide them when making any business and/or personal decisions.

Staff members and contractors must demonstrate commitment to the values of the Organization through their personal conduct. This is reflected in our respect for fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of the human person, equal rights of men and women, and respect for all cultures. These apply in respect of our partners, stakeholders, clients and beneficiaries and our staff.

When our personnel observe actions and activities that do not live up to UNDP’s standards or values, or behaviors fall short, they all are expected to step in and be a champion for change. If they view such prohibited workplace behaviors that violate or ignore policy, they must step in, and immediately raise objections/concerns to management for full investigation.

Every individual in UNDP is expected to exhibit role model behaviors – discrimination (sex, race, national origin, ethnicity etc.), harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, mobbing, abuse of authority, retaliation, exclusion/isolation and so on will not be tolerated.

Local culture is not an excuse for poor behavioral choices or actions that violate UNDP policy. Personal culture must take a back seat to our organizational culture and policies.

Accountability and transparency are key. Our personnel are required to maintain a high standard of ethics/integrity and to hold others accountable. Business processes and transactions must be transparent. Corruption and bribery avoided. Because the world pays close attention to how UNDP operates, we expect our staff and contractors to lead by example and take ownership for compliance. They strive to avoid even the appearance or inference of impropriety, or of conflicts of interest.

UNDP’s ethical culture demands that we all hold each other to the same standards of behavior. We expect that if integrity pervades the organization and those who commit misconduct are called to task, the message will become ingrained. The UN is looked upon as the standard bearer for ethical and humanitarian behavior. Our personnel have an obligation to uphold that legacy because individual actions affect UNDP’s image, credibility and reputation.

Building an environment of trust supports and fosters loyalty to UNDP and its aims and values; it is part of our responsibility. Ethical conduct builds trust and translates to a healthy work environment.

UNDP’s Ethics Office is independent of all units, offices, and bureaux, and reports directly to the Administrator. We have five main responsibilities:

  1. Developing and communicating policies and standards on ethics issues, and providing input to all policy development;
  2. Providing training and education opportunities to staff and other personnel, on ethics, values and standards; this includes efforts aimed at raising ethics awareness and strengthening the ethical culture;
  3. Offering confidential advice and guidance to staff, management and contractors to help prevent conflicts of interest and other potential ethical lapses;
  4. Administering an annual financial disclosure programme; and
  5. Protecting staff against retaliation for reporting misconduct, or participating in investigations or audits.

Critical Documents

Ethics Brochures

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