Resource Centre > Glossary > Ombudsmen

Form of ADR. The institution of Ombudsman has a world-wide popularity and appeal (M. Seneviratne, Ombudsmen. Public Services and Administrative Justice, Butterworths, 2002). It is relatively difficult to define an Ombudsman: because of their wide presence, there is a significant variety of their roles, nature and place within the civil and administrative justice systems in general.

An Ombudsman was defined as: “An office provided for by the constitution or by action of the legislature or parliament and headed by an independent, high-level public official who is responsible to the legislature or parliament, who receives complaints from aggrieved persons against government agencies, officials, and employees or who acts of his own motion, and who has the power to investigate, recommend corrective action, and issue reports” (definition provided by the International Bar Association, quoted by Seneviratne (2002: 8)).

Another, more descriptive definition is provided on the website of the British and Irish Ombudsman Association: “ombudsmen exist to deal with complaints from ordinary citizens about certain public bodies or private sector services. The services provided by ombudsmen are free of charge. Each ombudsman scheme operates under slightly different rules, but in general an ombudsman does not consider a complaint unless the organization, business or professional standards body concerned has first been given a reasonable opportunity to deal with it. If the ombudsman decides to conduct a formal investigation, a written report on the investigation will be issued, and will normally set out the evidence considered by the ombudsman and proposals for resolving the dispute.If a complaint is upheld, the ombudsman will expect the organization to provide a suitable remedy.” (





[1] A list of biographical sources is provided at the end of this part of the paper.