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Code of Conduct for Public Officials

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Practice Advice on Ethics and Accountability

Code of Conduct for Public Officials (UN)

Summary Advice: On 29 January 1997, the United Nations passed a resolution on Action against corruption which established an International Code of Conduct for Public Servants. The code is relatively brief and is reproduced in its entirety below.


1. A public office, as defined by national law, is a position of trust, implying a duty to act in the public interest. Therefore, the ultimate loyalty of public officials shall be to the public interests of their country as expressed through the democratic institutions of government.

2. Public officials shall ensure that they perform their duties and functions efficiently, effectively and with integrity, in accordance with laws or administrative policies. They shall at all times seek to ensure that public resources for which they are responsible are administered in the most effective and efficient manner.

3. Public officials shall be attentive, fair and impartial in the performance of their functions and, in particular, in their relations with the public. They shall at no time afford any undue preferential treatment to any group or individual or improperly discriminate against any group or individual, or otherwise abuse the power and authority vested in them.


4. Public officials shall not use their official authority for the improper advancement of their own or their family's personal or financial interest. They shall not engage in any transaction, acquire any position or function or have any financial, commercial or other comparable interest that is incompatible with their office, functions and duties or the discharge thereof.

5. Public officials, to the extent required by their position, shall, in accordance with laws or administrative policies, declare business, commercial and financial interests or activities undertaken for financial gain that may raise a possible conflict of interest. In situations of possible or perceived conflict of interest between the duties and private interests of public officials, they shall comply with the measures established to reduce or eliminate such conflict of interest.

6. Public officials shall at no time improperly use public moneys, property, services or information that is acquired in the performance of, or as a result of, their official duties for activities not related to their official work.

7. Public officials shall comply with measures established by law or by administrative policies in order that after leaving their official positions they will not take improper advantage of their previous office.


8. Public officials shall, in accord with their position and as permitted or required by law and administrative policies, comply with requirements to declare or to disclose personal assets and liabilities, as well as, if possible, those of their spouses and/or dependants.


9. Public officials shall not solicit or receive directly or indirectly any gift or other favour that may influence the exercise of their functions, the performance of their duties or their judgement.


10. Matters of a confidential nature in the possession of public officials shall be kept confidential unless national legislation, the performance of duty or the needs of justice strictly require otherwise. Such restrictions shall also apply after separation from service.


11. The political or other activity of public officials outside the scope of their office shall, in accordance with laws and administrative policies, not be such as to impair public confidence in the impartial performance of their functions and duties.

Commentary: The Secretary General provided a follow up report, entitled Implementation of the International Code of Conduct for Public Officials: Report of the Secretary General, on 12 February 2002 at (accessed 19 March 2013) with the following Conclusions:

95.  Although it is difficult to ascertain whether the adoption by the General Assembly of the International Code of Conduct for Public Officials has had a direct impact on domestic legislation, the analysis of the replies to the survey indicates that the main principles and provisions embodied in the International Code of Conduct are reflected, to different degrees and with different modalities, in the implementation of legislation at the national level in many States.

96. The signature and ratification of the existing international legal instruments against corruption, which have been negotiated and adopted under the aegis of different intergovernmental organizations in recent years and which refer to the principles of the International Code of Conduct, will undoubtedly foster and strengthen its application at the domestic level.

97. It is also to be hoped that the instrument will inspire the negotiations of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which started in January 2002.

Source: United Nations (1997). General Assembly A/RES/51/59 "Action against corruption." At (accessed 19 March 2013).

Page Created By: Ian Clark on 19 March 2013. The content presented on this page is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases.

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School of Public Policy and Governance