The Future of Ombuds Research. Empirical and Critical Perspectives

18 Uzt -tik 19 Uzt -ra

Coordinators: Julia Dahlvik (University of Applied Sciences Vienna, FH Campus Wien), Axel Pohn-Weidinger (University of Strasbourg)

Description of the meeting

This workshop will bring together leading scholars and practitioners working on ombuds of different kinds, with various disciplinary approaches and from diverse parts of the world. The workshop builds on previous work, especially workshops organized at the IISJ and two anthologies resulting from these (Hertogh/Kirkham, 2018, Groves/Stuhmcke, 2022), and aims to take the debate one step further.

Most countries have public and/or private sector ombuds institutions, which provide dispute resolution alternative to the courts, providing low-threshold access for citizens to seek redress for complaints against public bodies or businesses. Thus, the institution exists in numerous contextual and conceptual adaptations. The public sector ombuds, which can be understood as a key pillar for the consolidation of democracy, can have several functions, often placed at the core of the administrative justice system. Ombuds not only resolve complaints; they can review the implementation of legislation and government programs, or play a key role in networks of accountability. In some countries ombuds are also involved in testing the constitutionality of legislation or have a human rights mandate or are the National Preventative Mechanisms under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Private sector ombuds on the other hand can be understood as a key pillar for redressing the power imbalance between private industry and the consumer. Across both common law and civil law justice systems, private sector ombuds deal with disputes between consumers and businesses or organizations. Private sector ombuds operate in a different sphere, but their function is to provide a cheap and accessible grievance mechanism has a normative parallel with public sector ombuds.

The workshop will consider the public ombuds’ core competences – administrative justice, access to justice, human rights protection – alongside the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) culture and methods applied in private sector (business/organizational) ombuds. There will also be exploration of the issues, barriers and opportunities in constituting of a new ombud. The idea of the workshop is to progress the analysis into the present (and future) and revolves around two main pillars: First, the workshop will assess the impact of current global events and developments, such as the COVID pandemic and the increasing digital transformation (new technology, algorithms, artificial intelligence) on the work of ombuds and the relation to their users (citizens/consumers). Similarly, the dynamics of the climate crisis as well as war and migration are topics that ombuds around the world are confronted with as human rights institutions and which deserve analysis in different socio-political and cultural contexts. Second, the workshop fills a gap in ombuds scholarship where feminist and post-colonial perspectives are relatively absent, as well as inquiries into the ombuds in countries of the Global South. These two big gaps in the ombuds literature require attention. The planned workshop provides a suitable platform for promoting research in these new directions.

The workshop, which will bring together theoretical and empirical research, interdisciplinary and comparative studies, to promote comprehensive understanding for and a global perspective on the ombuds phenomenon, is organized in preparation for a third anthology on ombuds research.


Para más información: 

Workshop Coordination Team

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