Ombudsman and supervisory work

Ombudsmen and other supervisory institutions have been established all over the world.  The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman has worked with such institutions for many years, and sharing experiences and discussing best practices with like-minded institutions is central to our international work.

The purpose of such cooperation is to share knowledge and experience from practical work as an ombudsman or supervisory authority with the aim of giving our partners fruit for thought on how to carry out their mandate and to develop and strengthen their institutions.

The topics vary a lot depending on the themes for cooperation on which our partners wish to put emphasis. Such themes might be the rights of prison inmates and hospital patients, the organisation of and systems for complaint handling or strengthening the impact on the administrative authorities covered by the ombudsman’s mandate.

The cooperation is designed in close collaboration with our partners. Sometimes we will run workshops and training abroad. Sometimes our partners are invited to Denmark to see how we work with the themes here, for instance by visiting a Danish prison or discussing topics of common interest with relevant Danish authorities.

Anti-corruption

Denmark is known for a very low level of corruption. Having a public administration with a high level of integrity that adheres to the rule of law is of paramount importance to curb corruption. Ombudsmen and other supervisory institutions play an important role in ensuring a well-functioning public administration.

However, ombudsman institutions cannot by themselves bring corruption to an end. History shows us that this requires an effort in a number of areas, including transparency, effective supervision, preventive mechanisms, investigation and prosecution and an ethical common understanding. Therefore, the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman cooperates with other Danish institutions which also work with various aspects of fighting corruption: the Auditor General, the prosecution service, the Agency for Modernisation, Aarhus University and Transparency International. This is done in order to give a comprehensive picture of how Denmark “got to become Denmark”.

The purpose is not to show our international partners how they should fight corruption in their home countries, but to explain how we deal with corruption in Denmark so that our experiences may serve as inspiration.

Prevention of torture

The United Nations has adopted rules against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In Denmark, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has been entrusted with the task to visit places where citizens are deprived of their freedom, in order to ensure that they are not exposed to such treatment. This is referred to as the ombudsman having the function of National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). The task is carried out in cooperation with the Danish Institute for Human Rights and DIGNITY – the Danish Institute Against Torture. In a number of other countries, ombudsman institutions have also been given this mandate.

As part of our international cooperation, we share experiences and best practices with other institutions entrusted with this mandate. This kind of cooperation will often be very practical and hands-on. The discussions will focus on issues that are encountered in daily operations, and often we will include visits to and talks with relevant Danish institutions, such as prisons or refugee centres.

Ombudsman concept and philosophy

Since the inauguration of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office in 1955, the Ombudsmen and their staff have shared the philosophy and ideas behind the ombudsman concept with the rest of the world. Although ombudsman institutions may vary in scope, mandate and working methods, we still experience an interest in learning about the ideas that led to Denmark – among many other countries – opening an ombudsman office.

Every year, we receive delegations from many parts of the world that want to hear about the Danish Ombudsman institution and its role in Danish society. The visits may be from foreign authorities, parliamentarians, scholars and NGOs.