Ep. 012:  Gabrielle Kluck


Show Notes


  • Gabrielle Kluck has been regional ombudsman and mediator for the Sudan region with the United Nations and is currently based in Uganda
  • Kluck is preparing to become the ombudsman for the World Food Programme, based in Rome
  • She has a Masters of Science (MS) in Business Administration with an emphasis on organizational change and transformation
  • Her mission is to create more harmonious work environments and thus more impactful organizations
  • In 1999, Kluck worked for the OSCE Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, based in Vienna but regularly visiting Kosovo
“The pearl is the person and the organization is the shell. We need to see the people in the organizations as the pearls and the organizations should be built to support the people to perform their duties.”
“I see my work as the interplay of human and organizational dynamics, specifically in times of change and we are forever in times of change.”

The work of an Ombudsman

  • The core of the work of the organizational ombudsman is that any staff members can come to her with a work-related concern
  • No personal concerns, the ombudsman is not a counselor.
  • The work is confidential, an important principal of the work, no records are kept
  • Gaining a better understanding of issue allows the ombudsman to link back to organizational dynamics
    • what are the options for resolution,
    • is intervention required,
    • are referrals required,
    • is training required
  • Find and resolve systemic issues.
  • What is dysfunctional?
  • How to communicate this to management?
  • De-escalation and early intervention
  • Independent, outside of the mission structure

How did she get into it

  • As a manager she had a desire to help to resolve issues not as an afterthought, but to do things better
  • Evaluation of UN in 2006 resulted in a revamping of the UN’s internal system and to create regional ombudsman who were then deployed in 2010

On the ground

  • Arrived in South Sudan several years ago, flying from Entebbe into various missions for 1-3 weeks, depending on where you go and the issues at hand
  • You fly in on a UN plane for reasons of mobility and movement control
  • Sometimes you have to use helicopters
  • Sometimes you have to travel in armored cars
  • Sometimes you have to stay in a safehouse
  • You have to travel to some really rough places but you have to be there if you want to help the staff
  • Food poisoning, waterborne diseases, rabies, typhoid
  • The mental strain is huge
  • I love it when people come to you and they are really stuck and unhappy, resentful or sad, and you can work with them on taking a different perspective and release and then take what they learned into their lives in a positive way.
“Just to really be there and listen to people is enormously important and I think in many peacebuilding and mediation processes the important thing that we are doing is listening.”

An example of an ombudsman intervention

  • Following a fight between a national and an international employee
  • A working group created a list of 14 recognitions
  • Working with the management one at a time to allow management to release their doubts and to support the staff
  • Working within a bureaucracy, it can be devastating, in this case the intentions of the people were good and they needed to be given the space by management to enact the changes without having the rule book thrown at them
  • You can take a conflict between two people into a broader context and then through that analyze what is actually going on in the organization and then through that mobilize people and their skills to get things done together and support that without disempowering it

An example of UN workplace mediation

  • Imagine hard living circumstances and conflict with supervisor
  • You are isolated and unable to talk through the problem and it gets out of proportion
“Never underestimate the power on you of the conflict that you are located in. The dynamics of the conflict that surrounds you seeps into the energy of your workplace.”
  • If you can deal with your conflicts at work and work in an harmonious environment you will be more effective
  • In peacekeeping, you bring peace out into the world
  • It is about empowering the staff to resolve their issues and to see the perspective of the supervisor
  • We cannot bring peace out in the world if we don’t bring peace into our organization, we cannot do that if we don’t resolve our internal conflicts in an orderly way
  • You can’t afford, when you work in peacekeeping to be a bully to your staff
  • It is a high pressure environment, movement and resources are extremely limited, there is social isolation

“We not only harm others when we have conflict, we harm ourselves”

  • The ombudsman and the mediator ask: What is it that you want, because people sometimes have been so involved with being right that they haven’t thought about what they want.

What would you like to see happen and how can you get there

  • Susan says: shift form the culture of blame to the culture of responsibility, accountability and reflection.
  • We are not taught at university how to deal with conflict, and conflict is an everyday thing so we need to be trained in this, take courses
  • For managers this is a must
  • Organizations will go towards insisting on these skills in their managers.
  • If you want to do this work you need to like helping people, you need to be empathetic, non-judgmental and very critical for an ombudsman, understand the organizational dynamic and make that link, because that increases your impact tenfold.


Gabrielle is a highly qualified professional with in-depth experience in Ombudsmanry and Mediation. She has recently transitioned from the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (UNOMS) where she was the Regional Ombudsman and Mediator for the “Sudan” region, based in Khartoum and Entebbe, to become the Ombudsman and Mediator for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome. WFP has over 15,000 staff in over 80 countries worldwide. At the UN she provided services to around 10,000 employees deployed in over 100 duty stations of the various UN Peacekeeping Missions in Darfur, South Sudan, Abyei, Burundi and Uganda. Prior to this she delivered HR, IT and General Services as the Field Administrative Officer on the management teams of the UNRWA Syria and Jordan Field offices; and held HR positions within OSCE and IAEA (both in Vienna). Her work at these UN agencies enabled her to regularly travel to hardship and dangerous conflict areas. Earlier in her career she worked as Change Management Consultant for large organizations in the private sector (Shell, IBM, Schiphol Airport, National Post).

Gabrielle Kluck is a national from the Netherlands and holds a Master of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Organizational Change and Transformation, and in addition has completed a 3-year intensive psychology curriculum. By integrating the organizational and human dynamics, Her vision is to help people create more harmonious work environments and thus more impactful (sp?) organizations. She has been a speaker and workshop leader at international Management of Change conferences on topic as Personal and Organizational Transformation and Diversity. She appreciates exploring boundaries both at work and privately, and has been a ballet- and flamenco dancer, skydiver, backpacker, mountain climber, motorcyclist, and currently enjoys yoga, deep-sea diving, off-piste skiing and is learning to fly planes.


Contact Gabrielle

You can contact Gabrielle via her email at  Gabrielle.kluck@wfp.org.