Code of Conduct

Worldwide Lawyers Association (WOLAS) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation. It was established to monitor transgressions against all living beings including human beings, animals, and natural life anywhere in the world, and to provide direct or indirect legal assistance to those whose rights are violated, regardless of their language, religion, race, class, colour, sect, sexual orientation, dis/ability. One main aim of WOLAS is to prevent the violation of right to life and to prohibit torture, illegal displacements, illegal detentions, and deportations, and to prevent any kind of discrimination within the scope of international human rights law. In this way, WOLAS is committed to being a pioneer of human/animal/environmental rights aid provision and a rights-based advocator in line with international standards with its dedicated network of lawyers across the world.

WOLAS upholds a strong commitment to fostering best practices and ensuring the highest quality of work among its staff, partner organisations, and other third parties, including suppliers.

The purpose of the WOLAS Code of Conduct – Essential Principles is to establish and communicate clear guidelines regarding the expected standards of behavior for all individuals affiliated with WOLAS. This includes WOLAS staff, volunteers, implementing partners, civil society organisations, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), networks, alliances, and suppliers involved in WOLAS programs. Collectively, these individuals are referred to as “third parties” in this document.

Any behavior that violates the provisions outlined in this Code may lead to the termination of the respective contract with WOLAS. It is important to acknowledge that laws and cultural norms vary significantly across countries. However, this Code is founded upon international legal standards, universal principles of codes of conduct, and the commitment to upholding fundamental human rights.

The management and legal representatives of WOLAS, along with its staff, volunteers, and third parties, have a responsibility to ensure that all individuals under their supervision, including employees, consultants, and volunteers, adhere to the standards outlined in the Code of Conduct. They are obligated to prevent any unacceptable behavior and promote compliance with the established Code of Conduct standards.

Code of Conduct for WOLAS

The Worldwide Lawyers Association, along with its professional staff, volunteers, and third parties, mutually agrees to abide by the following fundamental principles.

Upholding the Pinnacle of Staff and Professional Conduct

It is expected that all WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties uphold behavior that contributes to the positive reputation of the organisation both during and outside of work.

All individuals, irrespective of their race, gender, religion, social status, class, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic, must be treated with utmost respect and dignity. WOLAS firmly condemns any form of discriminative behavior and considers it completely unacceptable. We are committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable environment that values diversity and upholds the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

The mistreatment of children, including actions that may cause physical, sexual, emotional abuse, or neglect, is strictly prohibited by WOLAS.

WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties are required to respect and comply with the local laws and cultural norms of the communities they engage with. It is important to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and adapt to local customs and practices, while ensuring that such adherence does not compromise or contradict international legal standards, universal principles of Codes of Conduct, and fundamental human rights.

WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties are expected to communicate using appropriate language, maintain a professional appearance, and dress in a manner that aligns with their respective roles and the specific situations they find themselves in. This includes presenting themselves in a manner that fosters respect and promotes a positive perception of WOLAS and its mission. By upholding these standards, we contribute to creating a professional and reputable image of the organisation.

Engaging in the possession, distribution, or consumption of illegal substances, whether within the workplace premises or while on duty (including vehicles), is strictly prohibited. It is also unacceptable to carry out work responsibilities while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other illegal substance.

Involvement in any illegal or undermining activities

  • Engaging in or supporting any illegal or criminal activities is strictly prohibited. However, it is important to note that this principle does not apply to activities that are designated as illegal by state authorities if such activities are expressions of promoting and advocating for basic human rights.
  • Engaging in any acts of abuse or exploitation towards children or adults, or participating in activities that violate fundamental human rights, is strictly forbidden.
  • All individuals associated with WOLAS, including staff, volunteers, and third parties, must refrain from engaging in any form of inappropriate behavior or action that could potentially harm the reputation of WOLAS. It is essential to maintain the highest level of professionalism and integrity in all our actions to uphold the trust and credibility of our organisation.
  • If a third party associated with WOLAS, or their staff, becomes the subject of criminal prosecution, it is mandatory for them to promptly notify the WOLAS Secretary General. This allows for appropriate actions to be taken in response to the situation and ensures transparency and accountability within the organisation.

A free and fair working process without corruption or conflict of interest

WOLAS strictly prohibits any form of corrupt or fraudulent behavior. Additionally, WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties are required to avoid any situations that may create a conflict of interest between their personal or professional interests and the interests of the organisation and its commitment to human rights. This ensures transparency, integrity, and the preservation of WOLAS’s mission and values.

Corruption entails the exploitation of entrusted authority for personal advantage. This encompasses activities such as proposing, providing, requesting, or receiving financial or material gifts, loans, rewards, provisions, or any form of benefits from or to a third party as an incentive to achieve dishonest, unlawful, or breach of trust outcomes within contractual relationships. WOLAS categorically condemns any engagement in such corrupt behaviors and expects its staff, volunteers, and third parties to uphold unwavering principles of honesty and ethical conduct in all their dealings.

This specifically (but not exclusively) pertains to:

  • Acts of bribery and the acceptance of bribes, excessive gifts, or favors in exchange for WOLAS support, goods, or services.
  • Engaging in practices that involve granting or receiving advantages, such as kickbacks or illicit financial benefits, in relation to contractual payments.
  • Participating in facilitation payments, which are unauthorized payments made to expedite or secure business transactions.
  • Engaging in fraudulent activities or embezzlement, which involves misappropriation of entrusted funds for personal use.
  • Entering into agreements that unlawfully restrict competition.
  • Involvement in extortion or money laundering activities.

WOLAS strictly prohibits the involvement in any of the aforementioned behaviors, considering them as serious violations of ethical standards and legal obligations. Staff, volunteers, and third parties are expected to uphold the highest level of integrity and refrain from engaging in such activities.

Fraud is the act of unlawfully taking or misusing funds or other resources, which may or may not involve the deliberate alteration or manipulation of financial documents or records to conceal the theft or misuse. It encompasses activities that are intended to deceive or defraud others, often resulting in financial loss or harm. Within WOLAS, any form of fraudulent behavior is strictly prohibited, and all staff, volunteers, and third parties are expected to adhere to the highest standards of honesty and transparency in their financial dealings.

Examples of fraudulent activities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Stealing funds or any other property belonging to WOLAS
  • Falsifying costs or expenses to obtain unauthorized financial benefits
  • Forgery or alteration of documents to deceive others or gain an unfair advantage
  • Destroying or removing records to conceal fraudulent activities
  • Misusing project assets or funds for personal gain
  • Soliciting or accepting cash, gifts, or other benefits from staff, volunteers, or third parties in exchange for providing preferential treatment to those parties in their interactions with WOLAS
  • Engaging in blackmail or extortion to obtain financial or personal benefits
  • Paying excessive prices or fees to staff, volunteers, or third parties with the intention of benefiting oneself or others involved in the fraudulent scheme.

Conflict of interest resolution procedures

All individuals affiliated with WOLAS, including staff, volunteers, and third parties, are obligated to prevent and disclose any potential conflicts of interest. If a situation arises or is likely to arise that may give rise to a conflict of interest, it is the responsibility of every WOLAS staff member, volunteer, or third party to promptly report this matter to the WOLAS secretary general for further guidance and consultation. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in disciplinary action or contractual consequences.

To address conflicts of interest and mitigate associated risks, various options are available. The appropriate course of action to resolve such situations will be determined by the relevant supervisor in consultation with the individuals involved.

No tolerance for bullying, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or abuse of any kind WOLAS holds a strong expectation that its staff, volunteers, and third parties uphold principles of fairness and integrity. It is imperative to treat every individual with dignity and esteem, refraining from engaging in any conduct that may cause humiliation, degradation, or exploitation. Such behavior is strictly forbidden for all WOLAS personnel.

The use of physical violence, unless in self-defense, is entirely unacceptable and will result in immediate termination of employment or engagement. Additionally, the utilisation of inappropriate, aggressive, or offensive language, whether spoken or written, directed towards others is deemed unacceptable.

WOLAS endeavors to foster an environment of non-violence, respect, and professionalism, ensuring the well-being and inclusivity of all individuals involved in its endeavors.

No humantrafficking

Trafficking in individuals involves the enlistment, conveyance (including neglecting to provide return transportation), transfer, sheltering, or acceptance of individuals through the use of force, coercion, abduction, deceit, manipulation, abuse of authority or a position of vulnerability, or the exchange of payments or benefits to obtain the consent of a person controlling another person, with the intention of exploiting them.

No Modern Slavery

Modern slavery encompasses situations in which an individual’s freedom is forcibly stripped away, depriving them of autonomy over their body and the ability to refuse or cease certain labor, ultimately subjecting them to exploitation. Freedom is compromised or taken away through means such as threats, violence, coercion, abuse of authority, deceit, and manipulation.

Abuse, exploitation, and harassment of sexual nature are prohibited

To safeguard the well-being of the most vulnerable adults and children and maintain the integrity of WOLAS’s international activities, it is imperative to upheld the following six Foundational Principles:

  1. Misconduct involving child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment by WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties is considered severe and may lead to contract termination or legal action.
  2. Engaging in any form of sexual activity with individuals under the age of 18, irrespective of local age of majority or consent laws, is strictly forbidden. Claims of mistaken belief in the age of the child will not serve as a defense.
  3. Offering or accepting money, employment, goods, or services in exchange for sexual acts, including acts that are demeaning, degrading, or exploitative, by WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third-party personnel is strictly prohibited. This also encompasses any exchange of assistance that is rightfully owed to program participants.
  4. Romantic or sexual relationships between WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third-party personnel and recipients of WOLAS project assistance, who directly benefit from the services provided by the third party, are deemed problematic due to inherent power imbalances and can undermine the credibility of WOLAS and its work. Therefore, such relationships are considered unacceptable.
  5. If a WOLAS staff member, volunteer, or third-party personnel becomes aware of or suspects sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation, or child abuse committed by a fellow worker, whether within or outside of WOLAS, they must immediately report their concerns through the established reporting mechanisms.
  6. WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties have a responsibility to cultivate and uphold an environment that prevents child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment.

Adhering to these Core Principles is crucial to safeguarding the dignity and well-being of individuals and upholding the effectiveness of WOLAS’s mission.

No abuse of children

Recognizing the heightened need for sensitivity in interactions with children, it is crucial to emphasize the appropriate conduct to be observed and behaviors to be avoided when engaging directly with children.

WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties are expected to adhere to the following guidelines when interacting with children:

  • Treat children with respect and dignity, irrespective of their ethnicity, race, gender, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, disability, or any other status.
  • Conduct themselves appropriately, using language that is suitable for children and refraining from adult jokes, sarcasm, or comments that may cause discomfort or offense.
  • When working in close proximity to children, ensure visibility and, whenever possible, have another adult present.
  • In relation to child labor, WOLAS follows the principles outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which emphasizes that children’s work should not infringe upon their other rights, such as the right to education, relaxation, and play. Additionally, “state parties shall establish a minimum age for admission to employment.” WOLAS staff, volunteers, and third parties should therefore comply with the Convention and relevant legislation in the respective country.
  • Take action and raise concerns if there are any doubts about the well-being and safety of children.
  • When collecting data from children, such as during assessments or evaluations, ensure that appropriate and culturally sensitive communication methods are used. Obtain explicit consent, respect confidentiality, and avoid discussing traumatic experiences. If necessary, utilize indirect approaches to gather information, and be prepared to refer distressed children to qualified professionals for support.

When capturing or using photographs or videos of children for promotional or visibility purposes:

  • Ensure that the visual materials (e.g., photos, videos) present children in a manner that upholds their dignity and respect. Children should be appropriately attired and depicted in poses that are not misleading or sexually suggestive.
  • When taking an image of a specific child for a particular purpose (such as media coverage, advocacy, or fundraising), clearly explain how the material will be used and obtain valid consent from the child. Whenever possible, seek consent from a parent or guardian as well.
  • Safeguard the anonymity of children by ensuring that publicly shared images do not disclose any personally identifiable information.

WOLAS adheres to the following Humanitarian Principles:

Humanity: WOLAS’s actions are guided by the principle of humanity, which emphasizes the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. WOLAS strives to alleviate human suffering and protect the lives and well-being of individuals and communities affected by crises or in need of assistance. 
In our communication, promotional, and advertising endeavors, we will acknowledge disaster victims as individuals with dignity, not as hopeless objects.

Neutrality: WOLAS maintains a neutral stance and does not take sides in conflicts or engage in partisan activities. The organisation provides assistance based on the needs of affected populations, without discrimination or bias, and respects the principles of impartiality and non-discrimination. 

Independence: WOLAS maintains its autonomy and independence from political, economic, or military actors. The organisation’s decisions and actions are driven by humanitarian considerations and the best interests of the affected populations. WOLAS will make every effort to avoid serving as a tool for the implementation of foreign government policies.

Impartiality: WOLAS provides assistance based on need, without discrimination or favoritism. The organisation ensures that resources and support are distributed fairly and equitably, prioritizing those who are most vulnerable or in urgent need. Relief aid should aim to not only meet immediate basic needs but also reduce future vulnerabilities to disasters.

Cultural Diversity/Pluralism: WOLAS is dedicated to acknowledging and honoring social diversities, various cultural practices, customs, and values.

Accountability: WOLAS is accountable to the affected populations, donors, and other stakeholders. The organisation ensures transparency in its operations, maintains effective systems for monitoring and evaluation, and takes responsibility for its actions and the impact of its interventions.

Do No Harm: WOLAS is committed to preventing harm and minimizing the negative consequences of its actions. The organisation strives to assess and manage risks, prioritize the safety and well-being of those involved, and avoid any actions that could cause harm or exacerbate existing vulnerabilities.

By adhering to these Humanitarian Principles, WOLAS aims to provide effective, ethical, and principled assistance to those in need, while upholding the dignity, rights, and well-being of all individuals and communities it serves. 

Reporting Procedures

In order to ensure a safe and supportive environment, Worldwide Lawyers Association (WOLAS) has established clear reporting procedures for addressing violations or misconduct. All staff members, volunteers, and interns are encouraged to follow these steps when they have concerns:

Initial Reporting: It is recommended to first speak to your respective board member or the Secretary General regarding any violations or misconduct related to the Code of Conduct. They are the primary contacts for addressing such issues and can provide guidance on the appropriate course of action.

Reporting Anti-Harassment and Discrimination: If you suspect or experience incidents of anti-harassment or discrimination, it is mandatory to report them to the Secretary General. However, if the alleged perpetrator or victim is the Secretary General, the individual may choose to report to any of the board members instead. Prompt reporting is crucial to ensuring a timely response and resolution.

Confidential Reporting: WOLAS recognizes that in certain situations, individuals may feel hesitant or fearful about reporting misconduct. In such cases, a confidential reporting option is available through the page. This provides a secure platform for lodging complaints and allows for discreet handling of sensitive information.

External Reporting: Individuals external to WOLAS, including associate parties, can also raise concerns about misconduct through the reporting option on the page. This ensures that external stakeholders can report issues without the fear of retribution.

Immediate Safety Concerns: If the person reporting to you is in immediate danger or facing threats due to WOLAS staff or programs, it is essential to prioritize their safety. The Board Member, Secretary General, or Department Coordinator will collaborate to find an immediate safety solution and address the situation effectively.

By following these reporting procedures, we can uphold the principles of accountability and transparency within WOLAS and foster a culture of trust and well-being for all individuals involved.