Muslims offer the ancient Mohtasib who toured through the cities, towns and marketplaces on a daily basis to ensure that officials were acting correctly and morally, that customers were not cheated, and to offer resolution of disputes. The Mohtasib had the authority to reverse an official order which they deemed to be unjust. The word Mohtasib is derived from the term Hisba, or accountability, not only before society, but to one’s self and before higher powers.
In ancient times, China had an institution known as the Censorate. Its mandate was to monitor government administration to detect any maladministration which threatened the rights of the people.
Many cultures in the Pacific offer examples. In Hawaii, there is a practice known as Ho'oponopono, which has respected elders resolve disputes according to principles of unity known as Lokahi. In Guam, the ombudsman is called the Suruhanu, a term meaning a wise and capable healer who is regarded as having special capacities to resolve grievances.
When the Swedish King Charles XII was in self-exile in Turkey after the Battle of Poltava in Russia, he learned about the second Muslim Caliph, Umar (634-644) and the concept of Qazi’ul’Quzat (“judge of judges”) developed in the Islamic law of the Ottoman Turks.
When King Charles returned to Sweden in 1713, he created the Office of Supreme Ombudsman to make government administrators more accountable. There followed fifty years of dispute between the King and Parliament about who the Chancellor of Justice would report to. The outcome was that in 1809, an ombudsman was established in the Swedish Constitution–linked to Parliament, not the executive. It was designed to be a supervisory agency independent of the executive branch of government, charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the people.
It was not until a century and a half later that the Swedish model began to attract the attention of the English-speaking world.
Some people react to the “-man” in ombudsman, thinking this loads the term as the property of males, as in the term “manpower” or “mankind.” However, the term ombudsman comes from an entirely different construction. The origin of the word is found in an Old Swedish term, umbuds man, meaning “representative of the people.” In the 16th century, there was the Norwegian "ombudsmann" and the Danish "ombudsmand."