Administration of justice

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The United Nations has a system of administration of justice through which to resolve workplace disputes. This internal justice system is required because the United Nations has privileges and immunities that take it such disputes out of the jurisdiction of local courts and authorities.

Original system

In 1946, the General Assembly, in its resolution 13(I) requested the Secretary-General to draft the statue for an administrative tribunal for the United Nations. The resulting United Nations Administrative Tribunal was established on 1 January 1950 following the adoption of its statute, in resolution 351(IV).

In its mature form, the system included a Joint Appeals Board (JAB) to hear appeals against administrative matters and a Joint Disciplinary Committee (JDC) to consider disciplinary matters, both of which consisted of staff members serving as an advisory capacity to the Secretary-General. Rejection of JAB and JDC recommendations generally led to formal submissions of cases to the Administrative Tribunal. The original system was a single-layer system, and therefore decisions of the Administrative Tribunal were not subject to appeal.

Legal assistance to staff members was provided through the Panel of Counsel, established in 1984, consisting of a small number of staff and a roster of volunteers.

Key documents

  • A/986 Establishment of an administrative tribunal: Report of the Secretary-General (21 September 1949)
  • A/C.5/50/2 Reform of the internal system of justice in the United Nations Secretariat: Report of the Secretary-General (27 September 1995)

Current system

Growing concerns at weaknesses in the system of administration of justice, including concerns about a lack of professionalism and independence, led to the establishment of a Redesign Panel to consider redesigning the system.[1] The General Assembly, in its resolution 62/228, established a new system of administration of justice, consisting of formal and informal components, as of 1 January 2009.

It also established an Internal Justice Council (IJC) consisting of five members: a staff representative; a management representative; two distinguished external jurists, one selected by staff and one by management; and a distinguished jurist chosen by consensus by the other four members as chair. The responsibilities of the IJC include providing recommendations to the General Assembly on suitable candidates to fill judicial vacancies and providing its views to the General Assembly on the implementation of the system of administration of justice.

An interim independent assessment was requested in General Assembly resolution 69/203. The Interim Independent Assessment Panel concluded in 2015 that no dramatic corrections are necessary, but that some areas are under-resourced.

The agenda item of administration of justice is considered by both the Fifth Committee and the Sixth Committee, within their respective competences.

Formal system

The formal component of the system of administration of justice consists of a two-tier system, with the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) as the court of first instance and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) as an appellate court. The UNDT (which, after the adoption of resolution 73/276, consists of three full-time judges and six half-time judges) works year-round and is based in New York, Geneva and Nairobi, while the UNAT (which consists of seven judges) that convenes on the basis of its caseload. UNAT cases are normally heard by a panel of three judges, but an en banc hearing can be convened if the President of the UNAT or two judges on the panel consider that a case raises a significant question of law.

UNDT judges are individuals with the status of Officials other than Secretariat Officials and are remunerated at the D-2 level. UNAT judges are individuals with the status of experts on mission and are compensated through honoraria paid per case heard or judgment written.

Administrative decisions being contested by staff are first raised with the Management Evaluation Unit (MEU) in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance (DMSPC) to allow for a review of the contested decision. If the MEU upholds the decision, a staff member can file a case with the UNDT. The Secretary-General is represented in the UNDT by the Appeals Management section of the Administrative Law Division in DMSPC. Either party may appeal a UNDT judgment to the UNAT. The Secretary-General is represented in the UNAT by the General Legal Division of the Office of Legal Affairs.

Judgments of the UNAT are final and cannot be appealed.

As part of the new system, an Office of Administration of Justice was established, consisting of the professional staff supporting the formal system. The Office is headed by an Executive Director (D-2) and includes the registries of the UNDT and UNAT as well as the Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) which replaced the former Panel of Counsel.

Informal system

The Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (UNOMS) provides confidential, impartial and independent conflict resolution services to address work-related issues of staff members. It integrates the following formerly separate offices: the United Nations Ombudsman; the Ombudsperson for UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS and UNICEF; and the UNHCR Mediator. It is headed by a United Nations Ombudsman at the ASG level who serves for a five-year term, renewable once.[2]

Key documents

  • A/61/205 Report of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations system of administration of justice (28 July 2006)
  • ST/SGB/2010/3 Organization and terms of reference of the Office of Administration of Justice
  • ST/SGB/2016/7 Terms of reference for the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services

ILO Administrative Tribunal

The Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (ILOAT), originally the Administrative Tribunal of the League of Nations, serves as the administrative tribunal for many of the specialized agencies and related organizations of the United Nations system, as well as a number of non-United Nations organizations.

Applicability of jurisprudence

Of the 38 organizations of the United Nations common system, 13 accept the jurisdiction of the ILOAT and 15 organizations accept the jurisdiction of the UNAT.

ILOAT UNAT
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
International Labour Organization (ILO)
International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
Universal Postal Union (UPU)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
United Nations Secretariat (UN)
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
International Seabed Authority (ISA)
International Trade Centre (ITC)
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Harmonization with ILOAT

1970s and 1980s

In its resolution 33/119, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to study the feasibility of establishing a single administrative tribunal for the entire common system. A number of reports and proposals were developed in subsequent years, with no concrete action taken by the General Assembly.[3] In 1988, the Secretary-General submitted proposals for the harmonization of the statutes, rules and procedures of the ILOAT and UNAT[4], but these were not acted upon.

2000s

The General Assembly, in section XI of its resolution 55/258:

7. Takes note of the observations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions that there is a gap between the statutes of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal and the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization with respect to specific performance of an obligation and compensation limits, and requests the Secretary-General to take necessary measures to close the gap as appropriate between the statutes of the two Tribunals;

Proposals to this end were presented in the subsequent report of the Secretary-General on administration of justice (A/56/800). In response, the Assembly requested, in its resolution 57/307, that the JIU continue to study the possibility of harmonizing the statutes of the ILOAT and the UNAT. The recommendations of the JIU were issued in A/59/280.

2019-present

On 3 July 2019, the ILOAT ruled that a decision of the International Civil Service Commission regarding the Geneva post adjustment multiplier was incorrect, therefore raising the possibility that different post adjustment rates would be in effect for different organizations of the common system based on which tribunal under whose jurisdiction they fall.[5]

The General Assembly stated in its 74/255B:

8. Notes with concern that the organizations of the United Nations commonsystem face the challenge of having two independent administrative tribunals with concurrent jurisdiction among the organizations of the common system, as highlighted in the report of the Commission, and requests the Secretary-General, in his capacity as Chair of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, to conduct a review of the jurisdictional setup of the common system and submit the findings of the review and recommendations to the General Assembly as soon as practicable;

See also

References

  1. General Assembly resolution 59/283
  2. General Assembly resolution 65/251
  3. A/42/328 Feasibility of establishing a single administrative tribunal: Report of the Secretary-General (15 June 1987)
  4. A/43/704 Harmonization of the statutes, rules and practices of the administrative tribunals of the ILO and of the United Nations (13 October 1988)
  5. A/74/30 Report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2019