Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.
Back to top

Sixty-third session

Administration of justice at the United Nations (agenda item 129)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/63/100/Add.1)

At its fifty-fifth session, in 2001, under the item entitled “Human resources management”, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report to it on an annual basis on the outcome of the work of the Joint Appeals Board (resolution 55/258, sect. XI).

The General Assembly considered the item at its fifty-sixth to fifty-ninth sessions (resolutions 57/307 and 59/283; decisions 56/458 C and 58/576).

At its resumed fifty-seventh session, in April 2003, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to include statistics on the disposition of cases and information on the work of the Panel of Counsel in his annual report on the administration of justice in the Secretariat (resolution 57/307, para. 21).

At its resumed fifty-ninth session, in April 2005, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit, in the context of his annual report on the administration of justice in the Secretariat, information on the activities of the Ombudsman, including general statistical information and information on trends and comments on policies, procedures and practices that have come to the attention of the Ombudsman (resolution 59/283, sect. II).

Also at its resumed fifty-ninth session, in April 2005, the General Assembly decided that the Secretary-General should form a panel of external and independent experts to consider redesigning the system of administration of justice; and that the panel should submit its findings and recommendations by the end of July 2006 (resolution 59/283, sect. IV).

At its resumed sixtieth session, in May 2006, the General Assembly decided to defer until its sixty-first session consideration of some of the documents issued under this item (decision 60/551 B).

At its sixty-first session, the General Assembly decided to allocate the item to the Fifth Committee for its consideration, and to the Sixth Committee for the purpose of considering the legal aspects, both institutional and procedural, of the comments by the Secretary-General on the recommendations contained in the report of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations system of administration of justice (decision 61/503 A).

At its sixty-second session, the General Assembly decided to establish: a two-tier formal system of administration of justice, comprising a first instance United Nations Dispute Tribunal Office (UNDT) and an appellate instance United Nations Appeals Tribunal (UNAT); the Office of Administration of Justice, comprising the new Office of Staff Legal Assistance and the Registries for the UNDT and UNAT; a single integrated and decentralized Office of the Ombudsman for the UN Secretariat, Funds and Programme with branches in several duty stations and a new mediation division;  the Internal Justice Council; the management evaluation unit within the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management. The General Assembly also requested the Secretariat to report at its sixty-third session on: the mandate of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance; specific measures taken to address systemic issues; terms of reference for the Registries of UNDT and UNAT; possible options for delegation of authority for disciplinary measures; revised terms of reference for the Ombudsman; cost-sharing arrangements; and mechanisms for the removal of judges.  The General Assembly also decided to revert to the issue of transitional arrangements at the second part of its resumed sixty-second session and requested the Secretary-General to report at the second part of its resumed sixty-second session on a series of issues such as the statute and the jurisdiction of UNDT and UNAT; proposals on allocation of cases to UNDT; and mechanisms envisaged to provide dispute settlement to non-staff personnel (resolution 62/228).

In its decision 62/519, the General Assembly took note of the conclusions of the Sixth Committee on the administration of justice at the United Nations (A/C.5/62/11, Appendix I) following its consideration of the legal aspects of the report of the Secretary-General (A/62/294); decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations, for the purpose of continuing the work on the legal aspects of the item, taking into account the results of the deliberations of the Sixth Committee on the item, previous decisions of the Assembly and any further decisions that the Assembly may take during its sixty-second session prior to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee; requested the Secretary-General to respond to the requests for information contained in the conclusions of the Sixth Committee, taking into account any further decisions that the General Assembly may take during its sixty-second session prior to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee; and decided to include the item in the provisional agenda of its sixty-third session.

The Ad Hoc Committee met from 10 to 18 April and on 21 and 24 April 2008 and will report to the General Assembly at its sixty-third session.

On 22 July 2008. the General Assembly decided to re-establish the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations for one meeting for the sole purpose of taking note of the oral report of the coordinator on the informal inter-sessional consultations and to request the Secretary-General to issue the coordinator’s summary entitled “Coordinator’s summary of the preliminary observations made in the informal consultation on the draft statute of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal” as an addendum to the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee. Pursuant to this decision of the General Assembly, the Ad Hoc Committee was re-established for one meeting on 5 August 2008.

Consideration at the sixty-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 1st, 15th and 26th meetings, on 6 and 24 October, and on 14 November 2008.

At the 1st meeting, on 6 October 2008, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee (A/63/55 and Add.1).

At the same meeting, on the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations, the Sixth Committee decided to establish a working group on the Administration of justice at the United Nations, with a view to finalizing its deliberations on the draft statutes of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal as a priority, bearing in mind resolution 62/228, in which the General Assembly decided to establish a two-tier formal system of administration of justice as from 1 January 2009, and continuing the discussion of the other legal aspects of the administration of justice at the United Nations. At the same meeting, the Sixth Committee elected Mr. Ganeson Sivagurunathan (Malaysia) as Chairman of the Working Group. The Committee also decided to open the Working Group to all States members of the United Nations or members of the specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Working Group held four meetings on 7, 17, 21 and 22 October 2008. At the 15th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 24 October 2008, the Chairman of the Working Group presented an oral report on the work of the Working Group (A/C.6/63/SR.15). At the same meeting, the Sixth Committee adopted, with oral amendments, the text of the draft statutes of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, with bracketed unagreed text (A/C.6/63/L.7 and A/C.6/63/L.8), and decided that its Chairman would transmit the text of the draft statutes to the Chairman of the Fifth Committee, through the President of the General Assembly (A/C.5/63/9).

The Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Committee.

Statements were made by the representatives of Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), France (on behalf of the European Union, the candidate countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia aligned themselves with the statement), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States of America, India, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Norway, Egypt, Israel, Qatar, the Russian Federation, and Iran (Islamic Republic of).

Delegations reiterated their support for the implementation of an adequately resourced new system of administration of justice characterized by independence, transparency, impartiality, professionalism and decentralization, ensuring the protection of employees’ rights in conformity with international standards, the rule of law and due process. The need to enhance accountability of employees and managers was also underscored.

While welcoming the progress made in the elaboration of the draft statutes, delegations stressed the importance of meeting the deadline of 1 January 2009 for the implementation of the new system. Many delegations were of the view that the priority should be to finalize the statutes of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and United Nations Appeals Tribunal. However, some delegations pointed to the need to also address other questions such as transitional measures, the scope of the system, disciplinary matters, the terms of reference of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, of the registries of the two tribunals and of the Mediation Division, as well as the criteria for the removal of judges and the modalities of legal assistance.

Some delegations stressed the importance of coordinating the work of the Fifth and Sixth Committees on this item, while other delegations emphasized the main responsibility of the Fifth Committee in budgetary matters.

Regarding the scope ratione personae of the new system, some delegations expressed their support for a two-step approach, whereby the scope of the new system would be limited for the time being to those individuals who are covered by the current system, while leaving for a later stage the consideration of appropriate remedies to be provided to other categories of personnel. The need was emphasized to avoid, in the long run, discriminations between staff members with similar responsibilities on the basis of the nature of their contract. It was indicated that individuals who would be excluded from the formal system should nevertheless be provided with effective remedies.

Some delegations welcomed the establishment and the appointment of the members of the Internal Justice Council for the selection of judges.  Some delegations were of the opinion that the appointment and removal of the judges of both tribunals should be the responsibility of the General Assembly.

Some delegations emphasized the importance of mediation for the amicable settlement of disputes between the Organization and its personnel. The establishment of an integrated Office of the Ombudsman was welcomed.

Some delegations emphasized the importance of strengthening the legal assistance for staff.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 15th meeting, on 24 October 2008, the representative of Malaysia, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced a draft decision entitled “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (A/C.6/63/L.9). At the 26th meeting, on 14 November 2008, the Chairman of the Committee orally revised draft decision A/C.6/63/L.9. The Secretary of the Committee made a statement regarding the financial implications of draft decision A/C.6/63/L.9, as orally revised. At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft decision A/C.6/63/L.9, as orally revised, without a vote. Under this draft decision, the General Assembly would decide that the Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations established pursuant to General Assembly decision 62/519 of 6 December 2007 should meet from 20 to 24 April 2009 to continue the work on the outstanding legal aspects of the item.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fourth session (2009)