Administration of justice at the United Nations (agenda item 142)
- Authority: resolutions 59/283 and decision 62/531
Summary of work
Background (source: A/64/100)
The General Assembly considered the item at its fifty-fifth to fifty-seventh sessions and at its fifty-ninth and sixty-first sessions.
At its sixty-second session, the General Assembly decided to establish: (a) a two-tier formal system of administration of justice, comprising a first instance United Nations Dispute Tribunal and an appellate instance United Nations Appeals Tribunal; (b) the Office of Administration of Justice, comprising the Office of the Executive Director and the Office of Staff Legal Assistance and the Registries for the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal; (c) a single integrated and decentralized Office of the Ombudsman for the United Nations Secretariat, funds and programmes with branches in several duty stations and a new mediation division; (d) the Internal Justice Council; and (e) the Management Evaluation Unit in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management (resolution 62/228).
At its sixty-third session, the General Assembly decided to adopt the statutes of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal; also decided that those Tribunals would be operational as of 1 July 2009; further decided that all persons who had access to the Office of the Ombudsman under the current system would also have access to the new system; requested the Secretary-General, at the Assembly’s sixty-fifth session, to consider and make proposals for providing incentives for employees seeking dispute resolution to submit disputes to mediation under the auspices of the Office of the Ombudsman; also requested the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on specific measures taken to address systemic issues in the context of human resources management; and further requested him to conduct a review of the new system of administration of justice and to report thereon to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session (resolution 63/253).
Consideration at the sixty-fourth session
The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 1st and 12th meetings, on 5 and 20 October 2009.
At the first meeting, on 5 October 2009, 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/64/55).
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, in order to fulfil the mandate conferred by the General Assembly on the Committee, namely the consideration of the legal aspects of the reports to be submitted under this item, including the rules of procedure of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (UNAT). Also at the same meeting, the Committee elected Mr. Ganeson Sivagurunathan (Malaysia) as Chairman of the Working Group and 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 5, 6 and 9 October 2009. At the 12th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 20 October, Mr. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh (Islamic Republic of Iran), Vice-Chairman of the Sixth Committee, presented, on behalf of the Chairman of the Working Group, an oral report on the work of the Working Group (see A/C.6/64/SR.12).
Statements were made by the representatives of: Egypt (on behalf of the African Group); Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group); Sweden (on behalf of the European Union; the candidate countries Croatia, Turkey and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Serbia, and the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova and Armenia aligned themselves with the statement); Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand); Democratic Republic of the Congo; Switzerland; Egypt; Gabon; India; Philippines; Russian Federation; Côte d’Ivoire; United States of America; and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).
Delegations expressed their support for the implementation of the new system of administration of justice and welcomed the appointment of the judges of the UNDT and UNAT, as well as the establishment of the Office of the Administration of Justice. While stating that the new system had already begun to prove itself, some delegations noted that it was open to further improvements. Some other delegations indicated that more information and experience was needed for a full assessment and effective review of the system. Some delegations called for a progress report from the Secretariat on all components of the new system. Delegations also attached great importance to transitional measures, with some of them reiterating their concern about the backlog of cases before the United Nations Administrative Tribunal.
It was emphasized that the nomination process of candidates for the posts of UNDT and UNAT judges should be based on merit and competency. Some delegations called for the finalization by the Internal Justice Council of the code of conduct for the judges. The importance of preserving multilingualism in the system was also stressed.
Several delegations favoured the approval by the General Assembly of the rules of procedure of the UNDT and UNAT. It was observed that the rules of procedure appeared to be consistent with the Statutes of the two Tribunals.
Several delegations expressed their support for the activities of the Ombudsman and the Mediation Division. While some delegations advocated for an adequate interaction between the formal and informal system, the importance of an independent mediation mechanism, without any interference by the Tribunals, was also underlined. Some delegations called for the prompt issuance of the terms of reference of the Office of the Ombudsman. A call was also made for the speedy establishment by that office of a list of mediators.
With respect to the scope ratione personae of the new system, delegations emphasized the importance of ensuring effective remedies to all individuals working for the United Nations, including non-staff personnel. The possibility for non-staff personnel to request an appropriate management evaluation was welcomed.
Some delegations referred to the possibility for staff associations to file applications before the Tribunals as a major outstanding legal issue. The view was expressed that staff associations should be granted standing before the UNDT and UNAT.
Delegations underlined the importance of continued availability of legal assistance for staff and expressed their support to the Office of Staff Legal Assistance. Attention was drawn to the importance of raising awareness about the new system, especially among personnel located in remote duty stations.
Reference was made to the possibility for Member States, or other third parties with a cause of action, to submit claims based on the alleged responsibility of United Nations officials, e.g. within the framework of peace-keeping operations.
Action taken by the Sixth Committee
At the 12th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 20 October, Mr. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh (Islamic Republic of Iran), Vice-Chairman of the Sixth Committee, introduced, on behalf of the Chairman of the Working Group of the Sixth Committee on the Administration of justice at the United Nations, a draft resolution and a draft decision, both entitled “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (A/C.6/64/L.2 and A/C.6/64/L.3, respectively). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/64/L.2 and draft decision A/C.6/64/L.3 without a vote. Under draft resolution A/C.6/64/L.2, the General Assembly would approve the rules of procedure of the UNDT and UNAT, as set out in annexes I and II to the draft resolution. Under draft decision A/C.6/64/L.3, the General Assembly would decide that the consideration of the outstanding legal aspects of the item shall be continued during its sixty-fifth session in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee, taking into account the results of the deliberations of the Fifth and Sixth Committees on the item, previous decisions of the Assembly and any further decisions that the Assembly may take during its sixty-fourth session.
Also at the same meeting, the Sixth Committee decided that its Chairman would send to the President of the General Assembly a letter, to be brought to the attention of the Chairman of the Fifth Committee and to be circulated as a document of the General Assembly, indicating a number of elements that, in the view of the Sixth Committee, should be included in the report to be submitted by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 59 of General Assembly resolution 63/253, for consideration at the sixty-fifth session of the Assembly.
This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fifth session (2010)