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Sixty-fifth session

Administration of justice at the United Nations (Agenda item 140)

Summary of work

Background

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 of the item in the Fifth Committee

At its sixty-fourth session, the General Assembly reaffirmed its resolutions 61/261, 62/228 and 63/253 on the establishment of the new system of administration of justice, and requested the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on the status of the judges of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal and their entitlements, including travel and daily subsistence allowance; to provide information requested in paragraph 8 of the resolution; to analyse and compare the respective advantages and disadvantages, including the financial implications, of a number of options with regard to remedies available to the different categories of non-staff personnel, bearing in mind the status quo concerning dispute settlement mechanisms for non-staff personnel, including the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law arbitration clause; and to include information on the progress made in creating a comprehensive website and an electronic filing system for the new system of administration of justice, taking into account the role of the Office of Information and Communications Technology (resolution 64/233).

Consideration of the item in the Sixth Committee

The General Assembly, recalling its resolution 63/253, by which it adopted the statutes of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, as set out in annexes I and II to that resolution, approved the rules of procedure of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (see resolution 64/119), and invited the Sixth Committee to consider the legal aspects of the reports to be submitted by the Secretary-General, without prejudice to the role of the Fifth Committee as the Main Committee entrusted with responsibilities for administrative and budgetary matters (resolution 64/233).

Consideration at the sixty-fifth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 1st, 4th, 5th, 12th and 18th meetings, on 4, 6, 15 and 22 October 2010.

Pursuant to decision 64/527, the Sixth Committee decided, at its 1st meeting, on 4 October 2010, 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 in connection with the item. At the same meeting, the Committee elected Mr. Ganeson Sivagurunathan (Malaysia) as Chair 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 three meetings, on 7, 11 and 14 October 2010. At the 12th meeting of the Committee, on 15 October, the Chair of the Working Group on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations presented an oral report on the work of the Working Group (see A/C.6/65/SR.12).

Statements were made by the representatives of: Belgium (on behalf of the European Union; the Candidate Countries Croatia and Iceland, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, the EFTA country Norway, as well as the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia aligned themselves with the statement), New Zealand (also behalf on Canada and Australia), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group, and Jamaica on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Yemen (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Guatemala; the Russian Federation; Monaco, the Republic of Korea, Ghana, Switzerland, Pakistan, India; and the United States of America.

Several delegations expressed regret that the report of the Secretary-General had been issued with delay and that this had not allowed them to adequately prepare for the debate. Some delegations further deplored the fact that the report of the Ombudsman had not yet been issued.

While some delegations noted the importance of ensuring a smooth transition from the old system to the new one, some other delegations stressed the importance of addressing the backlog of cases still pending from the old system. The need to examine the question of the permanence of the ad litem judges was also mentioned, as well as the importance that the new jurisprudence of the Tribunals remain consistent over time.

Several delegations addressed the issue of providing recourse mechanisms for non-staff personnel, and indeed for all persons working for the United Nations. Some delegations considered that due consideration must be given to the types of recourse that were more appropriate to the different types of personnel. A view was expressed in support of the possibility of a separate dispute resolution mechanism for non-staff personnel, while it was stated that it would be detrimental to the new system to add the cases of non-staff personnel to the jurisdiction of the Tribunals. Still, a view was expressed that it would be premature to make a decision now on the various options available, and that it would be better to focus on solving the problems identified by the Secretary-General with the newly implemented system. The view was expressed that none of the options analyzed in the Secretary-General’s report seemed to be suitable for non-staff personnel, and that the mechanisms available in the new internal justice system would be the appropriate choice. It was pointed out that a large number of contractors and consultants belonged to funds and programs of the UN system; therefore, a cost sharing agreement should be reached between the UN and those entities.

It was mentioned that the number of users of the new system was larger than that of the old system. Some delegations noted that there seemed to be too much dependence on the formal system, and that advantage should be taken of mechanisms to lighten the load of that system. Mention was made of the use of the office of the Ombudsman, and it was stressed that the Tribunals should ensure that frivolous and unnecessary cases were not allowed to overburden the system.

Some delegations welcomed the initiative taken for a regular publication on lessons learned from the jurisprudence of the system to guide managers in solving conflicts. It was further stressed that it was important that managers were being allowed to review their decisions before cases go on to the formal system.

Various delegations stressed the vital task fulfilled by the Office of Legal Assistance. Some delegations welcomed the support given to that office, and the need to strengthen its presence outside of headquarters was also stressed.

It was underlined that, the reform of the system of administration of justice being a recent and ongoing one, there had not been time to evaluate all of the components of the system. The point was made that it would be premature at this point to amend the statutes of the Tribunals. It was stated that, in any case, care should be taken that any amendments would not affect the independence of the Tribunals and would not have any retroactive effect that could affect cases currently pending.

Some delegations further mentioned that the various bodies of the new formal system needed to be given adequate support.

With respect to financial resources, it was observed that, in general, adequate resources must be made available for the system to function properly. It was also mentioned that it would be premature to comment on issues that the Secretary-General in his capacity as chief administrative officer had noted in his report as potentially having financial implications.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 12th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 15 October, the Chair of the Working Group on the Administration of Justice at the United Nations introduced a draft decision entitled “Administration of justice at the United Nations” (A/C.6/65/L.2).

At its 18th meeting, on 22 October, the Sixth Committee adopted draft decision A/C.6/65/L.2 without a vote. According to that draft decision, the General Assembly would decide that the consideration of the outstanding legal aspects of the item entitled “Administration of justice at the United Nations”, including the question of effective remedies for non-staff personnel, as well as the code of conduct for the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, shall be continued during its sixty-sixth 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-fifth session. The Assembly would also decide to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-sixth session the item entitled “Administration of justice at the United Nations”.

At the same meeting, the Committee decided that its Chair would send to the President of the General Assembly a letter drawing his attention to certain specific issues relating to the legal aspects of the reports submitted under the item, as discussed in the Sixth Committee. The letter would contain a request that it be brought to the attention of the Chair of the Fifth Committee and circulated as a document of the Assembly.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-sixth session (2011).