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Sixty-sixth session

Administration of justice at the United Nations (Agenda item 143)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/66/100)

The General Assembly considered the item at its fifty-fifth to fifty-seventh sessions, at its fifty-ninth session and at its sixty-first to sixty-fourth sessions (resolutions 55/258, 57/307, 59/283, 62/228, 63/253, 64/119 and 64/233 and decisions 56/458 C, 58/576, 61/503 A, 63/531, 64/527 and 64/553).
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; and further decided that all persons who had access to the Office of the Ombudsman under the previous system would also have access to the new informal system (resolution 63/253).
At its sixty-fourth session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to it a joint report for the entities covered by the integrated Office of the Ombudsman at its sixty-fifth session and thereafter on a regular basis (resolution 64/233).

Consideration of the item in the Fifth Committee

At its sixty-fifth session, the General Assembly reaffirmed its resolutions on the establishment of the new system of administration of justice and endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (A/65/557), subject to the provisions of the resolution (resolution 65/251).
At the same session, the General Assembly decided to fix the term of the United Nations Ombudsman at five years, with the possibility of renewal for one additional term, and to revert to the proposal for biennial submission of the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services at its sixty-sixth session; and requested the Secretary-General to ensure that management responds to requests from the Ombudsman and Mediation Services in a timely manner and to report thereon to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session, to expeditiously conclude inter-agency negotiations on the revised terms of reference of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services and to report to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session, including on the question of the eligibility of the head of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services for other employment in the United Nations after the expiration of his or her term, taking into consideration, in particular, the potential impact on recruitment. The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to ensure the full implementation of the recommendations contained in his report on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services that are readily implementable, to include all other recommendations in his proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 and, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to submit to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session a proposal with regard to the proposed amendments to the Staff Rules contained in paragraph 129 of the report of the Secretary-General (A/65/303). The Assembly further requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services for consideration by the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session and requested the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services to provide an informal briefing to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session on the financial and administrative implications resulting from settlements reached through informal dispute resolution, bearing in mind the confidential nature of individual settlement agreements (resolution 65/251, sect. II).
Also at that session, the General Assembly decided to defer until its sixty-sixth session a review of the statutes of the Tribunals, to revert to the issue of travel privileges and the level of the daily subsistence allowance for the judges of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013, and to revert at its sixty-sixth session to the mandate and functioning of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, including the participation of current and former staff as volunteers; reiterated its request to the Secretary-General to work with staff associations in developing incentives to enable and encourage staff to continue to participate in the work of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, including by providing volunteer professional legal counsel; requested the Secretary-General to continue current funding arrangements for the ad litem judges and the nine support staff until 31 December 2011, as adopted by the Assembly in its decision 64/553 of 29 March 2010, and requested the United Nations Dispute Tribunal to ensure that the best possible use is made of the three ad litem judges in order to reduce the existing backlog of cases before it; noted with concern the delay in finalizing an agreement with the funds and programmes on a cost-sharing arrangement, and in that regard urged the Secretary-General to expeditiously conclude the negotiations and to report thereon to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session; and encouraged the Internal Justice Council to continue to provide its views on the implementation of the system of administration of justice and, if it deems it necessary, on how to enhance its contribution to the system, and to report thereon to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session. The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to report to the Assembly at its sixty-sixth session on the impact of the new system of administration of justice on staff-management relations and the performance of both staff and managers; improvements to the website of the Office of Administration of Justice; the information requested in paragraph 53 of the resolution, bearing in mind the principle of judicial independence; the scope of the system of the administration of justice, in particular remedies available to the different categories of non-staff personnel; the provisions needed for dedicated courtroom space in the three United Nations Dispute Tribunal locations; and the need for enhancing education and training of all judges, ombudsmen, legal representatives, registrars, mediators and court and office staff of the new system of administration of justice. The Assembly further requested the Secretary-General to provide proposals on the appropriate post level for the Executive Director of the Office of Administration of Justice in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013; possible options for delegation of authority for disciplinary measures; and a staff-funded scheme in the Organization under which legal assistance and support would be provided to staff (resolution 65/251, part III).

Consideration of the item in the Sixth Committee

At the sixty-fifth session, the General Assembly decided that the consideration of the outstanding legal aspects of the item, 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 (A/65/86), should 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 might take during its sixty-fifth session (decision 65/513).

Consideration at the sixty-sixth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 11th, 17th, 25th, 26th and 27th meetings, respectively on 10, 21 and 31 October as well as on 1 and 2 November 2011 (see A/C.6/66/SR.11, 17, 25, 26 and 27).

Pursuant to decision 65/513 of 6 December 2010, the Sixth Committee decided, at its 1st meeting, on 3 October 2011, 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. Kriangsak Kittichaisaree (Thailand) 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 11, 13 and 19 October 2011.  At the 17th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 21 October 2011, the Chairman 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.6/66/SR.17).

Statements were made by the representatives of: Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Switzerland, Guatemala, the Russian Federation, India and the United States of America.

Most delegations welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on the Activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (A/66/224), the report of the Secretary-General on the Administration of justice at the United Nations (A/66/275), as well as the report of the Internal Justice Council on the Administration of justice at the United Nations (A/66/158).

Some delegations expressed satisfaction with the performance of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal since their inception.  A number of delegations commended the tribunals’ efficient review of backlogged and new cases.  It was observed that amendments to the statutes of the tribunals, if adopted, should not result in any jurisdictional gap.  It was noted that some clarification was needed with respect to certain issues, such as the binding nature of the proposed code of conduct for the judges of the tribunals, the conditions and criteria for the removal of judges, as well as the proposed extension of the deadline for management evaluation.

Most delegations emphasized the need to ensure that non-staff personnel are provided with effective mechanisms of redress for the settlement of their disputes with the organization.  In this regard, some delegations expressed support for the proposal contained in Annex II of the Secretary-General’s report, while also requesting further clarification of the recourse mechanisms available to non-staff personnel under the present system.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

The Sixth Committee adopted two draft resolutions, and decided that its Chairperson would address to the President of the General Assembly on the item.

(a) Draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.13 (Code of conduct for the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal)

At the 25th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 31 October, the representative of Saudi Arabia introduced, on behalf of the Bureau, a draft resolution entitled “Code of conduct for the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal” (A/C.6/66/L.13).  At the 27th meeting, on 2 November, the Sixth Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.13, as orally revised, without a vote.  Under the draft resolution, the General Assembly would approve the code of conduct for the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, as set out in the annex to the draft resolution.

(b) Draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.14 (Amendments to the rules of procedure of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal)

At the 25th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 31 October, the representative of Saudi Arabia introduced, on behalf of the Bureau, a draft resolution entitled “Amendments to the rules of procedure of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal”.  At its 27th meeting, on 2 November, the Sixth Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.14, as orally revised, without a vote.

Under draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.14, as orally revised, the General Assembly would approve the amendments to the rules of procedure of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, as set out in the annex to the draft resolution, and would decide not to approve the amendment to the rules of procedure of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal contained in annex I of document A/66/86, adopted on 14 December 2010 in accordance with article 37, paragraph 1, of the rules of procedure of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, concerning article 19 (Case management).

(c) Letter to the President of the General Assembly

At the 26th meeting, on 1 November, the Committee decided that its Chairperson would address to the President of the General Assembly a letter drawing his attention to a number of 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 Chairman of the Fifth Committee and circulated as a document of the General Assembly.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-seventh session (2012).