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Sixty-seventh session

Administration of justice at the United Nations (Agenda item 141)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/67/100/Add.1)

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-fifth sessions (resolutions 55/258, 57/307, 59/283, 62/228, 63/253, 64/119, 64/233 and 65/251 and decisions 56/458 C, 58/576, 61/503 A, 63/531, 64/527, 64/553 and 65/513).

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).

Consideration of the item in the Fifth Committee

At its sixty-sixth session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General, with regard to the informal system, to recommend to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session additional measures to encourage recourse to informal resolution of disputes and to avoid unnecessary litigation; to work with the United Nations funds and programmes in order to finalize, as early as possible, revised terms of reference for the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services that reflect the responsibility of the United Nations Ombudsman for the oversight of the entire Office and enhance the coordination among the three pillars of the Office, and to submit to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session a report thereon; and to submit to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session a report containing his views on the recommendations made by the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services to address systemic and cross-cutting issues. In addition, the Assembly requested the Office to provide to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session an informal briefing on the financial and administrative implications resulting from settlements reached through informal dispute resolution (resolution 66/237).

At the same session, the General Assembly decided with regard to the formal system that, pending further consideration of the issue by the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session, the role of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance should continue to be that of assisting staff members and their volunteer representatives in processing claims through the formal system of administration of justice, including representation, within the financial parameters agreed upon in the resolution. The Assembly also decided to revert, at its sixty-seventh session, to the issue of the mandate, scope and functioning of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, and in that regard requested the Secretary-General to submit, after consultation with the Internal Justice Council and other relevant bodies, a comprehensive report proposing different options for the representation of staff members before the internal Tribunals, including a detailed proposal for a mandatory staff-funded mechanism, reflecting, if necessary, the implications of the different proposals, for consideration by both the Fifth Committee and the Sixth Committee, in their respective capacities, at the sixty-seventh session; to amend article 7, paragraph 1 (c), of the statute of the Appeals Tribunal to extend the deadline for filing appeals of Dispute Tribunal judgements from 45 days to 60 days and to establish a 30-day deadline for filing appeals of interlocutory orders; that the time limit for completing management evaluations may be extended by the Dispute Tribunal for a period of up to 15 days in exceptional circumstances when both parties to a dispute agree; and to extend the mandate for the three ad litem judges of the Dispute Tribunal for one year, subject to review and possible extension for a further year, and to approve, under general temporary assistance, three Legal Officer (P 3), two General Service (Other level) and one General Service (Local level) positions to support the ad litem judges for the same period (resolution 66/237).

Also at that session, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General, with regard to the formal system, to explore all possible ways to bring about more coherent representation and efficient use of resources, taking into account the specificities of representation of the Secretary-General at the Tribunals, and to report thereon at the main part of its sixty-seventh session; to provide functional courtrooms with adequate facilities, as a matter of urgency; to provide the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session with a report on the practice of tribunals in other international organizations and in Member States comparable to the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal regarding the awarding of exemplary or punitive damages, including their practice with regard to awards for moral damages, emotional distress, procedural irregularities and violations of due process; to submit to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session a report providing: (a) a proposal for implementing the proposed mechanism for expedited arbitration procedures for individual contractors and consultants provided in annex II to the report of the Secretary-General on the administration of justice, including the cost implications for various aspects of the proposal; and (b) an analysis of the policy and financial implications in the event that individual contractors and consultants covered by the proposed expedited arbitration procedures were to be permitted access to mediation under the informal system; to submit to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session a report on access to the system of administration of justice for different categories of non-staff personnel who are not covered under the dispute resolution mechanism proposed in annex II to the report on the administration of justice, including information on measures to be made available with regard to the informal and formal aspects of the system of administration of justice in order to assist such non-staff personnel to address disputes that may arise; to include in his report to be submitted to the Assembly at its sixty-seventh session information on the concrete measures taken to enforce accountability in cases where contested decisions have resulted in awards of compensation to staff; to make every effort to expedite the finalization of an agreement on a cost-sharing arrangement for the totality of the internal justice system and to report to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session thereon, including on the expected reimbursement of approximately $6.8 million from the participating United Nations entities; to submit to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session a report providing proposals and analysis for a mechanism for addressing possible misconduct of judges, as well as additional views or analysis with regard to the proposals contained in the reports of the Secretary-General on the administration of justice at the United Nations (A/63/314, paras. 73-79 and A/66/275 and Corr.1, paras 55-60) and in the reports of the Internal Justice Council (A/65/304, para. 40, and A/66/158, para. 7) as well as other proposals, including a proposal for a new mechanism for addressing such misconduct, consisting of one jurist from the highest judicial tribunal drawn from one Member State from each of the five geographical regions appointed or elected by the Assembly to serve when and as needed; and to submit to the Assembly at the main part of its sixty-seventh session, in consultation with the Internal Justice Council and other relevant bodies, a report providing his recommendations and analysis regarding the proposal in the report of the Council to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session on a code of conduct for legal representation. In addition, the Assembly requested both Tribunals to review their procedures with regard to the dismissal of manifestly inadmissible cases (resolution 66/237).

Consideration of the item in the Sixth Committee

At its sixty-sixth session, the General Assembly, recalling its resolution 62/228, approved the code of conduct for the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (resolution 66/106).

At the same session, the General Assembly approved the amendments to the rules of procedure of the United Nations Appeals Tribunal, as set out in the annex to the resolution; and decided not to approve the amendment to article 19 (Case management) of the rules of procedure of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (A/66/86, annex I) adopted by the Tribunal on 14 December 2010 in accordance with article 37, paragraph 1, of the rules of procedure (resolution 66/107).

Consideration at the sixty-seventh session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 10th and 14th meetings, on 15 and 19 October 2012, respectively (see A/C.6/67/SR.15 and 19).

Statements were made by the representatives of: Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the European Union (also on behalf of its Member States; the Acceding Country Croatia, the Candidate Countries of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, aligned themselves with the declaration), New Zealand (also on behalf of Australia and Canada), Switzerland, the Russian Federation, Uruguay, Nigeria 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/67/172), the report of the Secretary-General on the Administration of justice at the United Nations (A/67/265 and Corr.1), the report of the Secretary-General on Amendments to the rules of procedure of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (A/67/349), as well as the report of the Internal Justice Council on the Administration of justice at the United Nations (A/67/98).

Most delegations reiterated that they attached great importance to the establishment and functioning of the system of administration of justice, and stressed that the evolution of the new system should continue to be consistent with a number of fundamental principles of law, including due process, the right to an effective remedy and equal access to justice.

Some delegations stressed the importance of continued coordinated and cooperation with the Fifth Committee to ensure an appropriate division of labour and avoid overlaps or encroachment of mandates. The professionalism and productivity of the new system were commended.

With respect to the outstanding issues regarding the scope of the system, some delegations indicated their willingness to analyze and discuss the proposal contained in Annex IV of the report of the Secretary-General to develop expedited arbitration procedures for consultants and individual contractors, as well as the measures proposed for other non-staff personnel not covered under the existing dispute resolutions mechanisms. It was noted that such a procedure for consultants and individual contractors could be a pragmatic and potentially fair solution for such personnel. Some other delegations indicated their preference for a differentiated system that would provide an adequate, effective and appropriate remedy. The view was also expressed that this subject required further study.

Some delegations indicated their willingness to discuss a code of conduct for legal representatives before the Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal. While support was expressed for the creation of such a code, it was also stated that this issue deserved to be further discussed.

The view was expressed that all persons working for the United Nations, irrespective of status, should have access to an independent body that can address complaints in an effective and efficient manner. In this regard, however, it was observed that any solution to the issue of non-staff personnel must comply with existing obligations of the United Nations, including the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and agreements that the Organization has concluded with host States.

Several delegations addressed the code of conduct of judges that had been recently approved by the General Assembly and had become binding. In that regard, some delegations welcomed the proposal of the Internal Justice Council for a procedure for enforcing the code of conduct, and indicated that they would be prepared to discuss the proposals contained in the report of the Secretary-General for addressing possible misconduct of judges.

Most delegations expressed their support for the Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA). Some delegations praised the Office for the vital task it performed, but also expressed their belief that further proposals for a staff-funded scheme should continue to be explored.  In that regard, some delegations took note of the proposals contained in the report of the Secretary General (Annex II).  A reference was made to the advantages of a staff-funded OSLA scheme, as described in the report of the Secretary-General.

Some delegations indicated that they were looking forward to holding an exchange of views on the proposed amendments to the rules of procedure of the Dispute Tribunal and of the Appeals Tribunal.

Several delegations also stressed the important role that the Internal Justice Council had played in the system to help ensure its independence, professionalism and accountability. Some delegations encouraged the Council to continue to provide its views and contributions on the implementation of the system within the purview of its mandate. It was stated that the Council was an important component of the system as it promoted judicial independence. With respect to the selection of judges, the view was expressed that experienced judges would impact positively on the system generally, and a call was made for transparency in the selection of judges.

Noting the backlog that remained from the prior system, the point was made that the expedited resolution of conflict was critical regardless of the system of justice. It was suggested that the amount of pending cases could have a negative impact on the work of the tribunals. Some delegations indicated that they would prefer greater recourse to the informal system, and encouraged the implementation of incentives intended to encourage more recourse to informal resolution. In that regard, attention was drawn to the importance of the Management Evaluation Unit, a mechanism which presented an opportunity to prevent unnecessary litigation before the Dispute Tribunal; the percentage of cases received and closed by the Unit in 2011 was welcomed.

Some delegations requested that the Secretary-General ensure that the structure of the Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services reflects the responsibility of the Ombudsman for the oversight of the entire integrated office.  Similarly, some other delegations welcomed the important work of the Office of the Ombudsman and Mediation Services, and expressed support for its efforts in advancing and encouraging the use of informal conflict resolution. It was suggested that the mandate of the Ombudsman be expanded to give a broader category of personnel access to the informal system.

With respect to the sharing of information related to judicial cases, a call was made for consistency of communication in order to inform staff and management regarding the various dispute resolution mechanisms and avenues for redress; such communication would increase awareness and thereby strengthen the administration of justice.

On the subject of punitive damage awards, it was suggested that, in light of the relatively low number of responses received by the Secretary-General on the practice of national legal systems, additional information would be useful.

At the 14th meeting of the Sixth Committee, on 19 October 2012, Mr. Thomas Fitschen (Germany) gave an oral report to the Committee on the results of the informal consultations that he had conducted under this item.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At its 14th meeting, on 19 October 2012, the Sixth Committee decided that its Chairman would address a letter to the President of the General Assembly, 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 General Assembly. The letter was circulated under document A/C.5/67/9.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-eighth session (2013).