Fifty-seventh General Assembly
Fifth Committee (Resumed)
42nd Meeting (AM)
CONCLUDING REVIEW OF JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION IN UN SECRETARIAT, BUDGET COMMITTEE
HEARS U.S. STATEMENT SUPPORTING MOST RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE CURRENT SYSTEM
As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) concluded its review of the administration of justice within the Secretariat, the United States representative presented her country’s views on the matter.
The Committee was considering the recommendations by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), as well as comments and conclusions by the Secretary-General, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and the United Nations Administrative Tribunal. [For background information, see Press Release GA/AB/3555 of 5 March 2003.]
The United States representative, Candice Ebbesen, generally supported most of the Secretary-General’s and the ACABQ’s recommendations, and several JIU recommendations, to improve the current system. While the system needed to become more effective and responsive, adding another layer of review would only slow the process and create other problems.
“Justice delayed is justice denied”, she said. In its management review of the entire appeals process, the United States strongly encouraged the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to address such issues as whether the provision of a full-time chairperson would contribute to expediting the handling of cases and the limitations on the frequency of written submissions. She also strongly supported efforts to streamline and strengthen the system by providing legal training for members of the Joint Appeals Board (JAB). The United States supported the development of effective internal mediation mechanisms and welcomed the establishment of the Ombudsman position.
She disagreed, however, with several JIU recommendations, including those for a merger of the Administrative Tribunals of the ILO and the United Nations and the creation of an ad hoc panel to review the judgements of those bodies. She also disagreed with the recommendation that the two Tribunals be enabled to mediate between parties. A conflict of interest might arise if one of those bodies unsuccessfully mediated a dispute that later had to come before it as a complaint. It could also be costly to have judges from the two Tribunals serve as mediators.
Positive elements of peer review in the JAB needed to be maintained, she said, and there was no advantage to strengthening the Board’s current advisory
function regarding the suspension of action on a contested administrative decision. The United Nations Charter clearly established the Secretary-General as the chief administrator and, as such, he could not be bound by the decisions of staff under his authority. Her delegation disagreed with the JIU recommendation to automatically accept unanimous recommendations of the JAB, especially when a major question of law or principle was involved.
While the gap between the working procedures and jurisdictions of the two main United Nations administrative tribunals was clear, it was unclear whether that gap needed to be closed, she added. Deciding on the matter could take months, even years. In the short term, the United States agreed with the ACABQ’s recommendation to strengthen the United Nations Administrative Tribunal by requiring candidates for the Tribunal to have judicial experience in the field of administrative law.
A fair, transparent and closely monitored human resources system could advance the administration of justice, she added, by helping to reduce staff demand for using the justice system. Concerned about the multiplicity of human resources monitoring activities, however, the United States encouraged the Secretary-General to focus on instituting a self-monitoring mechanism that was integrated into existing administrative and management structures. In that regard, the United States called on the Secretary-General to develop the Organization’s human resources monitoring capacity as a component of his ongoing management improvement and efficiency initiatives.
The Committee will meet next on Monday, 10 March, when it is expected to take action on a draft resolution concerning the pattern of conferences and to take up several JIU reports..
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