TOOL KIT FOR SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS APPEARING
BEFORE THE UNITED NATIONS DISPUTE TRIBUNAL (UNDT)

INTRODUCTION

This is a tool kit on when and how you file an application or submissions to the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) and what to do during the proceedings. If you decide to represent yourself before the UNDT, this tool kit may help you prepare and manage your case. You should be aware that the tool kit does not cover every procedural aspect, possible situation or legal issue that may arise during your case. You should therefore not rely on the tool kit as legal advice or authority—the information is only meant to assist you with navigating the judicial process and, when pleading your case to the UNDT, you should always refer to their Statutes, Rules of Procedure and Practice Directions and not the tool kit. Also, you should carefully consider the potential benefits of legal representation. If you have any practical questions, please do not hesitate to contact any of the Registries.

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Check basic information Consider this: Resource
The UNDT website and key documents Take time to explore the information on the UNDT part of the internal justice system website.

Before filing an application, it would be a good idea to be familiar with the key documents of the UNDT. These include: the UNDT Statute and Rules of Procedure, the different Practice Directions, and the Information Note to Parties Appearing Before the UNDT.
UNDT section of UN Internal Justice website

Key documents for the UN Dispute Tribunal

Is the UNDT the right place for your complaint? Check this Resource

Type of decision The UNDT only handles appeals against administrative decisions taken by the Organization that concern your UN employment contract. Make sure that you are contesting such a decision. For instance, the UNDT cannot deal with private matters or policy decisions. What you can challenge

Organization Check that the UN organization you work or worked for, and who made the decision you are contesting is covered by the UNDT's jurisdiction. Who can use the internal justice system

Employment status UN staff members have access to the UNDT and, for instance, interns and consultants do not. Who can file with UNDT
Time limits Be extremely attentive of the statutory time limits. This is very important. UNDT application time limits
Think about seeking legal advice and/or representation Consider this Resource
Representation The independent Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) provides confidential and free advice. OSLA can represent staff members in cases with a reasonable chance of success. If OSLA declines representation, they can provide procedural advice regarding how to access the UNDT and can review their assessment of a case where new evidence or facts come to light. Staff members are also allowed to represent themselves, be represented by another staff member, or instruct private counsel. Options for recovery of some legal costs are very limited except in the case of an abuse of process. OSLA section of UN Internal Justice website
Informal resolution Consider the best solution for the dispute Resources
This could be an option with advantages for you to consider Did you consider informal resolution of your grievance? This is often the best way to solve a work-related issue. You consider speaking to the decision maker? Also, the Ombudsman’s office (UNOMS) has experts specialized in resolving work-place disputes amicably. There are also other offices and people you can contact to assist.

You can consider that an approach to the Ombudsman will toll time limits for filing with the UNDT, but this is not automatically the case. It may be necessary to formally seek an extension from the Tribunal or file an application meeting the deadline but continue negotiation at the same time (see below at “Motion of extension of time to file an application”).

You can resolve your dispute informally throughout the entire process. If you have already filed an application and you then manage to resolve the issue, you will need to file a motion to withdraw your case to the UNDT. You can use the generic submission form to do so.
General information on informal dispute resolution

Generic submission form
How to prepare your case? Getting organized Resource
Forms The UNDT requires you to use specific forms to present your case. Check out these forms and the related information on how to name your filings, citation rules and other matters. Doing this correctly from the onset minimizes delays and unnecessary back and forth with the Registry on formalities. UNDT forms and filing guidelines
How to write an application? The application form details the information you need to provide and provides an outline for your application, which you must follow:

  • Definition of the contested administrative decision
  • Summary of facts or facts relied on
  • Grounds for contesting the administrative decision
  • What remedies are you seeking?
Please note that the application should not be more than 10 pages.
You can find the application form on this page:

UNDT forms and filing guidelines  
The contested administrative decision Try to make the definition as precise and concise as possible.   For instance: “My non-selection for the post as Legal Assistant”, “The non-renewal of my fixed-term appointment”, “Denial of my right to education grant”, or “Imposition of the disciplinary measure of loss of one grade”.
Summary of facts or facts relied on Write each fact that you believe is relevant in chronological order and make references to relevant annexes you submit. For instance: "On 5 February 2019, the hiring manager emailed me that I had not been selected for the position (see Annex 3)".
Grounds for contesting the administrative decision Identify the legal right that you believe has been breached in your disfavor.

Such legal right can, for instance, be found in a staff rule or an administrative issuance. If you are a staff member in the UN Secretariat, for a comprehensive overview over the relevant legal framework, you can consult the electronic human resources handbook. If you are a staff member with the UN funds and programmes, please note that each organization has its own rules.

Check also previous judgments on similar topics. All judgments and some orders of the UNDT and UNAT are available on the website and the OAJ search engine.
HR handbook for the UN Secretariat

Search engine for UNDT and UNAT jurisprudence

Guide on how to use the search engine
What can the judge review? Generally, a judge is not to substitute her/his own technical assessment for the one of the decision-maker. Judges generally do not have expertise in substantive areas of UN mandate work. In practical terms this means that it is not sufficient for you to show that the decision was not the best operational decision from available options, it must be shown that it was biased or arbitrary or otherwise unreasonable. This principle is discussed in numerous UNDT and UNAT judgments often in relation to the “scope of review”.

Search engine for UNDT and UNAT jurisprudence

Guide on how to use the search engine
General examples of arguments to say a decision was unlawful You must argue why a decision would be unlawful:
  • The decision does not conform to the rules
  • The decision-making process includes a procedural error that affects the final decision
  • The decision-maker did not have the requisite delegated authority under the staff rules and/or administrative issuances
  • There was an improper delegation of authority to the decision-maker
  • The decision-maker’s discretion was not exercised properly, for example, facts or law were wrong, biased, ulterior motive, arbitrary or capricious.
These principles are discussed in numerous UNDT and UNAT judgments depending on the facts of the cases.
What do you want concretely? Consider consequences Resources
What remedies are you seeking? State exactly what it is you request the UNDT to grant you as a result of the alleged violation of your rights, for instance: “One-year net base salary for my non-selection”, or “USD3,000 for the stress and anxiety I felt related to the non-renewal of my appointment”, or “rescission of the decision to impose me a disciplinary measure”.

When you seek compensation for a loss you will be expected to explain why that loss results from the decision you have challenged. You must provide evidence to show any loss or detrimental consequences resulting from the contested decision, such as physical or other harm to you.
Remedies are discussed in numerous UNDT and UNAT judgments:

UNDT judgments and orders

Guide on how to use the UNDT judgments and orders search engine
Urgent matters Could you be entitled? Resources
Suspension of Action or Interim Measures If you wish to file an urgent case to suspend an administrative decision during management evaluation, you must do so by filing a separate case and use a special application form.  You can only seek suspension if the decision you contest has not yet been implemented. If you are concerned that the decision may be implemented before the UNDT can process a request for suspension you can ask in your application that the UNDT order the decision be suspended until it finishes dealing with your application for suspension. If you seek an interim measure in a case that is already before the UNDT, you do this by filing a motion in the existing case. You can find the forms for an application for suspension of action and a motion for interim measures on this page:

UNDT forms and filing guidelines
Motion for extension of time to file an application If you can see that your time limit is running out for filing your application, you can file a motion of extension of time to file an application. File the motion before the expiry of the deadline and explain the circumstances. It is up to the judge assigned to the motion to decide whether your motion is granted.
File your case electronically It’s easy! Resource
Create an account You will need an e-filing account to the UNDT e-filing system (also known as the Court Case Management System, or CCMS.  An online form allows you to create and activate your account). How to e-file with the UN Dispute Tribunal
E-file your application Login to the e-filing and submit the files you prepared: UNDT e-filing system
Support available For any technical issues with the e-filing contact technical support using the following email. ccms-support@un.org
The judicial process before the UNDT The process guarantees fairness to both parties – follow the judge’s orders Resources
What happens after you filed your application?

The Respondent's Reply

A written Order from the UNDT and/or

A Case Management Discussion
After you have filed your application, the Respondent will file his reply. The judge will then decide what to do.

For instance, the judge can issue a written order asking the parties for more information or other matters.

Or the judge can call the parties to a Case Management Discussion to discuss the further proceedings, such as: are further written documents needed, do we need a hearing for witness to give testimony, or are there other matters that need to be clarified before the UNDT makes its judgment.

If you are not able to be physically present in court the UNDT can arrange for remote participation by videoconferencing or telephone if necessary.
 
Court hearing Not all cases have a hearing, but some do.

If a hearing is scheduled familiarize yourself with the formal procedures and conduct that needs to be adhered to. Review the courtroom etiquette to know how to conduct yourself in the courtroom.
UNDT court etiquette
Closing statements In many instances, the UNDT will order the parties to give closing statements. This can either be done in writing or at a hearing. Each party is to summarize their arguments as their case stands after all evidence and legal arguments have been presented to the UNDT. Parties are not to bring forward new facts, documentation or legal contentions at that time.  
Judgments The final determination of an issue in a case will typically be done by the UNDT issuing a judgment. Such a judgment can concern the receivability of an issue, liability and/or relief. If you wish to withdraw your application, the UNDT will effectuate this by issuing a judgment on withdrawal.
Search engine for UNDT and UNAT jurisprudence

Guide on how to use the search engine
How to behave before the UNDT Tribunals work on the basis of formal procedures out- and inside the courtroom Resource
Code of Conduct The UNDT is a court and everybody in the courtroom is expected to behave accordingly. This means that you need to be respectful, courteous and honest in your communications with the UNDT, the Respondent, witnesses and others. You can read more about these requirements in the Code of Conduct for legal representative and litigants in person.
Similarly, the UNDT also have a Code of Conduct for judges and complaints mechanism.
UNDT Code of Conduct

What if you think the judgment is wrong? The UNDT may not rule in your favor An appeal is limited to certain elements and is not a new full case
Appeal You can appeal UNDT judgments and some orders to the Appeals Tribunal (UNAT). Appeals are not a new trial but limited to certain grounds of appeal. See the UNAT toolkit for more information:
[link to UNAT toolkit]
Revision of judgment If you discover a decisive fact that was, at the time the judgment was rendered, unknown to the Dispute Tribunal and you, you can file an application for revision. You should do so as a new and separate case. See:

Art. 29 of the UNDT's Rules of Procedure
Interpretation of judgment If you believe that something in the judgment is not clear, you may file an application for interpretation, unless the case is already pending before the UNAT. If the case file is still open, you should do so as part of the existing case. See:

Art. 30 of the UNDT's Rules of Procedure
Correction of judgment If you find clerical or arithmetical mistakes, or errors arising from any accidental slip or omission, you can file an application for correction of judgment. If the case file is still open, you should do so as part of the existing case. See:

Art. 31 of the UNDT's Rules of Procedure

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