Delegates Conclude Debate on Scope, Application of Universal Jurisdiction
A fair and effective administration of internal justice not only enables staff to perform their best, but also ensures that the Organization becomes a better employer, retains the best employees and, more importantly, upholds its ideals, delegates stressed as the Sixth Committee (Legal) took up that topic.
The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s reports on activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (document A/73/167); Administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/73/217) and its addendum (document A/73/217/Add.1); and a report of the Internal Justice Council on administration of justice at the United Nations (document A/73/218).
The representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, said that justice and the rule of law, as core principles of the United Nations system, must be reflected in the United Nations internal system of administering justice. Calling on the Organization to strengthen its capacity to investigate claims of sexual harassment, she also highlighted non-staff personnel’s lack of access to grievance resolution mechanisms.
Netherland’s delegate voiced concern that when an official complaint of misconduct is filed — including sexual harassment — the official lodging the complaint can be reassigned or be sent on paid leave. While intended as a protective measure, this could be seen as punishment for reporting misconduct, he said, encouraging the Secretary-General to consider other measures that do not de facto punish the official reporting misconduct.
Effective protection against retaliation, Switzerland’s representative pointed out, is an indispensable attribute of a fair and effective internal justice system. Also highlighting the need for adequate remedies for non-staff personnel in work-related disputes, he said that access to an informal dispute resolution mechanism is not sufficient to ensure a fair and effective internal justice system.
Speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the representative of El Salvador encouraged the Sixth Committee to continue contributing legal expertise on all outstanding issues, including those related to the independent evaluation of the system, access to the justice system for persons with disabilities, and gender equality. Expressing support for the protection of the human rights of United Nations staff members, he welcomed measures that would help the United Nations become a better employer.
Mexico’s representative stressed the importance of acknowledging the root causes of labour disputes, including contradictions in policies within the Organization. Spotlighting the differences in the means of defence between staff and non-staff, she said it is necessary to ensure access to justice for non-staff personnel who are generally hired as consultants or contractors; the work of both categories of staff is vital for the execution of the mandate of the United Nations.
Accountability and justice were also emphasized as the Committee concluded its consideration on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction. (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3571.)
Mozambique’s representative, while condemning the politically motivated application of that principle, acknowledged that it provides an important tool for prosecuting perpetrators of certain serious crimes under international treaties. Such crimes include those related to the slave trade, air and maritime piracy, terrorism, genocide and others, he pointed out.
Austria’s delegate also stressed the role of that principle in the common fight against impunity for international crimes. Noting the confusion and misapprehension surrounding it, she welcomed the International Law Commission’s decision to include the topic in its long-term programme of work.
However, Israel’s delegate noted that identifying State practice in this area presents a significant challenge, especially since the vast majority of the relevant legal data is confidential. Relying on publicly available material risks presenting a distorted picture of State practice, she said, also adding that the Commission must first conclude its work on other separate issues closely linked to this topic, including “Crimes against humanity”.
Bangladesh’s delegate stressed the importance of sharing information across different national jurisdictions and suggested that there could be a mechanism to monitor instances of universal jurisdiction. He noted the work being done by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to monitor jurisdiction, especially in relation to grave breaches of international humanitarian law.
A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross also underscored that “while some States simply do not take legal action”, as many as 117 States have established some form of universal legislation in their national legal frameworks. Noting a steady increase in domestic prosecutions, he said that these efforts send an important message to victims and survivors.
Also speaking during the debate on administration of justice were representatives of Gambia (for the African Group), Switzerland, Malaysia and United States, as well as the European Union.
Representatives of Panama, Viet Nam, Zambia, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Gambia, Mali, Iran, Indonesia, Myanmar, Lesotho, Brazil, Algeria and Nigeria, and the Permanent Observer of the Holy See also spoke during the debate on universal jurisdiction.
The Sixth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 12 October, to begin its consideration of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization.
Statements on Universal Jurisdiction
GERARDO IRIMIA AROSEMENA (Panama) stressed that the international community must identify ways to avoid legal errors or abuses when applying the principle of universal jurisdiction. Achieving consensus in defining the term will ensure a smoother application. Discussion of the principle could not be conducted without considering certain aspects of international criminal law. Given the importance of the technical point of view, he said he was in favour of the International Law Commission studying the topic. As the body responsible for codifying international law, the Commission is best placed to examine the principle and its application. Such a consideration would enable the international community to better fight impunity.
SARAH GOLDIE WEISS (Israel), emphasizing the importance of combating impunity, said that all too often the principle of universal jurisdiction is used primarily to advance a political agenda or to attract media attention, rather than to genuinely promote the rule of law. The topic is extremely complex and identifying State practice in this area presents a significant challenge, especially since the vast majority of the relevant legal data is confidential. Relying on publicly available material risks presenting a distorted picture of State practice and a poor basis for proper legal analysis. The International Law Commission must conclude its work on other separate issues closely linked to this topic, including “Crimes against humanity,” and “Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction”, before the Committee revisits the question of the proper forum to study the issue of universal jurisdiction.
NGUYEN NAM DUONG (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that universal jurisdiction must be defined and applied in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. It must not be applied in ways that violate the principle of sovereignty and should only be exercised over the most serious international crimes and as a measure of last resort. In addition, he underscored that it should be exercised by States only when the alleged perpetrator is present in its territory. While he recognized that there are divergent views among States about the scope and application and definition of the principle, he said that the discussion would benefit from the input of the International Court of Justice and the work of the International Law Commission.
MUKI MUKAFYA BENAS PHIRI (Zambia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that universal jurisdiction places an obligation on countries to punish serious violations and prevent perpetrators of serious crimes to use their territories as a safe haven. This is particularly important where countries with closer links to the crime are either unable or unwilling to genuinely carry out investigations and prosecute the perpetrators. The international community cannot rely on the goodwill of States alone to guarantee prosecution of such atrocious crimes as genocide and crimes against humanity. Zambia has ratified various treaties and is also aiming to incorporate the principle of universal jurisdiction into its national legislation. It is also drafting the International Criminal Court Draft Bill to domesticate the Rome Statute. He expressed concern that the inconsistent and sometimes unpredictable way universal jurisdiction has been applied has caused friction among several Member States. The continuous selective prosecution of individuals for alleged universal jurisdiction crimes may prove counterproductive, he added.
COUMBA GAYE (Senegal), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that her country has integrated the principle of universal jurisdiction into its national legal framework and has also acceded to a number of related international instruments. Senegal’s commitment does not stop there, she said, urging the international community to prevent the abuse of the principle by applying it in good faith, within the norms of international law, including non-interference in the internal affairs of States and sovereign equality of States. Acknowledging that universal jurisdiction raises questions and controversies, in particular regarding the type of crimes to which it is applicable, she added that its legitimacy will largely depend on whether or not it is applied in line with the fundamental principle of complementarity.
NADIA ALEXANDRA KALB (Austria) said while she supports the principle of universal jurisdiction in the common fight against impunity for international crimes, there is a considerable amount of confusion and misapprehension around it. For this reason, the International Law Commission decision to include the topic in its long-term programme of work is welcomed. The Commission examines all different forms of jurisdiction, including jurisdiction to legislate, to adjudicate and to enforce. In this context, the limitation of these forms of jurisdiction also must be considered. In addition, the concept of universal criminal jurisdiction of States must be clearly distinguished from the jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court, the Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, to name a few.
NASSIR AL-SUGAIR (Saudi Arabia), noting that this agenda item has been rightfully scrutinized for years, said the ultimate goal of the principle is very noble, namely to combat impunity and prosecute perpetrators. However, it is premature to adopt and recognize the principle since the legal processes for its application are still lacking in rules and mechanism, as well as a definition of the crimes that should be subject to the principle. There are substantive impediments as well. The United Nations Charter and international law must avoid encroaching on the sovereignty of States. Instead of achieving its goal, the principle of universal jurisdiction will rather be taken as a pretext to politicize the judiciary, he cautioned, condemning any attempt to violate any principle of the Charter by any State.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), associating himself with the African Group, said almost a decade ago the African Group requested this agenda item to be included in the sixty-third session of the General Assembly because of the misuse of the principle. Pointing out that it has been invoked where not necessary, he called on all Member States of the United Nations to oppose such an approach. The ill use of it infringes on State sovereignty and undermines the peace and security of States. It is a principle of international law, and clear guidance for the most serious crimes is needed. While acknowledging what many States had said earlier — that the purpose of the principle is to ensure that individuals who commit grave offences do not enjoy impunity and are brought to justice — he also stressed it is important to respect other international law norms, including the sovereignty of States and the immunity of officials that existed under customary international law.
KANISSON COULIBALY (Mali), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the topic at hand is of prime importance for Mali, which is slowly but surely recovering from its multifaceted crisis. This principle is deserving of extensive reflection within the Organization in order to provide the world with an ideal framework for justice; it will make it possible to combat impunity. The existence of universal jurisdiction is invaluable in finding a solution to legal issues and will bolster international justice. Furthermore, it is an essential tool in guaranteeing the suppression of grave violations of international law. He highlighted that Mali has established a national legal framework aligned with its international commitments to enhance its efforts to combat terrorism. He also welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court in the conviction of a Malian terrorist for destroying mausoleums and historic sites in Timbuktu.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said he would not support any move aimed at the application of the principle of international law by some individual countries while consensus on the matter was still pending. The international community must identify those crimes that would be subject to universal jurisdiction and the circumstances in which they could be invoked by States or courts. He also strongly condemned the politically motivated application of that principle. However, he acknowledged that its application provides an important tool for prosecuting perpetrators of certain serious crimes under international treaties. Such crimes include those related to the slave trade, air and maritime piracy, terrorism, genocide and others. The right application of the principle would certainly strengthen the rule of law at national and international levels, he pointed out.
ALI NASIMFAR (Iran) said Member States do not have a common understanding on the legal and conceptual framework of universal jurisdiction and its scope of application. Recalling the case, Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 [Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Belgium], he said several International Court of Justice judges raised concern over the judicial chaos that would be conferred upon courts in cases of universal jurisdiction. Also of concern is the selective application of universal jurisdiction which can prejudice cardinal principles of international law. Deliberations in the Sixth Committee provide an opportunity to Member States to reflect on the issues at hand and to identify the limits of application, as well as prevent any inappropriate use of the concept. Universal jurisdiction is a treaty-based exception in exercising national criminal jurisdiction, complementary to the territorial and national jurisdiction, he said.
AHMAD SHALEH BAWAZIR (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction must be addressed cautiously. An absence of clarity will lead to the inappropriate and even abusive application of domestic law on foreign nationals, undermining in turn many other fundamental principles of international law. Fighting impunity is imperative, but in doing so it must respect the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, due process, good faith and the immunity of Heads of State and high-ranking officials, as well as the United Nations Charter. It is therefore important to improve Member States’ capacity to investigate and prosecute the gravest crimes. He went on to say that, due to its exceptional nature, the scope of application of universal jurisdiction must be limited to the most heinous crimes. Supporting ongoing discussion of the topic, he also said it is premature to bring it to the International Law Commission.
NYAN LIN AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that the international community is still far from reaching consensus over the definition, condition, scope, application and procedure of universal jurisdiction. Without consensus on those matters, it would be applied differently in different cases, creating an opportunity for its abusive application by some States. The principle should instead complement the existing basis of jurisdiction recognized under international law, especially national ownership, territorial integrity and sovereignty. The main responsibility for the exercise of criminal jurisdiction lies with the State where the crime has taken place. He voiced his concern about the implication of the principle’s application on the immunity of State officials and on State sovereignty. He also highlighted the risk of selectivity and manipulation in its application that could transform it into a political instrument rather than a legal mechanism.
NTHABISENG MŌNŌKO (Lesotho), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the principle of universal jurisdiction provides for the realization of justice in places it would otherwise be unimaginable and reflects a shared understanding that crimes that shock the conscience of humanity concern all mankind. The scope and application of the principle must be clearly and unequivocally defined, she stressed, adding that it can be an effective way of combating impunity. Voicing her rejection of the misuse and abuse of the principle, she also strongly emphasized the need to avoid its arbitrary or selective application. Unfair application of the principle violates the immunity of State officials. The purpose of universal jurisdiction is to ensure individuals do not commit grave offences with impunity.
PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that if the universality of the Rome Statute is achieved, the discussion on universal jurisdiction would probably lose relevance. Meanwhile, these debates should not deviate from the international community’s promotion of the Rome Statute system. Noting that universal jurisdiction is one way to achieve accountability and deny impunity, he stressed that its aim is to prosecute individuals allegedly responsible for serious crimes that violate peremptory norms of international law. While the principle of sovereign equality posited that the exercise of jurisdiction is the primary responsibility of the State concerned, putting an end to impunity for the most serious crimes is an obligation contained in numerous treaties and fundamental to a rules-based international order.
ZAKIA IGHIL (Algeria), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, expressed her country’s commitment to fighting impunity and promoting rule of law. The international community has a shared responsibility to search for justice. However, the political and selective use and manipulation of the principle of universal jurisdiction does not serve justice, but, instead, affects the credibility of international law. Recalling the condemnation by African Heads of States and Governments of selectivity and abuse in the application of the universal jurisdiction principle only to African States by some jurisdictions, especially the International Criminal Court, she said that the principle should be exercised in good faith and as a measure of last resort.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that universal jurisdiction can be asserted in the prosecution of the most serious international crimes. The inputs given by Member States to the Secretary-General’s report reveal the broad range of crimes that could be covered by the principle. This reinforces the continued importance of sharing such information across different national jurisdictions. He suggested that there could be a mechanism to monitor instances of universal jurisdiction. In that respect, he noted the work being done by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to monitor jurisdiction, especially in relation to grave breaches of international humanitarian law.
ABDULLAHI TUKUR ABDULLAHI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he appreciated that universal jurisdiction is a cardinal principle of international law. It has become a major strategy in the global efforts to prevent and repress violations of international humanitarian law and other international crimes. In addition, he emphasized its importance in the fight against impunity and ensuring that the perpetrators of heinous crimes are held accountable. It complements and strengthens the principles of the rule of law at both the national and international levels, he said, noting that adherence to universal jurisdiction is meant to ensure that the alleged perpetrator is investigated. However, this principle has provoked continuous controversy because any State can unilaterally invoke it against an accused person regardless of where the alleged crime was committed. Rather, it should be exercised in good faith and in line with other principles of international law.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that when the most egregious crimes are met with impunity, the rule of law has broken down at a fundamental level. Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity often affect those who live on the margins of society. The creation of universally agreed jurisdictional norms that address those crimes is a laudable goal. Noting the tension between sovereign equality among States and the duty to hold perpetrators of serious crimes responsible, humanity must persevere in the task of finding a balance between the two. Any norms developed by the Sixth Committee must be consistent with fundamental principles, yet firmly rooted in the principle of subsidiarity. Universal jurisdiction should not justify prosecutions in absentia or the unwarranted interference in the international affairs of other States. The Holy See supports further work on this topic, he said, recalling a suggestion set forward in the Working Group last year to review national laws to seek commonality in which crimes are subject to prosecution based on universal jurisdiction under States’ national laws.
CHRISTOPHER B. HARLAND, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that States have the primary responsibility for investigating allegations and prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law. However, some States simply do not take legal action. The exercise of universal jurisdiction by other States can serve as an effective mechanism to ensure accountability and limit impunity. Since its last submission, ICRC has been informed that seven additional States have established some form of universal legislation over serious violations in their national legal frameworks, bringing the total number to 117. It has also observed a steady increase in domestic prosecutions based on the principle for serious violations. In 2017, national prosecution services started investigations in over 20 cases. More than nine judgments have been delivered by domestic courts based on universal jurisdiction. These efforts send an important message to victims and survivors, he said.
Statements on Administration of Justice in United Nations
HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking for CELAC, said that the current system of administration of justice intends to be independent, transparent, professionalized, and adequately resourced. Expressing support for the protection of the human rights of United Nations staff members, he welcomed measures that would help the United Nations become a better employer for the purpose of attracting and retaining the best employees. Recalling the important role played by the Sixth Committee in making the system of administration of justice operational, he called on it to continue contributing legal expertise on all outstanding issues, including those related to the independent evaluation of the system, access to the justice system for persons with disabilities, and gender equality.
Emphasizing the important role played by the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, the Internal Justice Council and the United Nations Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal, he added that “we are ready to explore new ways to improve the use of the informal system”. Highlighting the work of the Mediation Division and the importance of ensuring proper geographical and gender distribution in the designation of judges and staff, she said that informal resolution of conflict is a crucial element of the internal system of administration of justice. As well, the Sixth Committee must continue to coordinate closely with the Fifth Committee to ensure an appropriate division of labour and avoid encroachment of mandates.
AMADOU JAITEH (Gambia), speaking for the African Group, said that he commended the United Nations for the progress in the administration of justice section since its establishment. He is encouraged by the positive impact that it has made for staff by creating an atmosphere of transparency, rule of law and justice for all. He called on Member States and the United Nations system to ensure the provision of adequate resources to support decentralization of justice for the benefit of all and to attain independence, transparency and professionalism. This is the practice recognized by international standards and is consistent with relevant rules and principles of the rule of law.
He went on to say that the African Group supports the Office of Staff Legal Assistance, which has been performing a vital task through representation, advice and other legal services. That Office visited the five subregional offices to provide information about the internal justice system. The Internal Justice Council continues to play an important role in the system to help ensure independence, professionalism and accountability. He encouraged that Council to continue to provide contributions on the application of the justice system within the scope of its mandate.
ERIC CHABOUREAU, the European Union, noted that the informal resolution of disputes is a crucial element of the administration of justice. The informal system should be used as much as possible to avoid costly litigation. Welcoming the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services in that regard, he noted the significant increase in cases opened by the Office in 2017, mainly emanating away from Headquarters. Particular attention should be paid to the Secretary-General’s report in terms of the causes of conflict that lie in performance management and accountability, quality of service and reform implementation. With regards to the formal process, he noted the crucial role played by the Management Evaluation Unit as well as by administrative structures of United Nations funds, programmes and entities.
He went on to recognize the work of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, observing that the number of new cases has stabilized compared to the previous year. However, he also highlighted the significant reduction in applications disposed of in 2017, while the number of applications pending increased. Regarding the establishment of three new permanent judicial positions in that Tribunal, he called attention to the remark in the Secretary-General’s report on the absence of financial implications of such a measure. Nevertheless, he asked whether the transformation of temporary posts into permanent ones could prove inconvenient in case the number of applications received continues to decrease in the future. He also took note of the Secretary-General’s proposal to initiate a pilot project to explicitly offer access to informal dispute resolution services to non-staff personnel. In that context, he stated that he favours a differentiated system providing an adequate, effective and appropriate remedy.
CARY SCOTT-KEMMIS (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, said that the impartial, fair and effective administration of justice is essential to the success of the United Nations. It enables staff to perform to the best of their abilities and ensures that the Organization upholds its ideals. The principles of justice and the rule of law are at the core of the United Nations system. It is critical that these principles are reflected in the United Nations internal system of administering justice. He strongly supported the recommendation by the Internal Justice Council that the Secretary-General further strengthen the capacity of the Organization to investigate claims of sexual harassment and to implement fair and efficient procedures to address complaints. He also noted that the time it takes for the Dispute Tribunal to process a case has grown and the Internal Justice Council’s comments on the backlog of cases has also recently risen.
Voicing concern over the issue of access of non-staff personnel to grievance resolution mechanisms within the Organization, he thanked the Secretary-General for providing a comprehensive analysis of the remedies available to non-staff personnel and for the initiative of a pilot project offering them access to the informal dispute resolution services as part of the mandate of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services. This initiative will be a useful way of gathering more information about the number and types of grievances of non-staff personnel. It is also important that the Secretary-General’s management reform agenda continues to align with the efforts to strengthen the administration of justice. He also noted that he expects these reforms to deliver strong and accountable leadership, including in financial and performance management.
SIDNEY KEMBLE (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, said that in 2017 the Sixth Committee discussed protection against retaliation. In November of that year a new Administrative Instruction came into effect. However, he noted with concern that, as a protective measure when an official complaint of misconduct is filed — including sexual harassment — the official lodging the complaint can be reassigned or sent on paid leave. This could be seen as punishment for reporting misconduct. Rather, when an investigation is initiated, the official being investigated should be the one who is either sent on paid leave or reassigned. He encouraged the Secretary-General to consider other protective measures that do not de facto punish the official reporting misconduct. He also thanked the Secretary-General for the information provided on the remedies available for non-staff personnel and the proposal to start a pilot project that would offer access to the informal dispute resolution service. However, this proposal falls short. There is no reason access to the system of the administration of justice should be withheld from non-staff members.
VINCENT RITTENER (Switzerland) said that protection against retaliation and the provision of adequate remedies for non-staff personnel in work-related disputes have been and remain two issues of particular importance. Effective protection against retaliation is an indispensable attribute of a fair and effective internal justice system. He welcomed the efforts made towards strengthening the Secretary‑General’s policy on protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct and for cooperating with duly authorized audits or investigations. Those efforts have been informed by incorporating lessons learned and best practices in both public and private organizations. The Secretary-General issued a revised policy on protection against retaliation in November 2017 and that policy continues to be reviewed and improved. While the information provided by the Secretary-General on the remedies available to non-staff personnel in work-related disputes is welcomed, it is just the first step. Access to an informal dispute resolution mechanism is not sufficient to ensure a fair and effective internal justice system for all categories of personnel in the Organization.
SITI NUR BAYA JABAR (Malaysia) reiterated support for the implementation of an independent, transparent and decentralized administration of justice. Such a system will ensure fair treatment in matters arising from disputes between staff members and administration of the United Nations. While she noted her support of the Secretary General’s request to enhance the effectiveness of the administration of justice, she said that recommendations involving implications on Member States must strictly adhere to the relevant procedures to ensure optimum utilization of resources and avoid unnecessary contribution by Member States.
EMILY PIERCE (United States) said that the Secretary-General dedicates a significant portion of his report to recommendations that would help to bring the structure of the Dispute Tribunal more in line with its statute. However, she noted the potential legal implications and long-term impacts of continuing the ad hoc arrangement as presented in the report. Voicing support for adjusting the Tribunal’s structure to align with the structure set out in its statute, she encouraged the Fifth Committee to consider the Secretary-General’s related recommendations. With respect to efficiency, she noted her concern about the significant drop in productivity; the Dispute Tribunal issued its lowest number of judgments since the establishment of the system. Regarding accessibility for non-staff, she welcomed the recommendation of the pilot programme, which would regularize access to the informal system that non-staff already enjoy within existing resources.
ANA FIERRO (Mexico) said that the United Nations should always bear in mind the principles of independence and transparency, legality and due process. The root causes of labour disputes, including existing contradictions in policies or structures within the Organization, should also be acknowledged. The Secretary‑General’s report noted that there is a trend in the United Nations towards the hiring of non-staff personnel. Beyond the distinction of staff and non-staff, it is important to note that the work of both is vital for the execution of the mandate of the United Nations. However, she underscored that there are notable differences in the means of defence for staff and non-staff categories. It is necessary to make adjustments to ensure access to justice for non-staff personnel who are generally hired as consultants or contractors, she said, and she welcomed the implementation of the pilot programme as the first stage to find a permanent solution to this issue.