Wednesday, July 7, 2010

UN Internal Justice System Marks One-Year Anniversary

United Nations Flag The new administration of justice system that resolves internal disputes at the United Nations has transformed the way employment grievances are addressed in the world body, with hundreds of staff embracing the system during the first year of the reform, senior officials said today.  "The system serves as a milestone in strengthening the committeemen of the Organization to the rule of law, to justice and to accountability,” Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien told journalists in New York.  She stressed that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is fully committed to upholding the system of justice as prescribed by the General Assembly, and to ensuring that the Organization complies fully and promptly with the final decisions of the appeals tribunal once they have been issued.

The administration of justice system resolved disputes between staff and management, which cannot be filed in national courts.  The system relies on informal and formal mechanisms to resolve disputes, including the Management Evaluation Unit, which covers staff of all levels and grades at the Secretariat and the UN programmes and agencies. 

The role of the unit is to assure that “decisions are taken and comport with rules and regulations, but also support enhanced managerial accountability,” said Under-Secretary-General for Management, Angela Kane.

Nearly 300 ¬cases – double the number from the same period in 2009 – have been filed in the first three months of this year. The majority related to benefits and entitlements.  Other options are provided by the Office for Ombudsman and Mediation Services, where some 536 cases have been filed in the first five months of the year, up 70 per cent from the same period last year.

The head of the service, John Barkat, said the service is growing because it is quick, interest based, preserves relationships and allows parties to select the outcome themselves.

The fourth section of the system consists of the Office of Administration of Justice, which services the UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT), which is the highest court of the new internal justice system. 

In the year since 1 July 2009, some 500 cases have been filed with the tribunals, of which 200 have been disposed and 200 judgements rendered. 

For the 60 years before the new internal justice system was created, the UN relied on peer review bodies composed of staff members, followed by a review by the UN Administrative Tribunal.

The new system called for by the General Assembly in 2005 has introduced two tiers of judicial review with judges who are “professional, qualified and independent,” according to Executive Director of the Office of Administration of Justice, Andrei Terekhov, who also took part in today’s press conference.

In a related development, the UNAT announced today its decisions on 31 cases, which include disputes over promotions, discipline, pensions, contract matters and many other issues. The full texts of the judgements have not yet been released.

(From a UN Press Release)

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