One year after the launch of the new Administration of Justice (AoJ) System, HLCM invited the United Nations Secretariat ASG for Legal Affairs to brief the Committee on the Report of the Secretary General on Administration of Justice that was currently under finalization for submission to the 65th session of the General Assembly.
In May 2010 HLCM had convened a meeting, chaired by the USG for Management, to discuss the experience to date in the implementation of the new Administration of Justice System, to bring to the attention of colleagues issues and challenges encountered so far, and to devise common approaches to address them.
The ASG for Legal Affairs introduced the content of the Report of the Secretary-General, which responds to a request by the General Assembly, in resolution 63/253, to conduct a review of the new system, as well as to another request (resolution 64/223) to provide data and information on the functioning of the new system and related matters. While the report contains six sections and four annexes, the briefing focused on the three core sections of the report (II, III and IV). Section II provides an overview of the structure of the new system of AoJ, including a summary of the first year of operations and section III responds to individual queries of the GA.
The third core section, number IV, provides the views of the Secretary-General as chief administrative officer on significant issues that may have financial implications and an impact on the interests of the Organization. This section surveys the emerging jurisprudence of the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal.
Under the heading of general issues, the report raises three main matters: the relevance of the Administrative Tribunal jurisprudence for the new tribunals; the scope of the SG’s discretion in matters of administration; and concerns regarding the harmonization of proceedings before the Dispute Tribunal.
With respect to the Dispute Tribunal in particular, the report raises a variety of issues for consideration by the GA, including issues relating to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, the utility of introducing a mechanism to expeditiously address non-meritorious claims, the use of alternative means, such as videoconferencing, for giving testimony, the establishment of a mechanism for maintaining the confidentiality of certain documents used in the proceedings, and the remedies awarded by the Tribunal. With respect to the Appeals Tribunal, the report suggests the introduction of a mechanism to dismiss appeals and an amendment to the Tribunal’s statute to extend the deadline for filing appeals.
The USG for Management, who had also contributed to the drafting of the SG’s report, indicated that the Department of Management had begun developing resources to disseminate lessons learned within the first year of operation of the new AoJ System. The first volume of a Guide for Managers examines systemic issues discerned from an analysis of the cases, with a focus on the UNDT’s jurisprudence on the non-renewal of Fixed-Term Appointments (FTAs) and the termination of permanent appointments due to the abolishment of posts. Additional guides will be issued three to four times a year, and each volume will focus on one or more subjects arising from the jurisprudence. These guides not only provide a detailed interpretation of the organization’s policies, but are also intended to illustrate how these policies have been applied in specific cases. The second volume will cover staff selection processes and procedures, and is expected to be ready by the end of October 2010.
Two main lessons could be derived from the UNDT jurisprudence. First, the importance of compliance with the organization’s rules and procedures, since in the majority of cases where the manager was found to have violated the rights of staff members, the Tribunal had determined that the manager had failed to follow internal rules and procedures. Secondly, the necessity to well document all decisions relating to staff members’ terms and conditions of appointment at the time decisions that may be contested are made.
The USG/DM provided some lessons learned on practices of informal conflict resolution, noting that many cases going before the formal system can be resolved informally if managers are more engaged in conflict resolution on a timely basis and seek help from the Ombudsman’s office as a first step.
UNDP noted that their increased investment in awareness building among staff and managers about acceptable conduct and pro-active handling of issues before formal appeals had resulted in a reduced number of requests for management evaluations. In addition, UNDP indicated that it had developed on-line legal and ethics training courses mandatory for all staff and that such courses were available to UN organizations on a cost-recovery basis.
Took note of the briefings by the ASG for Legal Affairs and by the USG for Management, and looked forward to the continuation of this useful forum for sharing of information and coordination of management approaches on this subject.