14 October 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Gilles Marhic, Legal Adviser, European External Action Service, at the United Nations Sixth Committee on Agenda item 145: Administration of justice at the United Nations
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Member States of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
We continue to attach great importance to the functioning of the system of administration of justice at the United Nations. The continuous progress made since 2009 represents a collective achievement and should be commended.
We take note with appreciation of the two recent reports by the Secretary-General on the administration of justice at the United Nations (A/71/164) and on the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services (A/71/157), as well as of the report by the Internal Justice Council (A/71/158).
We also take note with appreciation of the Report of the Interim Independent Assessment Panel on the system of administration of justice at the United Nations (A/71/62/Rev.1) and the related report of the Secretary-General (A/71/163)
The informal resolution of disputes is one of the most crucial elements of the system of administration of justice, helping in particular to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation. It minimizes the negative impact of disputes and mitigates associated risks. We welcome the activities of the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services in this regard and support its efforts in advancing and encouraging the use of informal dispute resolution. Its independence, neutrality, confidentiality and informality respects established international standards.
We note the 13% increase in the number of cases that the Office of the Ombudsman opened in 2015, and we recognize that half of the mediation cases are self-referrals which signal a heightened awareness of the benefits of mediation as a conflict resolution mechanism.
As far as the Management Evaluation Unit (MEU) is concerned we note with appreciation the high number of complaints disposed of every year. We commend the MEU for the work done. The fact that a large majority of MEU decisions were eventually confirmed in whole or in part by the Tribunals is a good indicator that the MEU is getting it right. We also welcome the fact that the MEU systematically tries to identify the requests that have potential for settlement through informal resolution, and attempts to settle those cases in such manner whenever appropriate.
In this regard, all the components of the system must be aware that alternative resolution of disputes and non-judicial settlement must be encouraged and every effort to avert litigation should be made. The institutionalization of good practices by the MEU and mainstreaming and disseminating the jurisprudence of the Tribunals have an essential role in shaping administrative and management practices. This is also important to enable the Office of Staff Legal Assistance to better provide preventive legal advice and prevent unmeritorious claims at the outset.
Concerning the UN Dispute Tribunal, we note that after a significant increase of cases in 2014, the number of new cases seems to be stabilizing according to last year’s data. In addition, progress is being made in disposing of old cases.
Concerning the work of the UN Appeals Tribunal, we note the increasing number of new cases received this year, while the number of cases closed remains at the same level.
Concerning the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services, we note that revised terms of reference were issued as the Secretary-General`s bulletin ST/SB/2016/7. We commend the progress made in the implementation of recommendations to address systemic and cross-cutting issues, in particular preventive policies aimed at strengthening a healthy and conflict-free culture of work across the UN system.
We thank the Secretary-General for the responses provided in his latest report to the requests addressed in General Assembly resolution 70/112. We take note of measurable administrative implications for the timely disposal of cases, the ultimate disposition of appeals of orders, and costs saved, as a result of the amendments to Article 11(3) of the Statute of the Dispute Tribunal and to Article 7(5) of the Statute of the Appeals Tribunal. We are of the view that further monitoring should be maintained and results included in the next year`s report of the Secretary-General. We also take note of the proposal of a single code of conduct for all legal representatives and we see it as a living document to be improved or updated taking in to account lessons learned from the practice in order to contribute to a more professionalized system.
Allow me now to turn to the report of the Interim Independent Assessment Panel.
We appreciate the work and dedication of the members of the Panel in conducting this thorough assessment of the system of administration of justice at the UN that was introduced in 2009.
In general, we share the view of the members of the Panel and the Secretary-General that the current system to a great extent meets its objectives and it is an improvement over the previous system.
Nevertheless, we are aware that there is still room for further examination in order to make the system work better.
We take note of the numerous recommendations proposed in the report of the Panel and the comments contained in the related report of the Secretary-General. As we mentioned earlier in our statement, informal resolutions of disputes are crucial. We therefore welcome that recommendations 33 to 35 of the Panel are already being implemented or can be implemented without any delays or additional costs.
Regarding the legal protection of non-staff personnel, we continue to favour a differentiated system that provides an adequate, effective and appropriate remedy. Cost-efficient modalities in line with the broad preference for non-judicial mechanisms should be envisaged whenever possible; we would like to reaffirm that the Organization should always provide answers to non-staff personnel and where appropriate should not refrain from proposing possible remedies. We thank the Office of the Ombudsman for the information provided in paragraphs 21 and 22 of its report with regard to the number and nature of cases brought forward by non-staff personnel.
We commend the staff of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) to whom staff members turn for advice and whose counsel helps to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings, and ultimately a lot of unnecessary work and time. OSLA remains an important “filter” in the system. We strongly support OSLA continuing to represent staff in the proceedings before the Tribunals and we further encourage their activities across the whole spectrum of justice at the level of the UN.
We continue to encourage recourse to informal resolution of disputes; we believe that incorporating best practices and mainstreaming principled approaches deriving from the case law of the Tribunals will help with that. Moreover, transparency and accountability, coupled with legal certainty should in the long run decrease the number of cases.
I thank you Mr. Chairman.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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