63th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sixth Committee
Speech delivered by Mr. Hubert Renié, First Counsellor, Legal Advisor
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.
The creation of a new administration of justice system at the United Nations is a crucial reform for the Organization and its personnel. The European Union has made this new system one of its top priorities. It is indeed necessary that the UN, whose initiatives are decisive when drafting, promoting and developing international standards in the field of human rights and rule of law, should have a judicial system worthy of the name.
Based on the outline of Resolution 62/228, the new system must be well suited to administer justice quickly, effectively and fairly. To accomplish this, it must be independent, transparent, professional, decentralized and adequately funded. It must also comply with international law, as well as the principles of rule of law and fair trial, including the right to an effective remedy, equal access to justice and the right to be heard.
It is the Sixth Committee’s responsibility to ensure that these criteria are met. This Committee is responsible for determining the legal aspects needed to set up the system through drafting the statutes from the United Nations Dispute and Appeals Tribunals. In this regard, a significant amount of work has been accomplished thanks to the Coordinator of intersessional informal consultations, Mr. Thomas Fitschen. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Administration of Justice took note of the Coordinator’s oral report at its meeting on 5 August. This document, which reflects the status of the discussions on the statuary provisions , shall be the basis for the ongoing work of the present session. There is much common ground, and the remaining difficulties have been clearly identified.
It is crucial that both the Fifth and Sixth Committee work together to consider the new system, which involves substantive reform of the UN’s administrative structure and has a significant budgetary impact.. Transitional measures will need to be taken to ensure the continuity of the legal work during the transition from the current United Nations Administrative Tribunal (UNAT) to the two new tribunals. The Sixth Committee can issue an opinion as to the possible options in this regard, but the General Assembly’s decision will be contingent upon the Fifth Committee’s stance based on the Secretary-General’s report (document A/62/782 of 3 April 2008) and on remarks and recommendations of the ACABQ (document A/62/7/Add. 39 of 25 June 2008). More generally, it is necessary for the Fifth Committee to have clear recommendations from our Committee on the tribunals’ statuary provisions as promptly as possible following the commencement of its work on the administration of justice in late October. Therefore, I cannot overemphasize the complementary nature of the work of the two Committee and how vital it is that our negotiations produce tangible results.
The Sixth Committee should principally seek consensus on the essential issues comprising the scope of the new tribunals and the collegiality of trial benches. These are issues on which the European Union holds clearly stated positions, which we will assert during the discussions However, in principle, we do not rule out leaving certain issues regarding the status of the members of UN personnel falling outside the ambit of the statutes open for further discussion. In this regard we reiterate the two-step approach proposed by the EU last April : as a first step, the priority for discussion should be to focus on establishing a new internal justice system that would, as a minimum, cover the individuals who have access to the current system of administration of justice. As a further step, we should also seek to make sure that the United Nations, as an exemplary employer, complies with its duty to ensure that effective remedies are available to all other categories of UN personnel and consider what types of recourse would be the most appropriate to this end.
Beyond the formal system, some key points should also be addressed, including strengthening legal assistance for staff and improving informal procedures to dispense with needless litigation and thus settle disputes by mutual agreement.
We remain determined to meet the goal set in Resolution 61/261 and recalled in Resolution 62/228 to implement this new system on 1 January 2009, a goal we would like to be shared by all delegations.
We are aware of the historical significance of this new system of administration of justice for the United Nations. This upgraded system, which is designed to deal with 21st century issues, will allow the UN to fulfil its missions in the most efficient way possible, while looking after the rights of its staff.