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Experts call for overhaul of UNs internal justice system

Aiming to deal with a variety of problems plaguing the mechanisms at the United Nations for redressing staff grievances and dealing with misconduct, an independent panel of experts today issued a series of recommendations for overhauling the world body’s system of internal justice.The report was requested by the General Assembly after the Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a landmark reform report pointed to the need for change, saying the internal justice system “is slow and cumbersome, and fails to strike the necessary balance between effective managerial control and staff members’ right to due process.”The Redesign Panel, as the experts are known, said the current system is not efficient, effective, independent or well-resourced and said a “fundamental overhaul” is needed for managerial reform at the UN to succeed.Wide-ranging interviews held worldwide with a variety of countries, staff members, staff unions, managers and others revealed agreement on this point.“Rather than introducing minor changes to the actual, current system, a major overhaul should be decided and implemented by the Organization,” panel member Diego Garcia-Sayan of Peru told reporters at a press conference in New York.The Panel report, which is headed to the UN General Assembly, puts forward a series of recommendations, including strengthening informal systems of justice, merging the different ombudsman offices that exist within the UN system, and making greater use of a new structure that includes them all. “This will prevent a lot of conflicts from developing to the point where they enter the formal system, so that they can be settled and solved early, when they emerge,” explained Mr. Garcia-Sayan.The current appeals system “doesn’t work,” he said, calling it “too costly, too cumbersome in its procedures, [with] too many people involved.” These bodies should be abolished and replaced with a two-tier system made up of a dispute tribunal based in several parts of the world and an appeals tribunal.“All this would mean simplification of procedures, a streamlining of resources that are today spread all around different bodies and organizations.”Kingsley Moghalu of Nigeria, another panel member, said the experts had found that staff members in the field had “no clue” about their rights about internal justice: “A lot of frustrations, but nobody knows where to go, what to do.” The new United Nations dispute tribunal would be based not only in New York, Geneva and Vienna but in other duty stations, such as in Nairobi, Santiago and Bangkok.The new system, if adequately resourced, will offer redress to staff grievances and deal with staff or managerial misconduct far more quickly and effectively than the system currently in place, the experts said. As such, they said in a news release, it will be significantly more cost-effective than the present system, “which is costly, in terms of time, staff dissatisfaction and the reputation of the Organization.”In addition to Mr. Garcia-Sayan and Mr. Moghalu, the other independent experts serving on the panel are Mary Gaudron of Australia, Louise Otis of Canada and Ahmed El-Kosheri of Egypt. read more