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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
on Agenda Item 128: The Administration of Justice at the United Nations at the Resumed Session of the Sixth Committee, 61 st General Assembly, Tuesday, 13 March 2007
Second Secretary, Philippine Mission to the United Nations
Ms. Emma R. Sarne
My delegation welcomes the comprehensive report of the Redesign Panel on the UN Administration of Justice System. The mandate given to the Panel by General Assembly Resolution 59/283 was broad and far-reaching, giving the Panel enough opportunity and challenges to consider creative, effective and efficient, and alternative systems for dispute resolution and implementing and enforcing accountability.
My delegation also welcomes the Report of the Secretary General on this issue and supports the reforms and changes he has proposed after due consideration of the Panel’s Report and upon consultation with the Staff-Management Coordination Committee (SMCC). The consultations with the SMCC provide a wider, deeper and better understanding of the Panel’s report and situate the recommendations to the peculiar environment in which it was redesigned to operate.
On the scope of the proposed justice system, my delegation supports the Secretary General’s stand that persons performing work related to or in conjunction with the supply of goods or services extending beyond their own personal service or pursuant to a contract entered into with a supplier, contractor or consulting firm should not be considered to be within the purview of the justice system as these personnel are governed by the rules of their own contract. Military and police personnel in peacekeeping operations are also governed by their own national or organizational rules of conduct, and thus should be outside of the scope of the proposed system. Let me just add that these national or organizational rules of conduct should also be supplemented, accordingly, by the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) currently being considered between the United Nations and the troop- contributing countries which addresses the issues of sexual exploitation and abuse in a clear and transparent manner.
The importance of informal justice systems could not be downplayed. It is a form of moral governance, a reflection of moral order in the workplace. We recognize that an effective and timely mechanism for informal dispute resolution will promote more social cohesion in the workplace and avoid unnecessary and often costly litigation. In this regard, we support the establishment of a single integrated office of the Ombudsman, with regional Ombudsmen appointed to duty stations that reflect an equitable geographic access as well as to certain peacekeeping missions. The success of the proposed informal justice system is linked with the reforms envisioned in the formal justice system. On this aspect, my delegation also supports the Secretary General’s recommendation to create a first-instance tribunal, the UN Dispute Tribunal(UNDT) that can issue binding decisions, which can be appealed to an appellate body, the UN Appeals Tribunal(UNAT). Further, we concur with the Secretary General’s recommendation that the cases taken up by the UNDT be reviewed by a panel of three judges, to reflect the multicultural nature of the UN, as well as to foster perceptions of justice, impartiality, fairness, and transparency.
Central to the reform process of the internal justice system in the UN is the issue of the system’s jurisdiction over parties and issues and the ability to make binding decisions and order remedies. In this regard, we welcome the Secretary General’s recommendation to establish an Intersessional Working Group (IWG) to discuss and work on issues relating to disciplinary proceedings and for it to report to the General Assembly on its proposals; and express our concurrence with the Secretary General’s recommendation that exemplary and punitive damages should not be awarded insofar as these will be improperly culled from public funds. My delegation believes that existing mechanisms for enforcing financial accountability should be further re-examined or reviewed.
And, finally, my delegation agrees that these proposed reforms entail costs that are both financial and non-financial in nature. Structural reforms should be followed by procedural reforms and amendments to existing rules and regulations that fully reflect the impartiality, fairness, and transparency of the system. Education and training are thus necessary to ensure trust and confidence in the new system.
There has been much debate on what should constitute an internal administrative justice system of an organization. What should be within the purview of an administrative justice system has invariably integrated broad elements of public interest, administrative decision-making, processes that are characterized by fairness, impartiality, transparency, and independence, remedies, and even informal legal institutions that encompass whole end-to-end process, from first to final decision. There have been several instances when changes, intended to rectify perceived unfairness and partiality, in the internal justice system of the United Nations have been carried out. To put things in perspective, these changes or amendments to the existing staff rules and regulations have been little more than palliative attempts to overhaul a justice system which needed re-engineering to remove any loopholes which could contribute to inefficiency, mistrust and partiality. At this stage of its life, the UN has no other choice but to make these changes in its administration of justice system. As an institution that promotes the protection of human rights, encourages good governance, transparency, and accountability and sets norms and standards for the rule of law, it must do the same for its own people, by promoting and implementing the very same principles it advocates. The rule of law is a cornerstone of this institution, and an internal justice system that is and is perceived to be independent, transparent, impartial and fair is fundamental to the rule of law and to the effective protection of individual rights and freedoms. Initiatives at changing or rectifying legal and justice systems must not be piecemeal; rather these should be coherent, coordinated, and integrated with a broader strategy for reform and implemented through broad consultation with all stakeholders. Reform, in this context, which is owned by the management and staff of the UN, can lead to changes or transformation in behavior, strengthening of trust and confidence, and the building and promotion of accountability.