Latest updates on the Review of the Jurisdictional set up of the UN Common System

The Report on the initial review of the jurisdictional setup of the UN common system has been issued as document A/75/690

Next steps: 

  • The General Assembly is requested to take note of the present report and to provide any observations or guidance to the Secretary-General on the further development of any of the options presented.
  • Staff Representatives are requested to take note of the report, and flag any issues or points of concern to FICSA, and at the same time to their own Organization's legal focal point for the review.
  • Review FICSA Communication 01/21 on this topic.
  • We have also been informed that a public website is being developed in the near future to ensure that there is full transparency with regard to this process.

All background documents related to the jurisdictional review are available in the Members Area of the FICSA Website (to navigate there, go to Members Area -> Document Library -> FICSA Database -> Review of Jurisdiction: https://ficsa.org/members-area/documentlibrary/documents.html?group=271 ).

Why a Review of the Jurisdictional set up of the UN Common System?

On December 27, 2019, at the 52nd plenary meeting of its 74th session, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolutions 74/255A and 74/255B under the agenda item “United Nations Common System.” In Resolution 74/255, paragraph 8, the General Assembly “notes with concern that the organizations of the United Nations common system face the challenge of having two independent administrative tribunals with concurrent jurisdiction among the organizations of the common system […].”

Who is in charge of the review and how is it being carried out?

The Secretary-General, in his capacity as Chair of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), is to conduct a review of the jurisdictional setup of the common system. The review will include a survey of the jurisprudence of both tribunals on ICSC decisions as well as options for promoting consistency in the implementation of ICSC decisions in the context of two independent Tribunal systems. Designated Focal Points would be responsible for coordinating the inputs of organizations or specialized agencies.

The review is to be submitted to the General Assembly Secretariat in December 2020, pursuant to the following timeline:

  • Source documents used in the review will be shared in September.
  • In early October, a first draft will be distributed through designated Focal Points in each entity for input within three weeks.
  • In mid-October, a meeting of the Legal Advisers Network would convene to discuss the first draft.
  • In mid-November, a second draft of the report would be circulated for input within two weeks.
  • In mid-December, the final draft will be sent for processing in order to be ready for the General Assembly.

What role for FICSA in the review?

In late August, the Presidents of FICSA and the two sister federations requested a meeting with the UN Under-Secretary-General to obtain further information about the review as well as clarification about how staff interests would be protected. FICSA and its sister federations requested full transparency in the review process and assurances that staff voices would be included at every possible step.

On 1 October 2020, in its Communication 64/20, FICSA provided all of its members an overview of the review process, as well as relevant timelines and source documents;

On 9 October 2020, in its Communication 68/20, FICSA announced to its members for their information and comments the availability of the First Draft Review of the jurisdictional setup of the UN common system in the Member’s Area of the FICSA website (https://ficsa.org/members-area.html). The availability of the first draft for comment by all members ensured meaningful consultation of all staff members. FICSA received comments on the first draft until 26 October 2020.

What inputs did FICSA provide so far?

On 29 October 2020, FICSA’s comments on the First Draft Review were sent to the UN Principle Legal Officer. Notably, in its reply to specific proposals, FICSA rejects the establishment of a single administrative tribunal, the establishment of a single appellate mechanism for the UN common system, and recourse to the International Court of Justice. FICSA deems these proposals as not being narrowly tailored to reach the review’s objective of promoting “consistency in the implementation of ICSC decisions and recommendations in the context of the two independent Tribunal systems.” FICSA further reserves comments on the establishment of a Joint ILOAT-UNAT Chamber as the proposal is too general for FICSA to understand the implications forstaff members. FICSA furthermore reserves the right to put forward other options for consideration in the coming weeks and in the second draft.

On the second round of comments just before the end of the year holiday in 2020, FICSA reiterated its position there was no evidence presented that would merit the introduction of reforms to the two justice systems and therefore repeated the recommendation that the status quo be safeguarded. In addition, FICSA noted concern about perceived “forum shopping” by organizations and suggested that a possible next step could be for the issue to be examined under the auspices of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) which should include all stakeholders, including the staff federations.