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Centre of Excellence

The (dis)advantageous relationship between International Organisations and their host countries: the Austrian experience

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL, International Administrative Law, International Organisations | No Comments

 

The relationship between International Organisations (IOs) and their host countries creates some interesting legal and political issues which do not always sit happily together: on the one hand, IOs have broad autonomy and enjoy a remarkable number of privileges and immunities (which are generally a grey area for the host country’s authorities) yet, on the other hand, the IOs are an important resource for the host country in terms of economy and visibility.

In considering this relationship, the Latin expression “do ut des”, which means “give and receive” or, perhaps more accurately, “give to receive” is particularly relevant to the subject matter. In fact, in principle, hosting international organisations is convenient and “remunerative” but it implies the loss of sovereignty of the host country in some fields (e.g. see the extraterritoriality of the international premises) and the conferment of a number of privileges and immunities to the international organisations (inter alia, the immunity from national courts).

Privileges are exemptions from the otherwise applicable substantive law of a state, while immunities are usually regarded as exemptions from the administrative, adjudicatory, or executive powers of a state[1]. Typical privileges of IOs are partial exemptions from some areas of domestic law (such as taxes, customs, foreign exchange controls, immigration), the most common of which is the exemption from the obligation to pay any direct taxes for the IO itself and its employees (while for indirect taxes, reimbursement schemes are frequently agreed)[2]. However, the most important and significant immunity enjoyed by the IOs is that from legal suit, the so-called “jurisdictional immunity”, which can raise different interpretations but the existence of which is not controversial. What is controversial is its scope, i.e., whether it is absolute, restrictive or functional. Most treaties or agreements usually confer a functional immunity, which is not a crystal clear concept, especially for the national authorities that have to face the grey area of IOs’ immunities. It seems that, in practice, the concept of functional immunity frequently leads to a de facto absolute immunity[3].

While financial privileges’ disputes are mainly settled on a diplomatic level, the jurisdictional immunities have generated the most extensive case law in domestic court decisions, which provide “examples for judicial dialogues or conversations crossing national jurisdictional borders”[4]. National courts adopted different approaches to the jurisdictional immunity of IOs also in consideration of the legal system in place, i.e. common or civil law system, the first relying on precedent decisions, the latter on a “constant jurisprudence” that stems from codified legal sources. However, the common denominator is that national courts, in deciding whether to grant the jurisdictional immunity, rely on the availability of alternative dispute settlement methods. With the 1999 Waite and Kennedy v. Germany judgment of the ECtHR, the obligation for IOs to provide an alternative access to justice (namely, an effective internal justice system, comparable to the national one) has been directly linked to the awarding or not of the immunity from the national process. By way of a concrete example, if a national court can be persuaded that the existing mechanism within an IO is insufficient to afford the staff member proper protections of his or her employment rights, it could waive the IO’s immunity in the specific case and proceed to a judicial review of its internal justice system, with consequences on the immunities.

Therefore, in order to enjoy the privileges and immunities there is a “contractual exchange” whereby international organisations must fulfil their side of the bargain, by providing staff member who are subject to those immunities with access to appropriate and sufficient systems of justice as they might expect in domestic jurisdictions[5]. The privileges and immunities of international organisations cannot be considered inalienable if they conflict with the fundamental rights and principles of the host country, of the European Union and fundamental and basic principles of human rights. In short, immunities from legal suit do not give the IOs carte blanche to do as they see fit: this point is all the more pertinent where tortious harm has been caused to the staff member at the hands of the defendant organisation and the functional immunities from legal suit do not extend to such circumstances. The same concept applies to the immunity from enforcement measures, regularly enjoyed by IOs. Even if a domestic court is allowed to rule against an IO, the judgment cannot be directly enforced due to the Organisation’s strong immunity shield from enforcement measures. However, in this case, domestic courts have applied the Waite and Kennedy doctrine where the claimant does not have a reasonable alternative mean of enforcement.

On the other hand, being an International Organisation’s member state is commonly considered beneficial for both state and society, therefore being a host state creates particular advantages. The Austrian government described the presence of IOs in Vienna as an important goal of its foreign policy because it positively affects the country’s reputation and influence in international relations and has positive effects on the local economy.[6] Thus, Austria and the other countries hosting IOs have an interest in the smooth functioning of the Organisations present on their territory and in their freedom from unilateral interference, which generally originates from provisions in treaties and domestic legislation on IOs legal personality and their privileges and immunities. In this regard, it should be noted that Austria occasionally extends privileges and immunities to events related to IOs (such as seminars or meeting) or grants them to international entities whose status as IOs is uncertain such as, the OSCE, which is more a political organisation rather than an international humanitarian one and the CTBTO, which is a treaty signed and ratified by many countries but which cannot enter into force and become binding until all the nuclear technology holder countries sign and ratify it.  However, Austria, throughout the years showed a balanced approach towards IOs’ immunities when those immunities negatively affected third parties’ rights, in particular their right of access to justice. In fact, in Austria the ECHR (see, in particular, article 6) enjoys constitutional rank (like in most civil law European legislations) and the access to justice is part of the treaty law such as, for example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR 1966, in particular, article 4); in addition, it is considered a norm of customary international law, thus binding both IOs and States[7].

During the Cold War, Austria served as platform for international dialogue, due to its geopolitical position and its neutral status. This role of “international hub” was strengthened by the opening in 1979 of the Vienna International Centre (VIC), also called UNO City. Since then, Vienna is seat of the United Nations (UN), together with New York, Geneva and Nairobi. The idea of the VIC born in 1966, when the Government of Austria made an offer to the United Nations to construct in Vienna an International Centre to be used by organisations belonging to the United Nations system. In 1967, the Government of Austria and the city of Vienna jointly decided to assign an area on the left bank of the Danube as the site of the centre and in 1968 organised an international competition for the design of the buildings, which attracted the interest of architects worldwide and was in the end won by the Austrian Johann Staber. The Government of Austria (65%) and the city of Vienna (35%) shared the VIC construction costs (approximately 640 million Euros)[8]. The construction site began in 1972 and the VIC complex, which covers an area of 180,000 m² and has extraterritorial status, was inaugurated on 23rd August 1979. Separate agreements were signed by Austria and, respectively, IAEA and the United Nations (on behalf of UNIDO and the other United Nations entities in Vienna) on 28 September 1979. The Government of Austria handed over the VIC complex to the United Nations and IAEA for the symbolic rental sum of one Austrian schilling (equivalent to 0.07 euro today) a year for 99 years[9].

Over the years, the presence of international entities in Austria grew exponentially and it is now quite impressive: more than 40 IOs, financial institutions, diplomatic representations, NGOs and Quasi-NGOs are present on the Austrian territory and constitute an important economic factor, too. They employ more than 6000 employees, out of which about a quarter are Austrian citizens. According to a recent study by Ernst & Young, the sector spends about 725 million Euros per year, which result in a macroeconomic demand effect of about 1.4 billion Euros and thus contributes to GDP growth and Austria’s prosperity. In the long-term, all indicators demonstrate the economic benefit of the sector, in particular, conference activities increased by one third in the period 2010 – 2014[10]. In this regard, for example, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, successfully completed in Vienna in July 2015, and the “Syria talks” held since autumn 2015, generated a publicity value equivalent to 100 million Euros.

Further to encourage the settlement of International Organisations, Austria incentives also Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to choose it as their seat. In fact, upon request of an organisation, the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs may grant the legal status of Non-Governmental Organisation by decree, on the legal basis of the Federal Law on the Granting of Privileges to Non-Governmental International Organisations. NGOs not only are an important expression of the civil society, they also enrich the thematic work of International Organisations. In relation to this, since 2016, NGOs have the possibility to apply for recognition as Quasi-International Organisations upon the fulfilment of certain requirements: the organisation must have non-profit character, its structure has to be similar to that of an IO, it must have permanent staff and an appropriately equipped office in Austria; in addition, its work must be related to the mandate of an established IO.  On the other hand, the legal status of Quasi-International Organisation implies certain tax exemptions. A recent example of an organisation, which has been awarded the status of Quasi-International Organisation and that chose Vienna as its seat, is the “Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All)”. It started its activities in summer 2013 and established its permanent headquarters in Vienna in 2015. SE4All is headed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for “Sustainable Energy for All” and therefore fulfils all the above-mentioned requirements[11].

Overall the relationship between IOs, NGOs and Austria can be described as extremely positive and fruitful for both parties. However, the other side of the medal is that the host country tends to avoid conflicts on the privileges and immunities granted to the IOs and on the “grey area” constituted by the jurisdictional immunity. Therefore, there is still room for a more regulated and transparent cooperation between the IOs and the national authorities in order to grant the IOs’ employees and, in general, the third parties involved in disputes with IOs, the full respect of their civil fundamental rights.

 

Ludovica Moro

ludovicamoro@brettonwoodslaw.com

 

[1] A. Reinisch, International Organisations Before National Courts.

[2] A. Reinisch, The Privileges and Immunities of International Organisations in Domestic Courts.

[3] See supra note 2.

[4] See supra note 2.

[5] This is a well-established principle also in the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. A commentary on the Convention by Professor August Reinisch states: “The de facto “absolute” immunity of the United Nations is mitigated by the fact that article VIII, section 29, of the Convention requires the United Nations to “make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement of: (a) disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of a private law character to which the United Nations is a party”. The General Convention’s obligation to provide for alternative dispute settlement in case of the Organisation’s immunity from legal process can be regarded as an acknowledgment of the right of access to court as contained in all major human rights instruments.” (http://www.un.org/law/avl/ )

[6] A. Reinisch, The Privileges and Immunities of International Organisations in Domestic Courts.

[7] See supra note 6.

[8] Source: United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV) website.

[9] See supra note 8

[10] Source: Austrian governmental website – www.bmeia.gv.at

[11] See supra note 10

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Bretton Woods Law’s unique Global Approach to an International Practice

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, IAL, IAL Seminars, International Administrative Law, Multilateral Development Banks, News | No Comments

Law firms and barristers chambers often claim that they practise throughout the world and describe their work as international; but what does it mean to have a truly international practice? For the lawyers at Bretton Woods Law, an international practice means exactly that: practising in different countries, in different languages, with people of different nationalities and cultures, and within different international organisations. Since its birth in spring 2012, BWL has set itself apart from other law firms and barristers chambers by living up to its ever growing reputation as an established team of preeminent international law specialists with a truly global reach. BWL’s international practice manifests itself in the following ways:

 

1. International anti-corruption practice: investigations into alleged sanctionable practices in development projects worldwide

In the last 18 months, the lawyers at BWL have undertaken investigations into World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded projects carried out in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Ukraine, Kosovo and Sri Lanka. They have worked directly with the World Bank’s Integrity Vice-Presidency (INT) and the ADB’s Office of Anticorruption and Integrity (OAI), and have established themselves as experts in this specialist field. Members of Bretton Woods Law are also currently instructed by the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Integrity and Anti-corruption Department (IACD) and have workings with the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General.

 

2. International organisations and their internal justice systems

The lawyers at BWL currently operate in seventeen international organisations, based in nine countries and spread over four continents. Their work is varied and they currently act for:

  • the staff associations, councils and unions of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the European Patent Office (EPO);
  • individual international civil servants and board members at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC) the Commonwealth Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the EBRD, the IDB, the PAHO, the EPO and the ADB; and
  • the Commonwealth Secretariat (in relation to cases arising out of grievances within its own internal justice system).

Beyond assistance and representation in the disciplinary boards and the first-tier tribunals such as the Conciliations Committees, the Grievance Committees and the Joint Appeal Boards, the lawyers at BWL also represent clients in the IDB Administrative Tribunal in Washington DC, the EBRD Administrative Tribunal in London, the ADB Administrative Tribunal in Manila and the International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT) in Geneva.

 

3. International Alternative Dispute Resolution

Beyond traditional litigation and advocacy within international organisations’ internal justice systems, the lawyers at BWL are experts in international Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and currently represent the Uruguayan, Guyanese, Brazilian, Guatemalan, Bolivian, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Paraguayan, Panamean, Costa Rican and Argentinian Country Offices of a large international organisation in formal mediation proceedings. BWL also has experience of mediations arising out of employment disputes within the EBRD and the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. Through its International Alternative Dispute Resolution Services (iADRs), BWL’s dedicated team ensures it offers known experts in International Organisations Law who are CEDR trained and accredited mediators who have the ability to broker settlement agreements in the most difficult and challenging of circumstances.

 

4. Multilingual lawyers and offices worldwide

Boasting seven specialist lawyers of four different nationalities and diverse backgrounds, who between them practise (written and spoken) in English, French, Spanish and German, BWL has representative offices in all the important seats of international organisations worldwide: London, Geneva, New York City, Washington DC, Tunis and Manila. Members of Chambers have lived and practised in the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States of America, Tunisia, France, Switzerland, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Belize, Cyprus, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Netherlands, Australia and the Gaza strip.

By travelling around the globe representing International Civil Servants who face intricate employment issues, the BWL team faces varying approaches, languages and cultures on a daily basis, all of which they takes in their stride. This innate empathy with different nationalities enables them to represent their clients against large international organisations with a very human approach. The same can be said for their work alongside companies who have been accused of fraud, corruption and bribery on projects funded by multilateral development banks (MDBs). Their ability to carry out investigations and research involves dealing with clients, including international organisations and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), from around the world, and their cultural sensitivity and international experience is highly advantageous and benefits clients and colleagues alike.

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The First Conference of the BWL International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence

By | Centre of Excellence, IAL, International Administrative Law, London, News | No Comments

Around fifty professionals working in the area of International Administrative Law congregated for the inaugural BWL Centre of Excellence Conference in the heart of London between the 17-18 October to hear and discuss a wide variety of presentations on the current legal issues facing international civil servants.

Delegates attended from around the globe to be updated and debate issues such as delay, human rights, immunity from suit, equality of arms, conflicts of interests and many other current big issues facing international civil servants.

Present at the conference were representatives and members of Staff Associations and Unions, managers and lawyers working for International Organisations, judicial representatives, academics and external legal practitioners specialized in the field of International Administrative Law.

Many of those attending joined the various committees that will now commence working to improve the quality and accessibility of International Administrative Law together with the sharing of best practices that currently exist within the many International Organisations.

The International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence is a registered community interest company established with a mandate to improve the state of International Administrative Law.

Following the success of this first assembly a second conference will be held in the autumn of 2014 in London.

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The Reform of the UN System of Administration of Justice – the UNRWA example

By | Centre of Excellence, IAL, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

The Reform of the United Nations Administration of Justice System (“UNAJS”), which came into effect on 1st July 2009, was long overdue and has brought with it some significant improvements.  Certain aspects however, long petitioned by staff associations, IAL practioners and academics, and recommended by the Redesign Panel on the UNSAJ, have not yet been achieved.

In its Resolution 61/261 of 4th April 2007, the General Assembly criticised the UNAJS by stating that is was “slow, cumbersome, ineffective and lacking in professionalism, and that the current system of administrative review is flawed”. It decided “to establish a new, independent, transparent, professionalized, adequately resourced and decentralized system of administration of justice consistent with the relevant rules of international law and the principles of the rule of law and due process to ensure respect for the rights and obligations of staff members and the accountability of managers and staff members alike”.

The overhaul of the administration of justice system was especially important for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (“UNRWA”).  Over the years, many cases were brought within its justice system by its employees, including a significant number of cases brought before the former UN Administrative Tribunal in New York (“old UNAT”).  The large volume of cases within UNRWA’s internal justice system is hardly surprising considering that UNRWA employs over 29,000 local staff, and nearly 120 international staff members.

The structure of the previous formal justice system within the UN, including UNRWA, provided for a one-tier system.  The main bodies in which the formal processes of the internal justice system were initiated (the Joint Appeals Board and the Joint Disciplinary Committee), conducted peer reviews which made recommendations on the dispute; these were then submitted to the UN’s Secretary-General (or the Commissioner-General in the case of UNRWA) who made the final decision. This decision could then be challenged by the staff member before the old UNAT.

In line with the UN’s new two-tier system of administration of justice and in agreement with the UN Secretary-General, UNRWA established its own first instance Dispute Tribunal, the UNRWADT in Amman, effective from 1st June 2010. A Special Agreement dated 11th December 2009 was concluded between the UN and UNRWA’s Commissioner-General by which UNRWA accepted the terms of the jurisdiction of the new UNAT.

As a transitional measure, appeals by UNRWA staff members following a Joint Appeals Board report were receivable by the UNAT if the final decision on the appeal was taken by the Commissioner General on or after 1 July 2009.  The UNRWADT, through a single judge, has so far rendered 92 judgments in nearly three years which is a significant number. 44 applications were dismissed on receivability grounds, 39 applications were dismissed on the merits, two judgments were interpreted, one judgment was on remedies, five applications were successful and one was partially successful.

In an attempt to rebalance the inequality of arms between international organisations and their employees, the General Assembly in its resolution 63/253, decided that professional legal staff in the Office of Staff Legal Assistance shall assist staff members in processing claims through the formal system of administration of justice. In this respect, UNRWA has created the position of Legal Officer, based at UNRWA’s HQ in Amman, who advises staff on employment matters and who may assist in preparing staff submissions to the Agency, the UNRWADT and the UNAT. It remains to be seen how effective this assistance can be considering the vast number of UNRWA’s local staff.

Compared to the International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal (“ILOAT”), the potential remedies before the UNDT and UNAT are few in number.   Although the Tribunals have the power to order rescission of the contested decision and specific performance, in cases where the contested administrative decision concerns appointment, promotion or termination, the Tribunal must indicate the amount of compensation that “the respondent may elect to pay as an alternative to the rescission of the contested decision or specific performance ordered” (Article 9 of the UN Appeals Tribunal’s Statute). In practice, the Secretary-General almost always opts for compensation instead of changing the wrongful decision.  In contrast to this, the ILOAT decides itself whether or not rescission or specific performance is possible, and if not it awards compensation. The UNAT judged this to be “a glaring example of injustice and discrimination between the two categories of staff members working under the United Nations system”.  This situation is particularly problematic in the case of UNRWA’s local staff, given the employment opportunities, or lack thereof, for many Palestinian Refugees.

Staff associations play an important role in protecting the interests of staff members of international organisations. The Redesign Panel recommended that because staff members are sometimes reluctant to enter the formal justice system for fear of reprisal, Staff Associations should have the right to bring actions independently to enforce the Staff Rules and Regulations.  This recommendation has not yet been taken up and Staff Associations only have a right to submit a “friend of the court” brief (Article 17 of the UN Appeals Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure).

It remains to be seen how efficient the new UN internal justice system will be for UN and UNRWA staff members.  At Bretton Woods Law, we will continue fighting to improve this system in the context of the Bretton Woods Law International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence.

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The Application of Human Rights to International Organisations: Do Employees of International Organisations Enjoy the Right to a Fair Hearing of their Employment Disputes?

By | Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Human Rights, IAL, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

International organisations are products of international law, as they are invariably created by means of multilateral treaties.  It is therefore not surprising that the International Court of Justice (“ICJ” or “World Court”) has made it quite clear on several occasions that international organisations “are bound by any obligations incumbent upon them under general rules of international law” (Advisory Opinion on the Interpretation of the Agreement of March 25th, 1951 between WHO and Egypt [1980] I.C.J. Reps at 89-90.  See also the Reparation for Injuries Case [1949] I.C.J. Reps 174 at 179: an international organisation is “a subject of international law and capable of possessing international rights and duties”).

It is now generally accepted that international organisations, as international persons, are bound by the customary rules of international law, including the customary aspects of international human rights law.  By way of example, Sands and Klein, editing Bowett’s Law of International Institutions, take the view at page 456 that:

“notwithstanding the fact that an international organisation is not a party to, say, a human rights treaty …if the rule contained in an agreement is reflected in customary international law then it can, as such, bind an international organisation.  It has been suggested, for example, that the World Bank is not subject to general international norms for the protection of fundamental human rights.  In our view that conclusion is without merit, on legal or policy grounds.”

The right to a fair and, indeed, a public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of rights and obligations is now undoubtedly a general rule of international law; it is a ‘fundamental human right’ that finds its origins in article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“the Declaration”).  Building upon the Declaration, which was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10th December 1948, the states of Europe sought in 1950 to enforce certain Declaration rights by agreeing the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).  Article 6(1) of the ECHR provides that in the determination of civil rights and obligations “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

The geographical limitation of the ECHR was to a certain extent addressed and remedied by the United Nations opening for state signature on 19th December 1966 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), which came into force on 23rd March 1976.  In conformity with article 10 of the Declaration and article 6 of the ECHR, article 14(1) of the ICCPR states that in the “determination … of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”  Similar provisions can be found in other international human rights treaties, such as article 8 of the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights and articles 10 and 20 of the 2012 ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

Most, if not all international organisations enjoy as a matter of law some form of immunity from legal suit in their respective member states.  This means that international civil servants, as the employees of international organisations, are prevented from pursing employment related complaints in national employment courts and tribunals.  In order to maintain their immunity from suit, international organisations are thus obliged to provide their employees with a forum in which they can litigate their disputes and, as such, international organisations have over the years developed and implemented various forms of internal justice mechanisms.  But merely providing an international civil servant with a mechanism by which his or her case can be heard is insufficient, as international law, as is clearly demonstrated above, requires that the hearing must be public and above all fair, which means that the mechanism must offer all the guarantees inherent in the notion of due process.  The consequences for an international organisation of failing to provide for a fair internal system of justice is that it risks losing its immunity and therefore risks being sued successfully in national courts.  In Waite and Kennedy [1999] 116 ILR 121, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”), dealing with a case concerning the European Space Agency, made plain that “a material factor in determining whether granting […] immunity from […] jurisdiction is permissible is whether the applicants had available to them reasonable alternative means to protect effectively their rights under the [ECHR].”

The right to the enjoyment and protection of human rights is not lost merely because an individual decides to work for an international organisation.  Human rights ‘black-holes’ do not exist and they most certainly do not exist within organisations created and maintained by states.  So, in short, the answer to the question is yes, international civil servants, as the employees of international organisations, have the right to have their employment complaints heard and heard fairly.

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Second Geneva International Administrative Law Seminar Focuses on the Fear of Retaliation

By | Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Bretton Woods Law’s second International Administrative Law seminar took place at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Geneva on Wednesday 27th April and, as ever, one topic on a full agenda really resonated with the attendees – the fear of retaliation.

It is apparent from seminar attendees that many international civil servants are reticent to file a case against their employers, as they are scared that their international organisation will engage in reprisal and retribution.

Bretton Woods Law stated that the best way to combat retaliation was to construct an anti-retaliation policy that contains a reverse burden of proof, which means that if an international civil servant files a case within the internal justice system operated by his or her employer and is then allegedly retaliated against, it is up to the international organisation, as the employer, to prove on a balance of probabilities that it has not engaged in such a practice.

Bretton Woods Law has the expertise and experience to draft such anti-retaliation policies, as well as all other related policies, such as whistleblower protection mechanisms, and have done so for a number of international organisations.  To discuss your own particular anti-retaliation requirements or any other international administrative law matter, contact your nearest Bretton Woods Law office.

For a detailed list of all the topics discussed at the second Geneva International Administrative Law seminar, please click here.

If you have been the victim of retaliation by an international organisation or any other form of unfair treatment, why not apply to join the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence, a ‘think-tank’ designed to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law. The Centre of Excellence provides amongst other things,  a neutral forum for discussion and debate for those individuals interested in developing International Administrative Law.

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Bretton Woods Law celebrates its first successful year based on experience in and knowledge of International Organisations Law

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, IAL, International Administrative Law, Multilateral Development Banks, News, Voluntary Disclosure Programme | No Comments

Bretton Woods Law today celebrates its first birthday, a year that has seen innumerable achievements in both the Multilateral Development Bank and International Administrative Law sectors, where it now dominates.

Multilateral Development Banks

Although Bretton Woods Law is one today, the experience of its lawyers spans decades and it is hardly surprising that in its first year its multilateral development bank practice has absolutely flourished.  Bretton Woods Law specialises primarily in assisting companies that have been accused or charged by the multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank Group, of having engaged in sanctionable practices (i.e., fraud, corruption, collusion or coercion) on bank funded projects.  Bretton Woods Law’s record in the past twelve months has been impressive and warrants mention: three complete immunity arrangements brokered, one caveated immunity arrangement obtained, five completed internal investigations undertaken and instructions to undertake seven more.  Moreover, advice has been given on entering a voluntary disclosure programme and a complete new integrity compliance program that meets and exceeds the World Bank’s Integrity Compliance Guidelines was designed, implemented and accepted as “gold standard” by the bank.  Not a bad achievement for the first year!

Bretton Woods Law has an in-depth understanding of the Voluntary Disclosure Programme established by the World Bank, the only Multilateral Development Bank to do so, and has spent its first year advising clients on such preventative measures.

To read more about Voluntary Disclosure Programmes and how Bretton Woods Law can be of assistance, please click here

International Administrative Law

As specialists in International Administrative Law, which is the employment law of the international organisations, Bretton Woods Law has spent the past year representing International Civil Servants around the globe that are or have been in dispute with their respective international organisations.  Their experience and knowledge of this particular area of law is second to none and has seen them undertake cases throughout the world, not only for Staff Associations and their membership, but also for the international organisations themselves.  Bretton Woods Law is currently working on international administrative law matters in the following international organisations:

International Administrative Law Seminars

Bretton Woods Law’s commitment to improving International Administrative Law has led them in their first year to hold three International Administrative Law seminars of their own (two in Geneva and one in Washington) and on top of this Bretton Woods Law lawyers were invited to participate in the UNSO-ICTY sponsored conference in The Hague.  The Geneva and Washington seminars were designed to enable Staff Associations and their members to get together and debate the hot topics associated with this law.  The seminars gave attendees a chance to share their experiences, good and bad, of international administrative law as well as benefiting from free advice and consultancy from International Administrative Law specialists.

Overview of our Washington seminar

Overview of our first Geneva seminar

Overview of our second Geneva seminar

International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence

It has been very clear for a long time that International Administrative Law was in desperate need of an independent body to assist in its global development and improvement and with this in mind Bretton Woods Law set up the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence.  This Centre of Excellence has been created to act as an effective ‘think tank’ from which new and thought provoking ideas and concepts will emerge, alongside promoting international best practices, to enhance and significantly improve the employment law of international organisations worldwide.  Through the work of its membership, the Centre’s mandate and purpose is to be an effective focal point, ensuring fairness and justice for all who work within international organisations.

The Centre of Excellence is open to anyone involved in International Administrative Law: legal practitioners, union representatives, mediators, ombudspersons and academics, in fact anyone who wants to become engaged in the evolution of the law.

To apply for membership click here

A Truly International Practice

When Bretton Woods Law opened its doors it had four full time lawyers working on multilateral development bank and international administrative law matters, with other lawyers on call, but the uptake on its services has been such that it has now been joined full time by two further international lawyers: Alex Haines from France and Antje Kunst from Germany.  The multilingual Bretton Woods Law team, speaking English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and led by Lee Marler and Neil Macaulay, is even more effective now than it was twelve months ago.

Moreover, when Bretton Woods Law opened for business, it was from the outset an international law practice, with offices in London, Geneva, New York and Washington DC. However, due to the quantity of work they are receiving from the Philippines, they have now opened an office in Manila.  This new office is a true testament to what Bretton Woods Law has achieved in its first year and more importantly what it hopes to achieve in its second.

 

For full contact details for Bretton Woods Law’s offices, please click here.

 

 

International Administrative Law

Bretton Woods Law International Administrative Law seminar at PAHO draws top international civil servants from the Americas

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

On 28th February, Bretton Woods Law held a seminar at the behest of PAHO (Pan-American Health Organisation) on International Administrative Law – the employment law of international civil servants. The seminar drew 50 attendees from around the Americas, including senior Staff Association members as well as doctors and other medical professionals.

The topics in the agenda were wide and varied and included: clarity of the law, confidentiality of proceedings and the role of lawyers for the organisation. However the point that seemed to cause the most debate was Staff Associations – their independence, the need for dues, industrial action & retaliation.

Some of those present expressed their fear of approaching Staff Associations to discuss their concerns and joining class actions for fear of retaliation and reprisal. There was also an in-depth discussion on the fact that even if employees win their case, they will not automatically be awarded their legal fees – which along with the fear of retaliation creates a strong barrier to some international civil servants taking their grievances to a tribunal.

It was of course agreed that the present situation is unfair and untenable, and change needed to happen, particularly a confidential forum where international civil servants could share their views and experiences without fear of reprisal and retaliation.

In view of these concerns, Bretton Woods Law was delighted to have the opportunity of inviting all attendees to apply for membership to the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence , a forum whose primary aim is to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law.

The Centre of Excellence has also been designed to create just what these international civil servants need  – a confidential arena in which they can, without fear, freely express their concerns and views. It is hoped that from these shared experiences, new and thought provoking ideas and concepts will emerge, which, together with promoting international best practices, will enhance and significantly improve the employment law of international organisations worldwide.

 

If you are an International Civil Servant, who wants to help change your employment law, apply today for membership to the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence.

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Equality of arms – a hot topic at first Geneva seminar

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, IAL, International, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

On 6th February, Bretton Woods Law held its first International Administrative Law seminar in Geneva. The seminar was attended by a number of senior Staff Association members in order to discuss a selection of the most important aspects of International Administrative Law facing international civil servants today.

One of the main topics that was debated was the thorny issue of ‘Equality of Arms’, and for those international civil servants who could not make the seminar, an overview of Bretton Wood Law’s thoughts on this particular subject can be found below.

Bretton Woods Law has also set up the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence, to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law. Apply for membership >

Equality of Arms

A ‘David v. Goliath’ situation prevails in most, if not all international organisations.  An employee who wishes to raise a complaint that his or her contract of employment has be contravened by the organisation that he or she works for (e.g., a secretary who claims to have been bullied or harassed by her boss), will normally have to face a human resources department that is advised by specialist lawyers from within the organisation’s legal department.  In some organisations, such as the multilateral development banks (e.g., the World Bank, EBRD etc.), whole teams of lawyers exist (known as institutional & administrative (“I&A”) law teams) whose primary function is to defend the organisation against employment related claims brought by staff members.  What is more, the organisation has if necessary the funds at hand to engage external lawyers to advise it and protect its interests.  In stark contrast, the employee does not have such legal resources at his or her disposal and may well not have the funds to engage a lawyer at all or only for a limited period of time.  The majority of internal justice systems operated by international organisations do not provide for any form of ‘legal aid’ nor do they operate a defence service under which lawyers are employed by the organisation to represent employees before the grievance committees and administrative tribunals that they operate (however, c.f., the United Nations Office of Staff Legal Assistance).  Moreover, the statutes and procedures that create the committees, boards and tribunals that form the internal justice systems of many international organisations either do not permit those bodies to award costs against the organisation and in favour of the employee or, if they do, those costs can only be awarded at the very end of a case, which may take years to finalise.  Indeed, it would appear to be a tactic of some lawyers within certain organisations that we have encountered to delay intentionally in order to put the injured international civil servant to unnecessary expense and thereby starve him or her out of the litigation process.  One case in which Bretton Woods Law lawyers are involved is now in its third year due to ‘stalling tactics’ on the part of the organisation.  Other cases are delayed by an organisation taking novel and ultimately unsuccessful jurisdictional arguments (on this point see O Elias’ The Development and Effectiveness of International Administrative Law (2012) at page 339).  In one international organisation in which we operate it can take up to fifteen years before a judgement is actually rendered by its administrative tribunal, which is astonishing as much as it is troubling.  Put bluntly, many international civil servants simply cannot afford to engage lawyers to assist them at all or for the time required in order to navigate the labyrinth of laws implemented by international organisations.  This disparity of wealth and the manner in which it is exploited by some international organisations causes an ‘inequality of arms’ between the litigants that can taint the legitimacy of the internal process and render it unfair.  The solution to this all too prevalent problem is of course obvious: the organisation that cloaks itself in an immunity from legal suit and thereby compels its employees to use its internal justice system should provide for a legal aid scheme of some description or, alternatively, arrange for legal insurance to be available to all of its employees, in the same way that it provides for medical insurance.

If you are an international civil servant and in need of specialist employment advice, contact your nearest office.

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Bretton Woods Law launches IAL Centre of Excellence

By | Administrative Law, Centre of Excellence, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Bretton Woods Law is proud to announce the launch of the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence, an exclusive members-only group whose main focus is to to assist in the global development and improvement of International Administrative Law. Click here for further details and to apply for your complimentary membership today