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Antje Kunst

An anti-corruption training course for staff working in peace operations in a post conflict environment

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As part of its Rule of Law services Bretton Woods Law offers an anti-corruption training course for staff working in peace operations in a post conflict environment.

Corruption can seriously hamper efforts to establish governance and restore rule of law in post-conflict countries. While some level of corruption is a common feature in many societies, it can have a devastating effect on a peace mission’s reform efforts in particular in the area of rule of law and can put the entire mission at risk.

Frequently host countries emerging from conflict have high or endemic corruption. Corruption is often both a cause and a consequence of conflict, and effectively addressing it is key for post-conflict state building and the re-establishment of the rule of law in which missions are involved.

Peace operations in post-conflict countries have rarely addressed corruption as a priority focusing instead on more pressing issues such as establishing peace and security. We believe one of the more serious risks in post-conflict which should be addressed is corruption, due to its negative effects on power distribution and longer-term stabilization and ultimately on a mission’s impact and its credibility in the host country.

The deployment of a mission involves major flows of resources and funds, very often without adequate accountability mechanisms, and those key resources are particularly susceptible to corruption and staff need to understand corruption risks within mission operations and arising from it.

A better knowledge and understanding by mission staff of corruption risks and anti-corruption in respect of the host country they support and the mission they work for is central to the success of peace operations.

The training course is offered at two levels, one is introductory providing participants a useful and essential overview of corruption risks and anti-corruption tools in a post-conflict context.  The intermediate level training course is designed for those working on host government support and in particular rule of law assistance with a special focus on the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

The trainers are experienced practitioners in anti-corruption, rule of law and post-conflict environments. They include the Head of BWL Rule of Law Team and BWL’s Lead Counsel Lee Marler who used to be the Director of Operations of the World Bank Group’s Anti-Corruption office and Chief of International Law of UNRWA, BWL’s Lead Counsel Neil Macaulay, a former Senior Prosecutor within the U.K. Revenue and Customs Prosecution office and Antje Kunst, Senior Counsel and former senior legal adviser with UN peace operations.

Curbing Illicit Financial Flows

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Curbing Illicit Financial Flows from the African continent/U.S.-Africa Summit

African states and the U.S. agreed at their recent summit to establish a high-level working group to address the losses suffered by the African continent from illicit financial flows and corruption. African leaders demanded that the world’s richest nations strengthen their laws against money laundering, tax havens and tax evasion in order to tackle corruption and illicit flows from the African continent. G7 countries are creating opportunities for those who loot African countries. In many countries the volume
of financial outflows exceeds the inflows of aid due to corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

Global Finance Integrity highlightes the role of the United States as a major facilitator of such outflows stating that the United States was the second easiest country in the world—after Kenya—for a kleptocrat to incorporate a shell company to launder ill-gotten-gains.

There was also a demand that the complex tax structures multinational corporations use to minimize their tax burdens be addressed.

At the summit it was also discussed to support African countries in negotiating fair natural resources contracts with multinationals through expert technical assistance. Many countries of the African continent although rich in natural resources are the poorest of the world. Getting such contracts right is key.

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.