Administrative Law

Bretton Woods Law welcomes their new International Organisations Law specialist

By | Administrative Law, Bribery, Employment Disputes, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Antje Kunst, who has recently joined Bretton Woods Law, is the perfect fit for this team of International Organisations Law experts, as she bring with her many years of experience working for the United Nations.

Antje, who has worked at the United Nations for 11 years, 5 and a half years of which were spent  at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has an impressive background in matters that relate exactly to Bretton Woods Law’s areas of expertise. These include employment issues relating to international civil servants, anti-corruption cases, and drafting procedures and internal policies for international organisations.

Antje comments: “I was looking to expand my horizons outside of Germany where I have been based for the last three years and wanted to have  experience again with  an internationally focussed law firm  preferably working on issues related to international organisations and so one day I googled: ‘law firms that specialise in International Organisations Law’ and Bretton Woods Law came out top. I looked at their website and liked their integrated approach.”

As an active member of Transparency International in Germany Antje was also keen to continue to draw on her anti-corruption experience. In the past she worked for the founder of Transparency International on an initiative aimed at supporting governments of natural resource-rich countries with national resources contracts,  helping  to overcome corrupt activities in the sector, and ultimately  benefiting the companies who are concluding these contracts with the governments. So it came as an added bonus that Bretton Woods Law advises companies working on projects funded by multilateral development banks, which have been accused of fraud and sanctionable practices.

Antje might have left the United Nations behind her, but it seems her new position with Bretton Woods Law will keep her right at the heart of international organisations for the foreseeable future.

2nd Geneva seminar on International Administrative Law

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, IAL Seminars, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Following the success last month of our first Geneva International Administrative Law (IAL) seminar, we have decided, due to popular demand, to hold a second seminar on Wednesday 27th March 2013 and we would like to offer you a complimentary invitation.

Attendees will again benefit from free expert advice from legal specialists, as well as being able to share their own views and opinions with their peers on the following topics:

  1. Effectiveness of internal justice system
  2. Clarity of the law
  3. Confidentiality of proceedings
  4. Staff associations (independence, the need for dues, industrial action & retaliation)
  5. Executive heads reviewing the lawfulness of their own decisions
  6. The role of lawyers for the organisation
  7. Mandatory mediation
  8. The ethics functionCase studies of common staff grievances and how to successfully litigate
  9. Improving IAL (codification of IAL principles, uniform internal justice mechanism, legal expenses insurance for all international civil servants, one Global AT etc)

Join us on 27th March at the Hotel Intercontinental 7-9 Chemin Du Petit-Saconnex Geneva, 1211.

  • Registration: 9.00am
  • Lunch: 1pm
  • Seminar closes: 3.30

Register here

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.

Bretton Woods Law Seminar on International Administrative Law in Geneva

By | Administrative Law, Employment Disputes, International, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments
[icon_button type=arrowdown url=]Download presentation[/icon_button]

Bretton Woods Law hosted a seminar on International Administrative Law at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva on Wednesday 6th February 2013. Lee Marler, Neil Macaulay and Alex Haines held an open forum with senior Staff Association members from a number of International Organisations including the WTO, UNHCR, CERN and the WMO, where the law’s shortfalls and possible improvements were discussed.

Topics included:
• Equality of arms
• Clarity of the law
• Confidentiality of proceedings
• Capping of Awards
• Staff Associations – independence and industrial action
• Executive Heads – reviewing the lawfulness of their own decisions
• The roles and actions of lawyers for the organisation
• Ignoring the organisation’s internal law

We hope that those who attended enjoyed the lively and informative discussion, and we look forward to hosting more seminars to help shape the much needed improvements and additions to this area of law.

If you were unable to attend the IAL Geneva seminar in person, but have a need for legal advice concerning an employment issue within an international organisation, please click here to contact your nearest office and for complimentary membership for the International Administrative Law Centre of Excellence

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

Bretton Woods Law to speak at UNSU-ICTY seminar – Download Presentation

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, International, International Administrative Law, News | No Comments

Download Presentation

Bretton Woods Law are proud to have been asked to speak on International Administrative Law at the UNSU-ICTY seminar on Wednesday 3rd October. We will be holding an open forum with senior Staff Association members, where the law’s shortfalls and possible improvements will be discussed.

Topics will include:

  • Equality of arms
  • Clarity of the law
  • Confidentiality of proceedings
  • Capping of Awards
  • Staff Associations – independence and industrial action
  • Executive Heads – reviewing the lawfulness of their own decisions
  • The roles and actions of lawyers for the organisation
  • Mandatory mediation
  • Ignoring the organisation’s internal law
  • Suspension of administrative decision

We hope that, what promises to be a lively and informative discussion, will help shape the much needed improvements and additions to this area of law.

If you are unable to attend the UNSU-ICTY seminar in person, but have a need for legal advice concerning an employment issue within an international organisation, please go to to contact your nearest office.

What it takes to be truly international set of chambers

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Cross debarment, Development Banks, International, Multilateral Development Banks, News | No Comments

Describing yourself as international is easy, demonstrating it takes a bit more hard work.

Bretton Woods Law deals with international clients on a daily basis, they could be talking to a multinational company accused of sanctionable practices by a multilateral development one moment and then an international civil servant with employment issues the next. So how do they ensure they offer the best possible legal advice to people from different cultures and countries?


It is easy to get your website and brochures translated, but what happens when you get someone contacting you and you can’t actually speak their language, even though the website infers you can? Bretton Woods Law has taken the trouble to employ legal professionals who are fluent in French and Spanish, as with so many international organisations being located in countries that speak these languages, it seemed only sensible and more importantly… polite.

 Cultural sensitivity

They say there is no substitute for real experience, and Bretton Woods Law would attest to this. Lee Marler, a lead counsel at Bretton Woods Law previously worked internationally as a lawyer across the globe, including America, Australia, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo and Palestine. He also worked as a lawyer for the United Nations, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank Group. Lee’s international exposure is matched, by fellow lead counsel Neil Macaulay, who has worked as a lawyer in such diverse places as Germany, Cyprus, Bosnia, US, Philippines and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

This vast cross cross-cultural experience reinforced Lee and Neil’s belief that for any set of chambers to be truly international, they must understand that each culture has their own particular value and beliefs, and as such need to be respected and understood if you are going to succeed.

It is this cultural empathy that runs throughout Bretton Woods Law that could account for their success rate. Whether they are representing an international civil servant with employment issues or an international company facing debarment by a multilateral development bank – each individual at Bretton Woods Law has the ability to put themselves in their clients’ shoes, professionally, emotionally and of course culturally.

If you think you could benefit from some truly international legal expertise, please click here to contact your nearest office


Time waits for no one – especially not International Civil Servants

By | Administrative Law, Civil Servants, Employment Disputes, News | No Comments

More often than not, when International Civil Servants come knocking on our door, seeking employment advice, we are alarmed by their lack of knowledge regarding their employment status and rights. The fact that they are often unaware that they are subject to International Administrative Law, the law that operates between International Civil Servants and their employer, and not domestic employment laws, is just one such example.

Why there is such a dearth of understanding is debatable, but we felt it might be useful to compile a brief list of basic ‘do’s and do not’s’, for when/if International Civil Servants find themselves in difficulties with their employer. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we would encourage anyone facing HR issues to contact legal specialists, such as members of Bretton Woods Law as quickly as possible – because as the title suggests in these situations time is of the essence

The Do’s

  1. Do make yourself aware and be confident of your rights and, indeed, your obligations under the internal law of the organisation that you work for (e.g., read the Staff Regulations, Staff Handbook, and the rules and procedures associated with your organisation’s internal justice mechanism).
  2. Do act quickly if you have a complaint, for you may only have a short period of time in which to file.
  3. Do ensure that your dealings with HR are in writing, if possible.  It is important to create an audit trail.
  4. Do take notes at any meeting that you have with HR representatives.  At the conclusion of the meeting, write your notes up and sign and date them.  It is important that your written note is as contemporaneous as possible with the meeting.  If feasible, do get others who attended the meeting to agree your written notes by signing them.
  5. Do take advantage of the services of the Ombudsperson, if available.  They can give you informal advice and might be able to intercede on your behalf.
  6. Do speak and discuss matters with your Staff Council/Association/Union representatives.  Listen to what they have to say, as they generally have a wealth of experience.
  7. Do speak out and loudly if you are subject to any form of retaliation for asserting your rights against your employer.
  8. Do instruct a lawyer who understands international administrative law at the earliest opportunity.

The Do Not’s

  1. Do not place too much trust  in HR, for they are a tool of management.
  2. Do not meet with HR representatives on your own, unless this is unavoidable.  It is always good to have a witness of your own (e.g., a Staff Council/Association/Union representative).  If you do meet with them on your own, then make a full note of the meeting and sign and date those notes (follow the procedure in the ‘do list’ at 4 above).
  3. Do not in general sign anything on the spot.  Only sign documents after you have had the benefit of independent advice, such as that of a lawyer or Staff Council representative.  Never sign a separation agreement until it has been thoroughly reviewed by a lawyer instructed by you. Do not think that you are anything other than the victim of your employer’s conduct.
  4. Do not be afraid to assert your rights, for your organisation will have some form of enforceable anti-retaliation procedures.
  5. Do not let your performance at work be unduly affected by your complaint, as you do not want your employer to be able to claim that you are a sub-standard performer.

If you could benefit from clear and practical advice, specifically designed for International Civil Servants, please click here to contact members of Bretton Woods Law.

multilateral development banks

Why did you set up Bretton Woods Law?

By | Administrative Law, Development Banks, Employment Disputes, International Administrative Law, Multilateral Development Banks, News | No Comments

Hard to find specialist knowledge, borne out of experience

It’s not often that a company can claim to be unique and then actually live up to that claim – but Bretton Woods Law can.

When Lee Marler and Neil Macaulay decided to set up Bretton Woods Law, they knew that from first hand experience that their specialist arena – International Organisations Law, was woefully under-represented not just nationally but internationally. So as well as making good commercial sense to set up this country’s first legal practice focusing solely on International Organisations Law, it would also offer those International Civil Servants with employment disputes or companies being accused of sanctionable practices relating to projects funded by Multilateral Development Banks, a vital lifeline.

Whilst working together before setting up Bretton Woods Law, Neil and Lee were working in a practice where International Organisations Law made up a part of what they offered. They were surprised by the increasing number of potential clients who came knocking on their door over this three year period, looking for robust legal advice in this specialist sector. International Civil Servants locked in employment disputes with their employers or heads of international companies involved with projects funded by Multilateral Development Banks faced with serious accusations of corruption or fraud, came in equal numbers. Hence it seemed a natural route forward, when they decided to set up on their own.

International Organisations and its associated law were not new fields for this pair, Lee with a Masters in International Law, worked inside International Organisations for over 10 years, whereas Neil worked as a lawyer in the Civil Service for seven years, so it seemed a natural fit. This experience gave them an understanding in how these organisations operate and more importantly an insight into the complex personalities of these often intimidating organisations. This valuable viewpoint is rare, if not unique, and it is this inside knowledge of the organisations and their characters that gives Bretton Woods Law and their clients an enviable advantage.

Bretton Woods Law’s mantra is: “To represent clients without fear or favour” and of course to provide every client with first class legal advice. It is this ‘human’ aspect that both Neil and Lee feel is as important as the professional role they offer their clients. They have a passion for defending their clients, whatever there professional status – a secretary from an International Organisation will receive the same level of professional and emotional guidance as a CEO of an international company facing sanctions from a Multilateral Development Bank. Lee and Neil put this passion down to having lived and worked abroad for so many years and dealing with people who feel lost and don’t know which way to turn, they were both officers in the army and spent many years helping soldiers with the idiosyncrasies of the country, practices and culture they were stationed in, as well as its associated law practices.

Equalling their client focus is their all embracing knowledge of every aspect of the multifaceted arena of International Organisations Law. Members of Bretton Woods Law have two primary strands to their practices, firstly representing companies facing possible sanctions, including debarment or more serious repercussions by Multilateral Development Banks, as a result of an investigation into or an allegation of engaging in sanctionable practices (e.g. fraud and corruption). Secondly, an in-depth knowledge of International Administrative Law, which is the employment law that operates between International Civil Servants and their employer, means they are well placed to tackle and resolve any HR issues facing International Civil Servants. At first glace these two quite distinct areas seem unconnected, not so say Lee and Neil – in fact quite the opposite. They believe they complement each other, as they are always defending people who are suffering, professionally and personally, as a result of the decisions made by and within an International Organisation – and the uniting factor – Members of Bretton Woods Law are always there to defend them.

Defending their clients in front of these boards, committees and tribunals is of course why people come to Bretton Woods Law, as often clients have approached local legal providers and have been turned away. As it is not a commonly known area of law, they may have no one working in the practice that, for example, truly understands International Administrative Law and all the privileges and immunities the law affords the International Organistaions. So whom do they turn to?

Well members of Bretton Woods Law of course.

So back to the original question, “Why did you set up Bretton Woods Law”?

Answer: “Because we truly believe that there is no other grouping of lawyers who can truly defend people who find themselves in the situations that our clients do, and that could be described a basic breach of their human rights and that in everyone’s minds at Bretton Woods Law is unacceptable.”

If you are an International Civil Servant or facing accusations of corruption or fraud, related to a project funded by an Multilateral Development Bank and don’t know where to find the legal help you need, please click here to find you nearest office.

Jobs of International Civil Servants at Risk in UNESCO

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On 9th March 2012, the 58 member Executive Board of UNESCO adopted at the behest of the organisation’s Director General (Irina Bokova) a new ‘Road Map.’  The Road Map, which is in effect a euphemism for change, was necessitated by a cut of approximately US$188 million to the organisation’s operating budget as a consequence of the United States’ refusal to pay its levy.  Although the Road Map is designed to allow UNESCO to continue its programmes over the period 2012-2013, despite its severe funding crisis, it is nevertheless based on a series of austerity measures that, according to the Executive Board, will require Ms Bokova to:

  • abolish or redefine posts where appropriate with a view to shifting resources to priority areas;
  • develop a more flexible policy of contracts;
  • review current Staff Rules and Regulations.

Accepting the challenge handed to her by the Executive Board, Ms Bokova said:

“The Roadmap now provides the Organisation with a clear sense of direction, and it sets firm targets to meet as we move forward … I am determined to meet the targets we have set in all areas – including cost efficiency, restructuring and human resources management.  My commitment to reforming the Organisation is steadfast.  The reform we have started is irreversible”

Not surprisingly, a significant number UNESCO’s employees were angered by the Executive Boards resolution and the Director-General’s apparent desire to implement it, for it is inevitable that the implementation of the roadmap will lead to significant job losses and an overall diminution of the terms and conditions of service presently enjoyed by the organisation’s staff.  In effect, the resolution of the Executive Board risks taking UNESCO out of the United Nations common system.  According to the two unions that represent the interests of the organisation’s international civil servants (ISAU and STU), 600 of them “massed” in protest outside the room in which the Executive Board was sitting.  Sidiki Coulibaly, President of the ISAU, and Ronan Grippay, President of the STU, were eventually invited to address members of the Executive Board, but, by this late stage of the proceedings, their advocacy on behalf of the staff fell onto deaf ears.  ISAU and STU have now set up a ‘Crisis Committee’ with a view to overturning the resolution.

UNESCO and the international civil servants that it employees appear to be on a collision course that may well test and have ramifications for international administrative law.  UNESCO is a member of the International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal and it will eventually fall to that body to adjudicate any unresolved complaints that might flow from UNESCO’s adverse treatment of its staff.  If a settlement to the dispute cannot be found, then a myriad of issues may be litigated within and possibly outside of UNESCO’s internal justice mechanism, such as accrued rights, fundamental and essential terms of contract, equality of treatment, dignity of the international civil service etc.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is an international organisation and a specialised agency of the United Nations.  Its employees are international civil servants.  UNESCO was established on 16th November 1945 and has its headquarters in Paris, France.  UNESCO’s mandate is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Organisation is the successor to the League of Nations’ International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.  Its web-site is

If you are an International Civil Servant facing employment and HR issues, Bretton Woods Law has considerable experience in dealing with matters relating to International Administrative Law. To contact your nearest office, please click here.