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Civil Servants

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?

 Language

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.

Jobs of International Civil Servants at Risk in UNESCO

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

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 www.unesco.org.

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.