The ILO promotes rights at work and promulgates international labor standards
as a specialized agency of the UN. The
organization operates through a distinct
collaborative model that engages governments, workers, and employers in the
development of international labor policy.
The International Labour Office, the ILO’s
main operating center, employs approximately 2,700 employees (called “officials”)
The Ethics Officer provides information and training about relevant
ethics rules, counsels staff and management regarding ethics inquiries,
and conducts initial reviews of retaliation complaints. Consultation of
the Ethics Officer about matters of
retaliation may result in submission
of the case to the Human Resources
Department, which will determine
whether to commence related disciplinary proceedings. Between May
2007 and December 2009, the Ethics
Officer received only one complaint
The Office of the Mediator provides
facilitation, coaching, and mediation
services, and the services of trained
peer facilitators, including more than 60
volunteer facilitators at headquarters
and in regional offices.
The ILO Administrative Tribunal
(ILOAT) serves as the ILO’s formal
administrative body for review of
employment-related claims by ILO
employee. (Interestingly, other IGOs
may also consent to ILOAT’s jurisdiction over cases arising within their institutions.) The Tribunal decides nearly
100 cases annually, convening twice
yearly in Geneva for sessions of three
weeks each. Decisions are rendered
by seven judges, who sit in panels of
three and rule by a majority vote. The
Tribunal’s rulings are final.
The UN’s processes were redesigned
after a panel of independent experts
found that the former system “is neither professional nor independent
[and]… is extremely slow, underre-sourced, inefficient and, thus, ultimately ineffective. It fails to meet many
basic standards of due process.” Embracing the Panel’s recommendations,
the UN General Assembly established
a new system of justice.
The Office of the Ombudsman, comprised of the Mediation Division and
the Ombudsman, serves as the UN’s
informal system of justice. The office
acts as an independent, neutral, and
confidential resource for employees
seeking resolution of workplace matters, including conflicts with fellow
staff. The office received 1,764 cases in
2010—a 35 percent increase from the
1,287 cases it received the year before.
The Ombudsman division includes
the UN ombudsmen, UN fund and programme ombudsmen, and regional
ombudsmen located in seven regional
branch offices. The Ombudsman assists employees in evaluating available
means for addressing the situation.
While the Ombudsman cannot personally issue formal decisions, he or she
may help an employee to access more
formal avenues of conflict resolution.
The Mediation Division offers services through staff mediators and a
network of on-call mediators at headquarters and the regional branches.
The formal procedures at the UN underwent more significant reform than the
informal procedures, largely to address
egregious failures in rendering binding
decisions, timely addressing cases, and
maintaining neutrality and independence.
The Internal Justice Council reviews
candidates for judicial appointments
to internal UN tribunals, drafts a judicial
code of conduct, and evaluates progress in implementing the redesigned
justice system. The Council consists of
five members, including two representatives from staff and management, and
two independent jurists, one proposed
by staff and the other by management.
These four members select by consensus an additional jurist to serve as
The UN Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) is
the first judicial level of the UN’s formal
dispute resolution system. The UNDT
presently operates through three
full-time judges, located in New York,
Geneva, and Nairobi, along with two
part-time judges in other offices.
The UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) is
the court to which appeals from the
UNDT are taken. The UNAT is composed
of seven members, who sit primar-
ily in panels of three in New York. From
July 2009 through December 2011, the
UNAT reviewed 284 cases and deliv-
ered 190 decisions. In the period from
July through December 2011, the Tri-
bunal considered 39 cases from staff
members appealing UNDT decisions.
Of these, “ 34 were rejected, two were
entertained in full or in part, and three
cases were remanded to the UNDT.”
The Office of Staff Legal Assistance
(OSLA) provides free counsel through
legal staff at UN headquarters and in-
dividual legal officers in other offices.
OSLA also enlists the support of pro
bono attorneys and members of the UN
community with legal backgrounds. The
Office evaluates the merits of individual
claims and may decline representation
where, for example, it determines that an
“application has little chance of success.”
The UN employs nearly 44,000 employees in offices around the world. In addition, the
UN works through 15 specialized agencies and maintains cooperative relationships with
several international institutions. Some of the UN’s specialized agencies, most notably
the ILO, maintain their own dispute resolution systems.