Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 18:20 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 18:20 | SYDNEY

UN: Cleaning up a messy house


Fergus Hanson


18 November 2008 12:30

I was interested to read today that four Australian judges have been shortlisted to sit on two of the UN's new administrative tribunals, set up to replace the utterly shambolic former system.

I once interned in the UN Panel of Counsel which represented UN staff in administrative disputes under the old regime. On my first day, I was asked to help with the annual office spring clean, which consisted of checking the names of the hundreds of open case files lining the room from floor to ceiling against the New York Times obituaries from the previous year. That day we made short work of at least part of the giant backlog as we stacked up the cases of deceased former UN staff. 

Strangely, UN personnel gave the impression of being slightly demoralised when we told them they would need to wait around 25 years to have their case resolved and that if they were really lucky they could expect a few thousand dollars in compensation for being shot, harassed, underpaid or the like. That's why the noble sounding resolutions establishing this new system of internal justice are good news for abused UN staff. 

But one of the biggest obstacles to justice in the past was the significant financial implications of compensating so many staff who had been so poorly managed/abused for so long. States, it seemed, were reluctant to cough up for UN managerial incompetence. I am curious to see how the new justice regime deals with the issue of compensation, and how states respond.