As part of its efforts to improve ways of responding to grievances, the Office proposed in its 2019 Annual Report (consistent with its Annual Reports of 2017 and 2018) that, on an interim basis, “the five [funds and programmes] organizations support the development of a specialized training programme and the provision of other arbitration access services.” To that end, the Office periodically conducts global arbitration webinars to raise awareness of the complexities involved in the arbitration proceedings and the benefits of informal resolution. Consistent with its commitment, the Office also established two lists—the Counsel List and the Arbitrators List—that include experienced professionals, selected by the Office according to stringent standards, who are available to work on disputes involving non-staff personnel on a pro-bono or reduced-fee basis. These lists are recommended for use by non-staff personnel and their UN organizations to assist them in finding qualified counsel and arbitrators in case of disputes between them. The Office is not engaged in managing or administering arbitrations.
As per its mandate that includes “address[ing] work-related issues through … providing … information”, “exploring a range of options,” and “advising and mak[ing] suggestions or recommendations, as appropriate, on actions needed to settle conflicts” (see para 3.15-3.16 of the ToR, ST/SGB/2016/7) the Office provides information, inter alia, related to arbitration as one option to resolve disputes involving non-staff personnel and explores informal options to settle those. In addition, the Office encourages parties to seriously consider mediation prior to resorting to arbitration. To that end, as part of this project, the Office has developed an arbitration pledge, which counsel and arbitrators have committed to. The arbitration pledge includes the following requirement:
- For counsel: I will strongly encourage my client to consider mediation as the first step to resolve the conflict and will seriously consider an invitation of the other party and/or arbitrator(s) to mediate the matter.
- For arbitrators: I will strongly encourage the parties to consider mediation as the first step to resolve the conflict. As Arbitrator, in case any of the parties declines to mediate the dispute without valid reasons, I will request a substantiated statement to that effect and will seriously consider the reasons contained in such statement or lack thereof when deciding the award of costs.
To learn more about mediation and its benefits, please visit our mediation page. You can find useful materials on mediation, including a mediation guide, mediation newsletters, interviews by our mediators within the “Peace at work” project, the profiles of our mediators, and much more.
The Mediation Unit has prepared a comprehensive Arbitration Guide, which will be available to non-staff personnel and their organizations upon request in case of an emerging or pending dispute. If you are a non-staff colleague or represent one of the five agencies in a process that may lead to arbitration, please reach out to the Mediation Unit of the Office of the Ombudsman to obtain the Arbitration Guide, which also includes the Global Arbitration Counsel List and the Global Arbitrators List.