Colloquium on International Administrative Tribunals and the Rule of Law

March 27, 2007 - Washington, DC

Often viewed as a discrete field unto itself, international administrative law has in the last few years gained increased importance for both international law and the governance of international organizations. In recent years, a number of developments undertaken by international organizations and national courts have posed new challenges for international administrative tribunals and the organizations they serve.

In the simplest of terms, international administrative tribunals exist to settle international organizations' employment disputes with legally binding judgments. Given the immunity of international organizations from personnel-related lawsuits brought in national courts, international administrative tribunals serve an essential purpose. They provide the staff working in these organizations with an independent, fair and impartial judicial mechanism for resolving these disputes where they would otherwise have no legal recourse. To carry out this important responsibility effectively and efficiently, and to remain a viable substitute for employment-related litigation in national courts, international administrative tribunals and their host organizations must ensure that certain basic criteria of judicial independence are consistently met.

To discuss these and other salient issues, the World Bank Administrative Tribunal (WBAT), in conjunction with the American Society of International Law (ASIL), held on March 27, 2007 a high-level Colloquium on International Administrative Tribunals and the Rule of Law. In attendance were leaders of various international administrative tribunals, top representatives, lawyers and experts from 39 international, private and public sector organizations, and professors from a number of academic institutions.

The event’s opening remarks were provided by Jan Paulsson (President, World Bank Administrative Tribunal), David D. Caron (Vice President, American Society of International Law), Ana Palacio (Senior Vice President and World Bank Group General Counsel), and Nicolas Michel (Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the UN Legal Counsel, United Nations).

The Colloquium focused on three overarching topics:

1. "The Law Applied by International Administrative Tribunals," presented by Brigitte Stern (Judge, United Nations Administrative Tribunal) and chaired by Florentino P. Feliciano (Judge, World Bank Administrative Tribunal).

2. "Due Process in the Context of Misconduct Investigations," presented by Robert A. Gorman (Judge and Former President, World Bank Administrative Tribunal) and chaired by W. Michael Reisman (Myers S. McDougal Professor of International Law, Yale Law School).

3. "The Independence of International Administrative Tribunals," presented by Nassib G. Ziadé (Executive Secretary, World Bank Administrative Tribunal) and chaired by Stephen M. Schwebel (President, International Monetary Fund Administrative Tribunal).

The format for each topic’s presentation was to have a main speaker followed by comments from various representatives of courts and international administrative tribunals, applicants and organizations.

During lunch, the participants heard from a further panel of speakers on the topic of "International Administrative Tribunals and the Protection of Individual Rights." The panel, which was chaired by Sir Michael Wood (Senior Fellow, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Cambridge University), consisted of Catherine Comtet (Registrar, International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal), Elaine D. Kaplan (Senior Deputy General Counsel, National Treasury Employees Union), Francisco Orrego Vicuña (Judge and Former President, World Bank Administrative Tribunal), and Louise Otis (Judge, Quebec Court of Appeal).

The proceedings of the Colloquium will be published.

Click on the attachment to see pictures from the event: Pictures (ppt)