International Administrative Law


International Administrative Law (“IAL”) is the employment or labour law that applies to and operates within the various International Governmental Organisations (“IGO’s”) located around the world, such as the United Nations and its specialised agencies, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (e.g., the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“EBRD”) is an IGO headquartered in London – it is in fact a multilateral development bank (“MDB”) – but English employment law has no application to an employment dispute that may arise between the Bank and one or more of its staff members.  The law that applies within the EBRD’s internal justice system is IAL).

IGOs are created by States through the use of multilateral treaties in order to fulfil a specified mandate (e.g., the alleviation of poverty in the case of the World Bank Group).  They are created by a tool of international law and they are bound by the fundamental rules and principles of that body of jurisprudence.  In the normal course of events, the treaty founding the IGO will confer upon it a number of distinct privileges and immunities in order to preserve the inherent independence of the organisation.  One of those privileges is ordinarily an immunity from the laws of its members states, so, for example, the United Nation’s International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”) in London cannot be sued in the English Courts, including English Employment Tribunals, and nor is it bound or regulated by English employment law.  The employment laws of the IGO’s member states are of little or no relevance if an employment dispute arises.

Staff members of IGOs are generally regarded as International Civil Servants, because they are drawn from and serve the interests of the organisation’s member states, although their loyalty is owed exclusively to the organisation that employs them.  As IGO staff members are in general precluded from enforcing their employment rights in the national courts of members states, justice systems have over the years evolved within the IGOs to provide a structured forum in which to litigate employment disputes.  A failure of an IGO to provide its staff members with a suitable internal justice system could lead to the charge that it is offending the human rights of those staff members, such that its immunity from legal suit could be imperilled and ultimately struck down.

The construct of those internal justice systems varies, but they normally culminate in a final appeal to an Administrative Tribunal comprised ordinarily of five judges – who should be but who quite often are not IAL experts – appointed from outside of the organisation (e.g., the International Labour Organisation’s Administrative Tribunal (“ILOAT”), which is used by several IGOs as their final appeal court).  It is the judgements of the various Administrative Tribunals located around the world, which have been issued over many years, that now form the basis of IAL and it is by reference to this distinct body of law that the employment decisions of IGOs will be judged.

Lee Marler, Antje Kunst and Jazz Omari are specialist IAL practitioners with decades of experience operating within the various internal justice systems implemented around the world by the IGO community.  For example, Lee Marler is routinely instructed in the most complex and/or sensitive of IAL cases and he regularly acts for staff members and their representative bodies before various Administrative Tribunals.