Workplace Equality in International Organizations

Osmat Jefferson

Queensland University of Technology; Australian National University

July 31, 2009

Jefferson, O.A. (2010) Workplace Equality in International Organizations: Why is it such an Illusory Concept? Human Rights and International Discourse, Vol4, 1, 162-185

International organisations are entitled to independent governance of their staff. Whereas scholars and international lawyers may agree that international organisations should be afforded a functional immunity from national courts in employment disputes, there are enduring debates as to whether this functional necessity trumps the constitutional rights of staff, under international law, to gain access to equality guarantees in the employment relationship. In this paper, I investigate the concepts of equality, as understood, used, and valued within international organisations, examine the checks and balances in their internal governance structure, and point to the relevant differences between the formal and substantive laws. By considering the practices of the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), I report that the internal governing structure has more rules and procedures to govern employees and few, if any, rules to control the discretionary power of executives. While the overall governing structure may give the semblance of a balanced justice system in international organisations, the procedural guarantees of ‘due process’, the accountability standards, and the enforcement rules are not in place to safeguard the equality rights of staff. Based on these facts, I argue that until there is a major commitment to establish a rules-based approach to the governing structure, enforcement procedures to safeguard individual rights, and the inclusion of an established line of authority to the executive branch of international organisations, anti-discrimination rules will continue to be applied disproportionately among staff members and discriminatory practices will remain very difficult to legally prove or challenge.

Keywords: equality rights, international civil servants, international organisations, employment law, employment in international organisations, governance, accountability in international organisations

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Date posted: August 20, 2008 ; Last revised: October 10, 2015

Suggested Citation

Jefferson, Osmat, Workplace Equality in International Organizations (July 31, 2009). Jefferson, O.A. (2010) Workplace Equality in International Organizations: Why is it such an Illusory Concept? Human Rights and International Discourse, Vol4, 1, 162-185 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1236602 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1236602

Contact Information

Osmat Jefferson (Contact Author)
Queensland University of Technology ( email )
Level 6, Y Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australian National University ( email )
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
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