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Administrative Justice in the UN

Procedural Protections, Gaps and Proposals for Reform

Niamh Kinchin

The UN’s capacity as an administrative decision-maker that affects the rights of individuals is a largely overlooked aspect of its role in international affairs. This book explores the potential for a model of administrative justice that might act as a benchmark to which global decision-makers could develop procedural standards. Applied to the UN’s internal justice, refugee status determination, NGO participation and the Security Council, the global administrative justice model is used to appraise the existing procedural protections within UN administrative decision-making.
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Chapter 5: UNHCR and refugee status determination

Niamh Kinchin


UNHCR is a UN special programme that is tasked with international protection. As part of its role UNHCR undertakes, along with States, the administrative decision-making process of determining whether an asylum seeker should be declared a refugee. Despite the challenges of its scope, UNHCR is alive to the importance of administrative justice, to which the publication of a comprehensive guide to procedural standards in its own Refugee Status Determination (RSD) is testament. However, the vulnerability of the subjects of its decisions, the sensitivity of the subject matter and the difficulties of dealing with States that often act in their own self-interest have contributed to procedural gaps around transparency and a lack of independent and impartial review. The onus may not be on UNHCR to develop and fund a mechanism for independent review, but without it administrative justice within the context of RSD is incomplete.

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