The International Civil Service

Redefining Its Independence


This book explores the independence of international civil servants across various intergovernmental institutions. With rich historical insights and in-depth analysis, Tavadian uncovers the complex evolution of this independence, from its early days to contemporary challenges and practices. Drawing on his vast experience and meticulous research, he critically assesses the essential role of international civil service independence in ensuring effective international cooperation and proposes concrete solutions for strengthening it. An indispensable resource for scholars, policymakers, and legal practitioners, it sheds light on the nuanced dynamics that underpin the operation and integrity of international organizations.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Not available for purchase
Alexandre Tavadian, Ph.D., works as the Principal Legal Advisor of a large NATO agency headquartered in Luxembourg. Before joining NATO, he worked as a lawyer at UNHCR and the United Nations Secretariat in Lebanon, Kenya, and Thailand. Alexandre Tavadian began his legal career in the Canadian federal public service, where he worked as Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice Canada. He is the author of several books and articles, including The United Nations Law, Politics, and Practice (2021).

List of Tables and Diagrams



Table of Cases

Table of Treaties and Agreements

Table of Resolutions

Table of Reports and Summary Records of Meetings

Table of Abbreviations and Acronyms


1The Genesis of International Civil Service and Its Independence
 1 Period Preceding the League of Nations
 1 . 1 International Conferences

 1 . 2 River Commissions

 1 . 3 International Public Unions

 2 Period during the League of Nations
 2 . 1 Two Conflicting Theories and Proposals

 2 . 2 The League’s Secretariat under Sir Eric Drummond’s Leadership

 2.3 The League’s Secretariat under Joseph Avenol’s Leadership

 3 The Period Following the League of Nations
 3 . 1 The Establishment of the United Nations Secretariat

 3 . 2 The Proliferation of Intergovernmental Organisations and Erratic Development of International Civil Service Law

2The Meaning of Independence and Essential Characteristics of an Independent International Civil Service
 1 The Purpose and Meaning of Independence
 1 . 1 What Is the Purpose of Independence?

 1 . 2 Whose Independence Does the Concept Regulate?
 1.2.1 Independence of International Secretariats

 1.2.2 Independence of International Civil Servants

 1 . 3 From Whom Should Independence Be?

 1 . 4 What Type of Behaviour Does Independence Aim at Preventing?

 2 Essential Characteristics of Independent International Secretariats and Their Staff
 2 . 1 Independence of the Secretariat as an Entity
 2.1.1 International and Domestic Legal Personality

 2.1.2 Privileges and Immunities

 2.2 Individual Independence of Staff
 2.2.1 Privileges and Immunities of International Officials

 2.2.2 Impartiality and Neutrality

 2.2.3 Anonymity of International Civil Service

3Practices of Member States that Erode the Independence of International Secretariats and Their Staff
 1 Breaches by States of igo  s Privileges and Immunities
 1 . 1 Breaches of  igo  s’ Inviolability of Premises, Documents, Archives, Communications, and Vehicles

 1 . 2 Refusal to Recognise Jurisdictional Immunity
 1.2.1 Jurisdictional Immunity Limited by Treaty

 1.2.2 The Right to Have Access to Court

 1.2.3 Absolute versus Restrictive Jurisdictional Immunities

 1 . 3 Taxing  igo  s

 2 Breaches by States of Privileges and Immunities of International Civil Servants
 2 . 1 Violations of Functional Immunity

 2 . 2 Restrictions and Conditions for Recruiting Personnel
 2.2.1 Refusal to Grant Agrément

 2.2.2 Declarations of Persona Non Grata

 2.2.3 Refusal to Issue Immigration Papers

 2 . 3 Attempts to Tax International Civil Servants

 3 Actions by States that Undermine the Neutrality and Impartiality of International Civil Service
 3.1 Interference in Personnel Management
 3.1.1 Involvement Permitted under Written Rules or Procedures

 3.1.2 Informal Interference

3. 2 Secondment

4Practices of International Organisations that Erode the Independence of International Secretariats and Their Staff
 1 Acts and Omissions that Weaken Privileges and Immunities of igo  s
1.1 Acts and Omissions of  igo  s that Undermine Their Jurisdictional Immunity
 1.1.1 Failure to Establish Adequate Internal Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

 1.1.2 Activities Not Authorised by Constitutive Instrument

 1 .2 Acts and Omissions of  igo  s that Undermine Their Fiscal Privileges

 2 Acts and Omissions of igo  s that Undermine Privileges and Immunities of International Civil Servants
2.1 Failure to Assert Privileges and Immunities of Staff

 2.2 Omissions to Take Prompt and Decisive Action against Staff Members Who Commit Misconduct

 3 Failure by igo  s to Ensure the Independence of Their Staff from Governments of Member States
3.1 Independence from Member States in Decisions Pertaining to Selection and Appointment of Personnel

3. 2 Independence from Member States in Decisions Pertaining to Performance Appraisal

 3 . 3 Independence from Member States in Decisions Pertaining to Separation from Service of Personnel

5Practices of Staff Members that Erode Their Independence and the Independence of International Secretariats
 1 To Whom Do International Civil Servants Owe Obligations?

 2 What Obligations Do International Civil Servants Have vis-à-vis Their igo  s?
 2.1 Obligations Relating to Integrity
 2.1.1 Unethical Conduct by Executive Officials of igo  s

 2.1.2 Large-Scale Fraud and Corruption

 2.1.3 Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

 2.2 Obligations Relating to Loyalty

 2.3 Obligations Relating to Independence

 2.4 Obligations Relating to Impartiality and Neutrality

Conclusion and Recommendations



Academic, practitioners, delegates, international civil servants, international policymakers, international relations and international law students.
  • Collapse
  • Expand