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Legal Affairs

The UN Office of Legal Affairs (OLA)

As the central legal service of the Organization, OLA provides legal advice to the Secretary-General as well as the Secretariat and the principal and other organs of the UN on questions of public international law and private law. In its activities, the Office is engaged in strengthening the rule of law in and through the UN, particularly at the international level by:

Promoting the uniform and consistent application of international law;
Providing advice on the interpretation of the UN Charter, UN resolutions and decisions, rules of procedure, privileges and immunities and questions relating to the status, legal regimes and mandates of peacekeeping, peace building or political missions or offices;
Providing advice on matters of treaty law and drafting of final clauses of multilateral treaties;
Providing advice on international humanitarian law and the legal aspects of the conduct of operations of UN organs and conferences, the implementation of mandatory sanctions and the establishment and functioning of international and hybrid criminal tribunals as well as other accountability mechanisms;
Supporting international dispute settlement mechanisms, including serving as the implementing office of the Secretary-General’s Trust Fund to Assist States in the Settlement of Disputes through the International Court of Justice;
Preparing legal opinions, studies and advice on UN administrative law, private international law, procurement, the drafting and negotiation of contracts as well as the negotiation and settlement of claims and disputes arising from the operational activities of the Organization;
Providing legal advice on partnerships with the private sector;
Exercising the rights and obligations resulting from the legal personality of the Organization, including by representing the Secretary-General in international proceedings;
Assisting in the codification and progressive development of international law, including serving as secretariat for the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the International Law Commission;
Discharging responsibilities relating to teaching and dissemination activities in international law, including fellowship programmes, publications and websites;
Assisting in the progressive harmonization, modernization and unification of the law of international trade by serving as secretariat for the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL);
Providing technical assistance to States on international law matters, including through advice for the modernization of their legislation to conform to international commercial law standards;
Ensuring treaty registration and publication pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter and the performance of the Secretary-General’s depositary functions under multilateral treaties;
Promoting and facilitating participation in multilateral treaties, including through the organization of an annual Treaty Event during the general debate of the General Assembly and capacity training seminars, both at Headquarters and in the regions;
Ensuring coordination and coherence of legal approaches among UN entities on international law matters; and
Providing to States and relevant intergovernmental organizations a range of legal and technical services with a view to promoting a better understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of UNCLOS and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as their wider acceptance, uniform and consistent application and effective implementation.

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