The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This database contains the original national contributions bringing together information on The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Information on the contribution

Member State
Created on
Contribution of 01/09/2015
Permanent link to the contribution
Database of the CAHDI "The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" - contribution of Sweden - 01/09/2015

1. What is the title, rank and position of the Legal Adviser?

(September 2015)

The Legal Adviser in the Swedish MFA is Ambassador and Director-General for Legal Affairs. He is one of five Directors-General, the others being the Directors-General for Administration, Political Affairs, Trade and Development.

The Office of the Legal Adviser consists of the Legal Adviser and a part-time secretary. The Directors-General in the Ministry do not head departments but have special supervisory responsibilities with regard to specific departments, in the case of the Legal Adviser the Department for International Law, Human Rights and Treaty Law, the Department for Consular Affairs and Civil Law, and the Legal Secretariat, each of which is headed by a Deputy Director-General. Questions from these three departments which raise matters of principle or are otherwise of substantial importance should be brought before the Legal Adviser.

2. What are the principal functions of the OLA?

The Director-General for Legal Affairs shall monitor lawfulness, consistency and uniformity in the preparation of matters and carry out a final examination of drafts of government decisions. The Director-General for Legal Affairs shall also monitor the lawfulness, consistency and uniformity of the activities of Sweden’s foreign representation.

The Director-General for Legal Affairs shall, in particular, monitor important matters of public international law and represent Sweden in cases brought before international courts in which Sweden is a party.

The Director-General for Legal Affairs shall be the principal responsible for handling matters concerning complaints against Sweden before the European Court of Human Rights and before UN committees established in accordance with UN conventions on the protection of human rights.

The Director-General for Legal Affairs responds to referrals from the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and other bodies in so far as this is not done by the Director-General for Administrative Affairs.

The Director-General for Legal Affairs makes decisions on issues concerning the suspension of immunity.

3. Please give a brief description of staff employed by the OLA, including overseas staff. What is the distribution of posts between men and women within the OLA and what category of staff do they respectively belong to?

The Department for International Law, Human Rights and Treaty Law has two principal legal advisers. These positions are held by international law experts with doctorates in law. One of the four sections in this department is responsible for international law and treaty law and consists of eight persons, mostly career diplomats. Cases before the European Court of Human Rights are handled by this department, while cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union are handled by the Legal Secretariat.

The present Legal Adviser is male and his secretary female. The three legal departments consist of a total of 96 employees. 31 of them are male and 65 female. Thereof, out of the support staff of eight persons one is male and seven female. The present three heads of department are all male and of the deputy heads of department one is male and two female.

4. Are there any specific recruitment and promotion policies, provisions and/or quotas to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunities, e.g. for the underrepresented sex, for persons with disabilities or for persons belonging to ethnic or religious minorities or of immigrant origin?

Public Officials are recruited on the basis of merit. In the Government Offices there are no quotas for specific groups.

In order to ensure equal opportunities and non-discrimination recruitment processes are based on competence based requirements.

Furthermore measures are undertaken to increase the number of candidates with competitive merits from underrepresented groups. Some examples are trainee programs for disabled persons and those from an immigrant origin, encouragement in recruitment ads for the underrepresented sex to apply for a position and specific reach out activities in order to increase the knowledge about the Government offices as an employer.

A structured work of analysis including monitoring the gender gap in salaries as well as the number of employees with an immigrant origin is carried out on a regular basis. Training of staff on issues related to non-discrimination and equality are also crucial.

5. Is OLA staff trained on gender equality issues and are these issues mainstreamed into the OLA’s work?

In October 2014, the Swedish Foreign Minister declared that Sweden will pursue a feminist foreign policy, in which “rights” is a cornerstone (together with “resources” and “representation”; two areas which are imperative for realizing rights).

The policy implies that gender equality is high on the agenda and consequently, during the spring 2015, a comprehensive training program has been launched directed to all departments of the MFA.

Gender equality and undertakings to stop gender based discrimination is mainstreamed in the Government Offices and has for long been imperative for the Swedish MFA Department for International Law, Human Rights and Treaty Law.

6. Briefly describe the organisation and structure of the OLA.

See attachment.

7. What is the OLA’s place within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

See attachment.

8. What are the main contacts of the OLA within Government?

A special feature of Swedish Government is that decisions are taken collectively by all ministers. This means that decisions are prepared in a joint drafting procedure involving all relevant ministries. Similarly, instructions to EU Council Working Groups and to our representations to international organisations are worked out between the relevant departments in the MFA and other ministries concerned. This is quite a cumbersome procedure but has the advantage of ensuring consistent Swedish messages in international fora.

The Directors-General for Legal and Political Affairs sit in on morning meetings held every day (Tuesday to Friday) to go through current and upcoming affairs. These meetings are chaired by the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and attended by the heads of geographical and some functional departments such as the Security Policy and the International Law departments. This provides an opportunity to identify possible matters to look into from a legal perspective and provide early advice. The Foreign Minister is briefed on the points raised at these meetings.

The two State Secretaries and the five Directors-General meet every week to discuss policy and administrative matters.

The Legal Adviser also promotes compliance with Sweden’s international obligations by other ministries and public authorities. According to the Swedish Constitution, the Foreign Minister shall be kept informed whenever a matter arises at a public authority which has significance for relations with another state. At the same time, the Constitution establishes that neither the Minister, nor the Ministry, may determine how a court or administrative authority shall apply the law in individual cases.

The Legal Adviser and the Department for International law, Human Rights and Treaty Law also provide advice on international law and human rights law to other ministries in their legislative and operational work. This is for instance the case in reviewing the compatibility of draft legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights and other treaties to which Sweden is a party.

9. Please describe the relations of the OLA with lawyers in private practice, academics and legal institutions.

Apart from regular contacts, lectures and seminars, an annual event (the International Law Day) is organized by the Ministry. A number of seminars on the European Court of Human Rights and the EU Court of Justice have also been organized by the Ministry. In the field of human rights regular meetings are held with civil society.

10. Please provide a brief bibliography on the OLA, if available.