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

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Database of the CAHDI "The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" - contribution of Norway - 01/09/2015

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

(September 2015)

The Legal Adviser holds the rank of Director General within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The Director General is head of the Department for Legal Affairs (OLA), and is assisted by a Deputy Director General.

The Director General is traditionally a career diplomat, as most high ranking officers of the OLA. The OLA comprises both lawyers belonging to the diplomatic staff of the MFA and particular legal experts, who work permanently within the OLA.

The Director General of the OLA reports to the Secretary-General of the MFA, but may provide direct advice to the political staff of the MFA and other Ministries.

2. What are the principal functions of the OLA?

The OLA supports all other departments of the MFA, as well as other governmental bodies, in matters concerning international legal issues. This includes providing a unified legal service for the various departments with regard to interpretations and dispute settlement, as well as assisting policy makers in formulating and carrying out the foreign policies of Norway. Other specific fields of work are related to the particular relationship agreements and cooperation between Norway and the EU, particularly through the European Economic Area Agreement. The OLA is furthermore in charge of legal issues related to the WTO, including dispute settlement.

Key priorities:

• Promote compliance with international legal obligations and the strengthening and development as well as the effective implementation of the international legal order.
• Provide timely and operational advice on all legal issues, arising in the course of the MFA’s work.
• Contribute to an effective formulation and implementation of Norwegian foreign policies, including international development policies.

Core functions of the OLA include:

• Providing legal and operational advice on issues of international law, and Norwegian constitutional law related to international law.
• Providing legal and operational advice on issues of domestic law, arising in the course of the MFA’s work. This includes inter alia preparing legal opinions and advice in constitutional and administrative law, including the Public Information Act, and commenting on new draft legislation or policy documents. The OLA moreover coordinates all comments by the MFA on draft legislation and interministerial hearings.
• Supervising all functions related to Norway’s treaty matters, including providing advice to other Ministries on drafting, analysis and negotiations. The OLA is responsible for finalizing the internal legal procedures of approval of all international treaties, as well as treaty registration and publication, including on the Internet.
• Representing Norway in various international fora on issues falling within the competence of the OLA, e.g. in bodies of the UN and the special agencies, various treaty bodies, EU/EEA organs, the Council of Europe, NATO and other regional bodies or arrangements. Representatives of the OLA also negotiate agreements or assist at international conferences and meetings with the purpose of negotiating international conventions and other legal instruments.
• Negotiating or providing policy advice in various bilateral matters, including maritime delimitation.
• Formulating policies and ensuring operational follow-up in particular areas, including within the field of ocean affairs.
• Acting as agents on behalf of the Norwegian Government before international courts and dispute settlement mechanisms, including but not limited to, the EFTA Court, the European Court of Justice, and the dispute settlement organs of the WTO. The OLA also assists the Attorney General for Civil Affairs in certain cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
• The OLA has the responsibility for budgetary and other administrative functions with regard to international courts and certain treaty bodies. The same applies with regard to supervision of geodetic and other work related to Norwegian borders or boundaries.

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?

Staff numbers include 30 lawyers and 5 administrative staff members in various functions (2015). The OLA staff thus comprises a total of 35 members. Among the lawyers around 12 belong to the diplomatic staff of the MFA. Further, the OLA regularly hosts one or two Foreign Service Trainees, i.e. young lawyers that have recently joined the MFA.

There are designated legal advisers working at the Permanent Missions of Norway in New York and The Hague. Some of the other larger representations and certain multilateral posts traditionally have lawyers among their diplomats. Experience has shown the particular importance of legal experience at Norwegian missions to the UN and the WTO and to the EU in Brussels, as well as at some larger embassies.

There are 24 women and 11 men working for the OLA. A woman currently (2015) holds the post of Director General. The Deputy Director General is a man, and the other high ranking officer positions (Director and Deputy Director) are held by 3 men and 3 women.

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?

The personnel policy of the Foreign Service is, in accordance with statutory requirements, to seek to ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, ethnicity, work capacity and age, have real opportunities for professional and personal development and for using their skills.

It is a personnel policy goal to ensure that the Foreign Service reflects the diversity of the population. In accordance with current legislation, the employer is obliged to work actively, and in a targeted and systematic way to promote equal opportunities and diversity and to prevent discrimination throughout the Foreign Service.

The policy of equal opportunities and diversity is to be mainstreamed into all the Foreign Service’s work and pursued in all parts of the organisation and at all levels. All employees, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, work capacity or age, are to be treated equally with regard to appointments, pay development, promotion and tasks that enhance their skills and expertise.

Priority is to be given to a good gender balance at all levels and in all fields of the Foreign Service. In particular, the Service is to seek to recruit women to job categories where they are underrepresented.

Equal opportunities and diversity are a management responsibility, and are included in the management training programme.

In this context, it is particularly important to consider structural factors related to service abroad, such as providing favourable conditions for accompanying family members and ensuring flexibility for employees serving abroad without their family. The same applies to opportunities for alternative career paths and for combining a career with care responsibilities, as well as access to mobile office solutions.

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

Gender equality and diversity is central to Norwegian domestic and foreign policy. It is particularly considered as a leadership responsibility, and is therefore an essential part of the Ministry’s leadership training programmes.

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

The OLA consists of three main units, each headed by a Deputy Director General, who reports to the head and deputy head of the OLA:

• Section for Treaty Law, Environmental Law and Law of the Sea

• Section for International Humanitarian and Criminal Law

• Section for European/EEA and Trade Law.

The three Sections have 10-15 staff members each.

The lawyers at the OLA are to an increasing degree specialized within various fields of law within their respective sections.

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

The OLA is one of nine departments within the whole MFA, which in Norway is also the competent Ministry for international development issues.

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

Particularly in matters relating to international law and European/EEA law, the OLA provides advice in the preparation of various Government documents. In so doing, extended contacts take place with the whole State administration.

The OLA is responsible for the preparation of treaties being concluded on behalf of the Government of Norway. The OLA is normally involved both in negotiating treaties and finalizing the internal legal procedures.

Representatives of the OLA may act as agents on behalf of the Government in international judicial procedures, often in cooperation with the Attorney General for Civil Affairs, who offers judicial advice and conducts civil cases on behalf of the Government particularly before domestic courts.

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

A professor of international law at the University of Oslo is attached to the OLA, and provides advice in the field of international law. Some of the lawyers of the OLA teach at the universities, and also participate in seminars and conferences on topics related to their field of expertise.

There is close cooperation with the Attorney General for civil affairs. Moreover, private lawyers may be engaged when necessary, for example in connection with law suits.

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

Not available at this time.