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Lecture Series on International Competence Training 2:Legal Status and Contractual Practices of United Nations University in the United Nations System

On February 13, 2023, 2:30 PM, Francesco Foghetti, the United Nations University (UNU) Legal Affairs Officer and Associate Secretary of the UNU Council, delivered an on-line lecture. Prof. Cui Xiaojing, Deputy Director of the Institute of International Law, moderated the lecture. Prof. Xiao Yongping, Dean of the Wuhan University School International Rule of Law, Chen Panpan, Deputy Secretary of the Communist Youth League of the Wuhan University School of Law, Dr. Meng Zixin, postdoctoral fellow of the Institute of International Law, students of the international law experimental class, and senior high school representatives attended the lecture.

Prof. Cui Xiaojing began the lecture by introducing the participants and guests. She extended a warm welcome and heartfelt thanks to the Speaker - Francesco Foghetti. The lecture contained a speech on "UNU Legal Symposium: Understanding Legal Status and Contractual Practices within the UN Syatem" delivered by Mr. Foghetti and an interactive Q&A session which aims at furthering students' understanding of the mission and requirements of the UNU for future internships and work in international organizations. 


Mr. Foghetti started the lecture with a brief profile of the UNU. He introduced the history and organizational structure of the UNU, the work of the United Nations Legal Office, and the legal office of the UNU.

The UNU was established in 1972 through a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. It is one of the non-governmental institutions of the United Nations system with a relatively simple structure. The Charter of the United Nations University is the founding agreement of the institution. The UNU commits to realize the peace and progress stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations, including researching urgent issues related to human survival, development, and well-being related to the United Nations and its various agencies. It has established 13 research and training centers worldwide, such as the United Nations World Institute for Development Economics Research in Finland, the International Institute of Software Technology in Macau, China, the African Natural Resources Institute in Africa, and the Institute of Advanced Studies in Yokohama, Japan etc. It makes continuous contributions to academic and technological research worldwide.

Mr. Foghetti then introduced the work of the United Nations Legal Office, emphasizing that the work of the legal office of an entity largely depends on the size of the entity. For example, intergovernmental organizations often have a large scale and number of employees, established by international conventions, requiring member states to form a management committee to ensure that organizational activities conform more closely to international law. The work of these United Nations legal offices is more about the application of United Nations legislation, such as the status of peacekeeping countries or personnel in international disputes and the power to intervene. Non-governmental organizations like the UNU focuses on international institutional law, improving and modifying the internal regulations of the United Nations.


Besides, Mr. Foghetti briefly introduced the work of the legal department of the UNU to help students better prepare for their future internships. He mentioned that the work of the legal office of the UNU closely linked to the nature of the UNU. The funding of the UNU comes from donations committed by governments and corporations, individuals, and many other private donations. The UNU has to establish cooperation projects and sign contracts with various donors, institutions, and governments. In addition, to defend the rights of employees and to implement the privileges and immunities stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations University, the legal office needs to adjust its internal regulations and rules.

Prof. Cui Xiaojing expressed sincere gratitude to Mr. Foghetti for his insightful speech and guided the lecture to the next session. Mr. Foghetti's insightful speech sparked rich thinking among the attendees, and the student representatives actively asked questions to him.

Prof. Xiao Yongping firstly inquired whether the UNU has signed any privileges and immunities agreements with the host governments and whether domestic legislation is needed to implement the privileges and immunities entitled to the emplyees. Mr. Foghetti explained that when the UNU enters other countries, it needs to sign agreements with the national government concerning the recognition and application of legal status and immunities. These agreements generally include funding agreements and technical agreements related to construction. Regarding the second question, Mr. Francesco mentioned that since the UNU and its charter are approved by the United Nations General Assembly, the legal personality and immunity rights stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations University are generally automatically obtained, and there is no need for member countries to legislate domestically to confirm them again.


To help students further enhance their abilities to get an internships and  capacities to work in international organizations, Dr. Meng Zixin asked Mr. Foghetti about the missing content in current legal education. Mr. Foghetti stated that the legal profession is continually evolving, and teachers can encourage students to engage in new areas where they can apply legal knowledge and skills, such as climate change. Besides, students can explore careers beyond legal affairs, such as providing legal assistance for other professional affairs. Starting legal career from a general domain can help freshmen better understand their strengths and professional interests.


Student Zhou Kexin showed keen interest in the role of legal interns at the UNU and asked Mr. Foghetti about the qualities and abilities required of interns. Mr. Foghetti responsed that the UNU does not expect interns to have extensive work experience or an urgent desire to start working, but expects a mutual exchange between the UNU and the interns. He not only cares the help which interns can provide to the UNU but also the harvest interns gain.


Student Wang Yixuan was very curious about the employees right to strike mentioned by Mr. Foghetti and asked about the role of the legal office in strikes. Mr. Foghetti stated that as a United Nations employee, it is essential to adhere to the basic behavioral guidelines of safeguarding the interests of the United Nations and maintaining its normal operations. Therefore, although the right to strike is one of the fundamental human rights, when a strike affects the reputation and normal operation of the United Nations, the legal office needs to maintain normal order.


Studnet Liu Zhaotong asked how the legal affairs department handles international disputes. Mr. Foghetti stated that although the UNU currently does not have a history of handling disputes, it also seeks to prevent disputes and resolve issues by signing contracts, joining dispute resolution clauses, actively participating in negotiations, and adjusting contract terms when resolving friction.


To conclude, Prof. Cui Xiaojing once again thanked Mr. Foghetti for his rich and witty lecture and looked forward to further cooperation between the Wuhan University School of Law and the UNU in the coming year. The lecture ended with enthusiastic applause from the attendees. Mr. Foghetti's introduction to the UNU opened a window for students to observe international organizations, sparking their expectations and aspirations to engage in international organizations and high-level dialogue platforms. It is believed that after this unique lecture, students will seize valuable opportunities, firmly hold lofty ideals, and continuously strive to become legal professionals with firm beliefs, strong patriotism, and a solid legal foundation, contributing to world peace and development.