PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Ambassador Namira Negm
First woman Legal Counsel of the African Union
By Christine Lassey
Ambassador Dr. Namira Nabil Negm is an Egyptian national born on May 3, 1970. She attended the Armenian Catholic Sisters’ School in Egypt and obtained her Secondary School Diploma in 1988.
Negm began her legal career in the Nabil Negm Law Office where she worked from September 1992 to October 1993. She then joined foreign affairs and diplomacy. During her active service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Egypt, she served as diplomatic attaché (1993-1995), the third Secretary, office of Deputy Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs for Asian Affairs (1996-1997), third Secretary, Director in Charge, Office of Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs for Asian Affairs (1997-1998) and third Secretary, International Legal Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Amb. Dr. Namira Negm has an LLB degree in Law from Ain Shams University and holds an LLM and Ph.D. in Public International Law from the Kings’ College London, UK. She has attended courses of Public International Law and Private International Law at The Hague Academy for International Law, summer programs at the Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University and l’institut International d’Administration Publique in France.
In relation to her diplomatic career, Amb. Negm was the Head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (2013 - 2014). She was the Legal Advisor and Counter Terrorism Expert of the Egyptian Mission to the United Nations, New York (2006-2010). Amb. Negm also served as the Legal and Political Officer in the Embassy of Egypt to the Netherlands (1999-2003). During her diplomatic career, she served in several positions in the Department of Legal Affairs and International Conventions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has previously occupied the Position of Vice-President of the Assembly of States Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Vice-Chairperson of the Adhoc Committee on International Terrorism (Sixth Committee) and the Coordinator of the African Group in NY for legal matters.
Amb. Negm had served as Egyptian Negotiator in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabilities, Definition of the Crime of Aggression in the ICC Statute, The Hague Convention regarding the applicable law on Securities held through Intermediaries and The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and other Forms of Family Maintenance, the Protocol of 2005 to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and the Protocol of 2005 to the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf. She has also negotiated on behalf of the G77 and China the Statutes of the Administrative Tribunal of the UN that marked the establishment of a new administration of justice system in the organization. She has negotiated numerous resolutions in legal topics bilaterally between Egypt and her partners and multilaterally at the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and other international organizations. The subjects of the treaties included, law of the sea, fisheries, humanitarian law, human rights law, maritime law, arbitration rules, environmental law, international criminal law, refugee law, judicial cooperation, exchange of prisoners, recognition of judgements among others. She served as Ambassador of Egypt to Rwanda (2014-2017).
Amb. Negm built an admirable career as a seasoned diplomat. After years of service to Egypt, she ventured into working for an international organization by becoming the first female Legal Counsel in the History of the African Union, Her appointment is not surprising to anyone who has followed her career over the years. She has built an admirable portfolio as a writer, diplomat, and expert in international law. After taking over the Legal Counsel’s Office of the African Union, Amb. Negm was the lead Counsel of the African Union Legal Team before the ICJ in the Chagos Advisory Opinion and before the ICC in the Jordan’s Appeal in the Bashir case. She is currently the lead of the AU team for establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
She has contributed to the drafting of all legal documents issued by the AU since 2017 such as the Agreement on the establishment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and its complementing legal instruments, treaty establishing the African Medicine Agency, Integration of the African Development Agency - NEPAD, and the Peer Review Mechanism within the AU, Amendments of the structure of the AU Commission, the agreements and decisions issued by AU organs.
Amb. Negm is a firm believer of “African solutions to African problems”, thus her office is currently conducting studies and holding workshops to propose an African Union Arbitration Centre which will be the first of its kind if established. It will save the AU time and resources as well as create opportunities for African Arbitrators.
Amb. Negm organized training programs for experts of member states and officials of the African Union. These covered topics like international arbitration mechanisms,’ African arbitration experiences with China, investment arbitrations in Africa, Law of the sea and maritime law within the framework of the African Union, African Union privileges and immunities, and African Union administrative justice. These training programs equipped delegates with the skills and understanding required to operate efficiently within the African Union system.
She led negotiations and managed projects between the African Union and its partners. These comprised the partnership between the United Nations Development Program and Sweden to support the acceleration of the ratification and implementation of the African Union agreements. She was also instrumental in the Norway project for the implementation of the African Union maritime security strategy. Currently, she is overseeing the United States project to establish the hybrid court for South Sudan and a fund for victims of the crimes of Hussein Habré in Chad.
Coming to her Academic contributions, Amb. Negm has taught at the University Public International Law and International Relations at the American University in Cairo (2010-2013), the Institute of Diplomatic Studies of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, University of Kigali and gave numerous lectures in universities in the United States, France, Switzerland, Ecuador among others. She is also a guest Professor at the University of Geneva (Summer School in International Law and International Humanitarian Law).
Her academic publications include, an article on the “AU AIM Strategy and the Fragmentation of IUU Fishing Regulations in Africa: “the Case of West Africa”, an article on the “African Union Legal Drafting: Process, Mechanisms and Challenges” (2019), an article on “Lessons From Gbagbo & Blé Goudé Case and ICC Review: Perspectives from the African Union” (2019), a book on “Transfer of Nuclear Technology under International law, Case Study of Iraq, Iran and Israel” (2009), a Chapter on the Role of Egypt in the negotiations of the Crime of Aggression in “The Crime of Aggression: A Commentary (2016), a Chapter on “The Sanctions Regime of the African Union in “the Case of Unconstitutional Change of Government” (first quarter of 2021), a book on “an introduction to African Union Environmental Treaties” (first quarter of 2021). She also had several non-academic publications on Security Sector Reform, the Iranian Nuclear Program and the Lockerbie Trial.
In one interview, Amb. Negm advised women across the world in the following words: “Trust in yourselves and your abilities. Do not shy away from fighting the world to reach your goals. Be ready to sacrifice and don’t ever give up what you love for the sake of what others want or expect of you: “The light is within thee, so let the light shine”. Amb. Negm has built an extensive career path over the years. From a girl in Egypt to a woman who has command over legal affairs of the African continent. She is a trailblazer with a portfolio that resonates with dedication, hard work, and resilience.