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Congratulations! Prof. Phoebe Okowa Elected to the International Law Commission.


The Institute for African Women in Law congratulates Professor Phoebe Okowa for her

recent historic election to the International Law Commission (ILC) of the United Nations (UN). At the seventy-sixth (76th) session of the UN General Assembly held on Friday, November 12, 2021, the ILC finally brought the almost eight decades exclusion of African Women in Law to an end, after Kenyan born Professor of Public Law, Phoebe Okowa, secured 162 votes through a secret ballot to become the first African woman to be elected to the ILC.

Effective January 01, 2023, the community of African Women in Law will for the first time in history, be represented by Prof. Phoebe Okowa at the ILC for a five-year term as stipulated in the statute of the ILC. This electoral success is just the beginning, and more work remains to be done to increase the representation of African women international law.

We commend the General Assembly for bringing to life, the spirit of the laws of gender inclusion and diversity and walking the talk of gender parity being ‘an urgent need, moral duty and operational necessity’ (Guterres, 2017). Together, we shall successfully attain gender parity at all levels. Advocacy for more African Women in Law at the ILC just started.

The Institute for African Women in Law further wishes to reiterate its mission of promoting positive and sustainable social change through legal advocacy by empowering African Women in Law, hence African Women in Law should note that just as the ceiling to the ILC has been ‘shattered’ by Prof. Phoebe, there are many other ceilings that can, and are yet to be shattered.

In her victory speech on November 12, 2021, Prof. Okowa noted, “ I am pleased beyond words and both honoured and humbled in equal measure to have been elected today to the United Nations International Law Commission for the term 2023-2027. I am profoundly grateful to the member states for their confidence in me. Throughout the campaign experiences I have remained conscious that the ILC is a subsidiary organ of the UN that is at its most effective working in collaboration with the sixth committee. I look forward to working with the other members of the commission and those on the sixth committee as the commission continues its vital work in responding to the defining challenges of our generation.

IAWL thanks its panelists for Where are the African Women in International Law? webinar which provided a rich scholarly discussion on the paucity of African women in international law. We look forward to breaking more ceilings in international law!


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