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On December 5, 2017, the Wilson Center Women in Public Service Project and the Institute for African Women in Law hosted a panel discussion on “Global Voices in International Law: International Courts and Women Judges.” The full report can be downloaded HERE.

This event was held on the heels of the then ongoing elections in New York for the new judges to the International Criminal Court which was held from December 4-14, 2017. Central to the mission of the Women in Public Service Project is the acceleration of global efforts to increase the number of women in public service and leadership. International courts are important arenas where judicial decisions can produce lasting effects on the lives of global citizens. Emerging scholarship has shown that women continue to occupy less than 20% of seats on international courts and tribunals. The desire to create inclusive and representative institutions at the domestic and global levels should not lose sight of the important roles women judges play on international courts. The panelists discussed the paucity of women judges on international courts, the role of international professional organizations such as the International Association of Women Judges, the role of governments in supporting the election of women, and the collective strategies of movements such as the GQUAL Campaign. Each panelist provided recommendation and best practices to change the current state of women on international courts and bodies. Dr. William Pomeranz, Deputy Director, Kennan Institute for Advances Russian Studies at the Wilson Center gave the opening remarks. Dr. Pomeranz noted the importance of addressing the question of voice in judicial decision-making institutions in both common law and civil law systems. He stressed the importance of inclusion on international benches in order to get different and important perspectives. Lastly, he emphasized the need to expand the number of global voices in international law and how the lack of women’s voices can impact international law.

Dr. Josephine Jarpa Dawuni, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University and the Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) moderated the panel discussion. Dr. Dawuni highlighted current research which shows that progress has been made in some jurisdictions across the African continent in women’s entry into judiciaries. She further commented on the progress made at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which has achieved gender parity in the relatively short history of the court. The success achieved by women from African in international courts and tribunals is evidenced in the International Criminal Court ICC), where currently, African women have accounted for the highest number of women judges drawn from the five world regions represented on the court. Adding to the success of African women at the ICC was the election of two more women from Africa during the ICC elections in December 2017, Ms. Reini Alapini Gansou, who was supposed to be on the panel discussion could not make it because she had just been elected that day in New York. Each of the speakers were asked to speak on specific issue areas as seen in the ensuing discussion. Prof. Nienke Grossman spoke on the role of research in expanding our understanding of gender and the bench.

Lisa Davis, Executive Director of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) spoke on the role of professional organizations such as IAWJ in promoting the professional trajectory of women judges.

Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, former Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States and current Visiting Scholar and Acting Director of the Institute for African Studies at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs provided remarks on the role of politics and governments in judicial appointments.

Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) spoke about the role of civil society organizations such as the GQUAL Campaign, in their efforts to change the gendered picture of international bodies.


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