- Speaker: Jessica Corsi, City Law School and City's Violence and Society Centre
- Chair: Jed Odermatt, International Law and Affairs Group (ILAG)
- Discussant: J. Jarpa Dawuni, Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University
About the event
Contemporary ICJ judicial elections, including the most recent in November 2020, have been missed opportunities for creating a gender equal court.
Scholars have published excellent work regarding gender parity at other supranational courts, but discussions about representation on the ICJ bench remain focused on the convention of equitable geographical distribution.
This article promotes an extension of that convention to include gender. In contrast to other supranational courts, which emphasise and, in some cases, have achieved both types of representation, the ICJ lags behind.
This paper explores the UN's gender parity policy—which has been in effect for several decades and aimed to create 50/50 female/male staffing parity by the year 2000—positing that it represents an evolutive interpretation of Charter law and has coalesced into binding rules for both the organisation and Member States.
It uses the law of international organisations (IO law) and the law of treaty interpretation to argue that Article 9 of the ICJ Statute can be interpreted to require gender parity on the bench.
Both the long-standing convention of equitable geographical distribution and other extra-textual interpretations of representation such as the UN’s regional group system demonstrate the power of UN organs to graft representation rules onto open-textured Statute and Charter provisions.
As the UN Secretary General (UNSG) recently stressed, the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of gender equality and how far the world must go before achieving this.
The pandemic has also highlighted that equality gains can quickly be undone. This article provides a detailed roadmap for both achieving and sustaining equality gains at the ICJ.
By examining how other supranational courts have achieved parity and finding a pathway for the ICJ consistent with existing procedural rules, it offers a way forward for achieving meaningful equality on what is arguably the world’s most important international court.
Parity, an apex interpretation of international human rights law (IHRL) meaning 50/50 female/male representation, matters for courts, which are both political and representative.
Many have written about how gender parity imbues courts with democratic legitimacy and achieves substantive gender equality, but few have examined parity on the ICJ bench. Historically, only 3.7% of ICJ judges have been women. There are only 3 women judges at present.
The UNSG issued a new temporary special measure for achieving UN wide gender parity in staffing in August 2020, but it has not yet affected nominations or elections at the ICJ.
This article argues that there are several interpretations of IO law, the UN Charter, and the ICJ Statute that would transform the UN’s staffing parity policy into obligations regarding the ICJ bench.
As the history of the ICJ bench demonstrates, parity will not happen on its own, but requires policy to that effect.
In the interest of fostering change, this article asks whether there are legal obligations for gender parity on the bench and if so, how parity can be achieved within the existing ICJ election nomination and election procedures.
It concludes that several UN organs and likely Member States, as well, have obligations of both conduct and result to achieve gender parity on the ICJ bench. Further, the ICJ Statute and UN General Assembly (UNGA) and Security Council (UNSC) rules of procedure are flexible enough to allow this.
About the Speaker
Jessica Lynn Corsi is a Law Lecturer at City, University London and City's Violence and Society Centre. Her work focuses on how the law can prevent and alleviate violence and foster substantive and transformative equality.
Her approach spans public international, regional, and domestic law, and combines theory, data, traditional legal research methods, and social science research methods.
Dr. Corsi holds a PhD in Law from Cambridge University, a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, an LL.M. from Cambridge University, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Her doctoral thesis was entitled Creating the Crimes of Rape and Sexual Violence Under International Criminal Law: Lessons in Legality. She has previously taught law and related topics for Brunel University London, NYU Law Paris, St. George’s, University of London, and more.
Dr. Corsi has worked for the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and other organisations on topics such as indicators of safety and violence; the rule of law; governance; legal empowerment of the poor; and human rights broadly speaking.