Home EJIL Analysis Launch of GQUAL! – A Global Campaign for Gender Parity in International Tribunals and Monitoring Bodies

Launch of GQUAL! – A Global Campaign for Gender Parity in International Tribunals and Monitoring Bodies

Published on October 8, 2015        Author: 

On September 17, 2015 GQUAL! was launched at the UN in New York. GQUAL aims to promote transparency and adoption of rules in the selection, nomination, evaluation, and election of candidates to international tribunals and monitoring bodies to promote gender parity, as well as to pursue research and monitor processes in order to identify best practices and standards. The GQUAL Declaration sets forth the road map to be followed and is open for signatures by academics, practitioners, researchers, policy makers, judges and political representatives (both male and female.)

This campaign arose from Viviana Krsticevic’s engagement as the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and her concern that the majority of international tribunals and monitoring bodies are lacking gender parity among judges. Indeed, since its establishment, the ICJ has only had 3.8% women judges, the European Court of Human Rights 8.4% and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea 2.5%. The aim of this global campaign is to promote conditions, procedures, and mechanisms to ensure that out of 84 international bodies, which have 574 positions, 287 qualified women from different parts of the world and with diverse backgrounds are elected.

Claudia Martin notes that Article 8 of the CEDAW Convention requires states parties to “take all appropriate measures to ensure to women, on equal terms with men and without any discrimination, the opportunity to represent their Governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations.”   In a paper published by GQUAL earlier this month, she argues that this calls for states to ensure gender parity when adopting appointment processing rules and to establish transparent selection processes.

I suggest that it is also important to consider Article 8 of the UN Charter which sets forth: “The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs.” As the ICJ is a principal organ, UN Member States should pursue transparency to ensure equal participation of women when nominating and electing judges to the court.

Kristicevic points out in a recent paper that “Candidates are nominated generally by their own nations. Voting is done at the international level and is generally a diplomatic process that often involves only a cursory review of the qualifications. Votes are frequently exchanges between countries. These exchanges may involve agreements to support preferred candidates in the same election, but might also involve future elections in the same body or concurrent elections in other bodies. Many of these agreements take place in secret, and the candidate most likely will not be involved in the decisions of trading votes.”

Hence, the GQUAL Declaration calls for:

“The establishment of guidelines, measures, and mechanisms on a national and international level that guarantee gender parity in positions involving international responsibility, including international tribunals and bodies, human rights bodies, Special Procedures, and regional and international organizations.

That in every country, the Executive branch and Foreign Ministry publicly pledge to guarantee parity when presenting and voting for candidates for international tribunals and bodies, human rights bodies, Special Procedures, and diplomatic or other positions in regional and international organizations.

That those who feel compelled by our call for gender equality and parity support and promote the commitment presented in this declaration.”

The GQUAL! Declaration was signed by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Costa Rica, Norway, Panama, and Sweden to the United Nations.

I suggest that this campaign indicates a need to review gender parity within national delegations to treaty making processes, as well as academia, and upper level national courts. As these are the pools of recruitment of judges, it is imperative to match international equal opportunity initiatives with national efforts.

GQUAL! has a very useful website where you can download and sign the Declaration. The launch can be watched here.

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8 Responses

  1. Great piece and great initiative, Cecilia!

  2. Andrew Drzemczewski

    A few raw statistics:

    The statistic cited in the blog – 8,4 % of women on the European Court of Human Rights – looks somewhat odd, but perhaps this is an ‘average’ calculated, on a yearly basis, since the Court came into existence back in 1959?

    The Court is presently composed of 46 judges, 15 of whom are women, which means that 32,61 % are women (its composition will again change as of 1 November 2015). Actually, in 2015, the Court’s composition has changed nine times, varying from a minimum of 31, 82% to a maximum of 34,09 % of women; last week the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (parliamentarians from all member states, PACE), elected a woman as a judge, in respect of the Slovak Republic, who will take up her functions within the next three months. For more details of this election process consult the Assembly’s website:

    Women on the Court: here’s a quick overview- which still needs to be double-checked (any takers?) – based on statistics I’ve been able to obtain on a yearly count, using 1 November as the basis of calculation (i.e., the day on which the new full-time Court started functioning, back in 1998):
    1998 = 20,51 % (39 judges; 8 women);
    1999 = 19,51 % (41 judges; 8 women);
    2000 = 19,51 % (41 judges; 8 women);
    2001 = 24,39 % (41 judges; 10 women);
    2002 = 24,39 % (41 judges; 10 women);
    2003 = 25,58 % (43 judges; 11 women);
    2004 = 25,58 % (43 judges; 11 women);
    2005 = 26,67 % (45 judges; 12 women);
    2006 = 28,26 % (46 judges; 13 women);
    2007 = 31,11 % (45 judges; 14 women);
    2008 = 34,78 % (46 judges; 16 women);
    2009 = 36,96 % (46 judges; 17 women);
    2010 = 38,30 % (47 judges; 18 women);
    2011 = 41,30 % (46 judges; 19 women);
    2012 = 40,00 % (45 judges ; 18 women);
    2013 = 36,17 % (47 judges; 17 women).

    One additional bit of information: as most informed observers are aware, when the PACE elects (yes, elects) judges onto the European Court of Human Rights, it takes into account the views of its specially constituted committee which interviews each of the three candidates shortlisted and then recommends to the PACE plenary whether or not a list ought to be accepted. One of the important ‘rules’ is that states are required to put forward at least one candidate from “the under-represented sex” (sex to which under 40% of the total number of judges belong) unless exceptional circumstances permit them not to do so. See also, in this connection, the Court’s Advisory Opinion, of 12 February 2008.

    Andrew Drzemczewski (Secretary to PACE’s Committee on the Election of Judges to the Court:

  3. Andrew Drzemczewski

    PS: I forgot to include the statistics for 2014:

    1st November 2014: = 35,55% (45 judges, of whom 16 were women).

  4. Lech Garlicki

    Great inititiative. Congratulations.
    It is a pity , however, that the information about ECTHR is quite misleading. Or, it rather shows dangers of purely statistical approach. While it may be correct that the percentage of female judges was miniscule in the first decades of the Strasbourg Court, itcan only illustrate the overall situation in this time. But, since at least 10 years, the number of female judgesseems to behigher than in most othersupreme courts. So,, the ECtHR should be rather used as a positive example. This mistakemakes the whole presentation less trustworthy as it could and should be.

    Lech Garlicki, judge of the ECtHR 2002-2012

  5. Cecilia Bailliet

    The statistic refers to the average since the inception of the court, not just the recent period. Although the European Court of Human Rights has improved signifcantly, there remains reason to pay attention to gender parity policies and practices. Please read Stephanie Henriette Vauchez’s illuminating study of gender politics at the European Court of Human Rights:

  6. Zdravka Kalaydjieva

    Congratulations for the initiative!
    As a former (female) judge at ECtHR and like my former colleague Lech Garlicki I believe that the statistics concerning its composition should be clarified to better reflect the fact of PACE(unique) requirements for the nomination and the election of a notably higher percentage of women as judges in this Court. The comment of Mr.Drzemczewski provides appropriate, correct and sufficient data, which in my view might be useful in this regard.

    Zdravka Kalaydjieva, judge at the ECtHR 2008-2015

  7. Tanja Kleinsorge

    For further reading, I can recommend the 2007 opinion of the then PACE Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which preceded the 2008 Advisory Opinion of the European Court of Human Rights. (historical footnote: The Assembly voted down the draft resolution presented by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights at the time).
    Tanja E.J. Kleinsorge (former Head of the Secretariat of the above Committee)

  8. Cecilia Bailliet

    The statistic is indeed that of the European Court of Justice. The European Court of Human Rights has a 20% historical total.