The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is a monitoring body composed of 23 experts of high moral standing and competence in the field covered by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This year there was a call for nominations to replace those experts whose terms are expiring in December 2016. As Norway has always been an important leader within the arena of Women’s Rights, there was an expectation that its nomination would be laudable. Furthermore, in 2015, Norway signed the GQUAL Declaration which calls for gender parity when appointing members of the international judiciary and committees.
Surprisingly, this month, Norway backtracked its commitments by appointing a man, Gunnar Bergby, Secretary-General of the Supreme Court of Norway, for membership to the CEDAW Committee instead of the female candidate, Anne Hellum, the renowned professor of Women’s Law. This came as a shock to the Norwegian and Swedish Women’s lobby groups, both of which had supported Anne Hellum due to her leadership and scholarship within the Department of Women’s Law, Children’s Law, and Equality and Discrimination Law, teaching and research of the CEDAW in Southern and Eastern Africa, and publications on the CEDAW. Mr. Bergby worked with the Gender Equality Ombudsman thirty years ago
Given that the past three candidates nominated by Norway to the CEDAW have been men, and that there is a clear imbalance between the competence of the two candidates, there appeared to be a contradiction with Article 8 of the CEDAW which sets forth that the state should : “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.” Norway appears to have completely reversed its commitment to gender parity and strikes one as not being very interested in the actual competence of candidates when making appointments. This suggests a lack of respect for the international human rights system as a whole. Although Norway may argue that they want to ensure that there are male members within the CEDAW Committee (where the majority are women) at least they should have nominated a man who has competence within the field. It is ironic that Norway is considered to be a leader in Women’s Human Rights when its nomination arguably weakens the treaty monitoring system.