Reminder: Call for Contributions to the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on Current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms

Just a reminder that the deadline established by the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee to receive contributions and inputs from relevant stakeholders, including Member States, international and regional organizations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the special procedures, national human rights institutions, civil society and academic institutions, for its report on Current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms is 29 May 2020. This is a great  opportunity to contribute to the debate on improving gender balance in international courts and organs.

In June 2019, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 41/6, in which it requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a report, in close cooperation with the Working Group on Discrimination against Women (WGDLP) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms such as the Advisory Committee, the treaty bodies and the special procedures established by the Human Rights Council.

The report is set to include good practices by States in nominating, electing and appointing candidates to ensure balanced gender representation, in line with the system-wide strategy on gender parity, and recommendations to assist the Council and Member States in this regard. The Rapporteur of the Advisory Committee leading the drafting of the report is Professor Elizabeth Salmon from Peru.

The GQUAL Campaign worked with the WGDLP and the Mission of Mexico in Geneva to craft language for this resolution to promote gender balance at the United Nations human rights organs and mechanisms.

For more information on the Resolution and the questionnaire to guide the contributions and views, click here. Contributions must be submitted to the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee at hrcadvisorycommittee@ohchr.org

Celebrating 25 Years of the Inter-American Moot Court Competition: an ongoing commitment to training new generations of lawyers on human rights law

This week the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law is proud to celebrate 25 years of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition. The Competition is a unique trilingual (English, Spanish and Portuguese) event designed to enlighten and instruct students and legal practitioners on how to utilize the Inter-American System to tackle human rights abuses. From its inception in 1996 until to date, the Competition has evolved to become a global forum for scholarly engagement on frontline human rights issues in the Americas and beyond. Over the past 25 years the Competition has featured more than 4800 participants from over 50 countries, across 360 Universities.

The Competition is hosted by American University Washington College of Law (AU WCL), an institution with strong ties to the Inter-American Human Rights System, and was founded by Dean Claudio Grossman and implemented by Professors Claudia Martin and Diego Rodriguez-Pinzon, Academy’s Co-Directors. With 4 former Presidents of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a former Ad Hoc Judge of the Inter-American Court and lawyers who worked at the Commission’s Secretariat or as litigators in the faculty, AU WCL has greatly contributed to shape the work of the System and promote its values for more than three decades. The Competition has been co-sponsored by the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights.

Despite the fact that during this 25th celebration some aspects of the Competition have changed to take form virtually, our commitment to encouraging opportunities for law students from across the Americas and the globe to gain expertise in the Inter-American Human Rights System continues during the ongoing crisis. The commitment of all participants: team members, coaches, judges, observers, and bailiffs to make the 2020 Competition and 25th Anniversary of the Competition a truly special event, continues even in uncertain circumstances. Now is the time more than ever to use new platforms and to bring together students and human rights advocates to continue to discuss the most pressing human rights issues for our time.

The theme for the 25th celebration of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition is “Rule of Law and Human Rights: Strengthening Democratic Institutions” and speaks to the challenges democratic institutions in Latin American face as a result of authoritarian policies and practices and how international law can address these issues using the human rights system. The hypothetical case was written by Katya Salazar and Ursula Indacochea, Executive Director and Head of the Judicial Independence Program respectively, at the Due Process of Law Foundation.

Over the past 25 years, the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition has brought together human rights advocates from the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Dejusticia and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) amongst other notable organizations as judges, observers and hypothetical case authors.

The history of the past 25 Competitions from 1996 to 2020 including the various cases that were created for the Competition, hypothetical case authors, the honor panel of judges, as well as the winning university teams from each year, can be accessed here. Also, all the virtual activities organized to celebrate this milestone are available here. The Closing Ceremony hosting a public panel with the Presidents of the Commission and Court, Joel Hernandez and Elizabeth Odio Benito, moderated by Professor Claudio Grossman is open for registration here.

Congratulations and thank you to all who have participated during these 25 years! Through your commitment you have helped this Competition to truly become an inspiration for future lawyers to be better members of the legal profession and committed citizens in the local and global communities to which they belong.

Renewed Call for Contributions to the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on Current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee extended its deadline to 29 May 2020 to receive contributions and inputs from relevant stakeholders, including Member States, international and regional organizations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the special procedures, national human rights institutions, civil society and academic institutions, for its report on Current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms. This is a great  opportunity to contribute to the debate on improving gender balance in international courts and organs.

In June 2019, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 41/6, in which it requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a report, in close cooperation with the Working Group on Discrimination against Women (WG) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms such as the Advisory Committee, the treaty bodies and the special procedures established by the Human Rights Council.

The report is set to include good practices by States in nominating, electing and appointing candidates to ensure balanced gender representation, in line with the system-wide strategy on gender parity, and recommendations to assist the Council and Member States in this regard. The Rapporteur of the Advisory Committee leading the drafting of the report is Professor Elizabeth Salmon from Peru.

The GQUAL Campaign worked with the WG and the Mission of Mexico in Geneva to craft language for this resolution to promote gender balance at the United Nations human rights organs and mechanisms.

For more information on the Resolution and the questionnaire to guide the contributions and views, click here.

The Human Rights Council’s consideration of gender representation in UN treaty bodies and special mechanisms: Call to submit inputs for the report of the Advisory Committee on current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms

On July 11, 2019, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution A/HRC/41/L.6 on the “Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls.” GQUAL, a global campaign to achieve gender parity in the composition of international tribunals and monitoring bodies, worked with the United Nations Working Group on Discrimination against Women (WG) and the Mission of Mexico in Geneva to develop language for this year’s Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution promoting gender balance in United Nations (UN) international bodies. GQUAL’s efforts were successfully translated in the Resolution which acknowledges for the first time that “women remain underrepresented … in United Nations bodies and mechanisms responsible for developing international human rights norms and standards and monitoring their implementation.”

Additionally, the Resolution calls upon States and encourages the UN and other international institutions to promote, inter alia, balanced gender representation in the membership of international bodies at all levels. In particular, the Resolution calls upon States to develop better procedures at the national level to take gender as a consideration for the appointment and election of candidates. Furthermore, it encourages States and the appropriate UN bodies, including the OHCHR, to deepen their efforts to promote women candidacies through the distribution of information on available vacancies, encouragement to women to put their names forward, and monitoring and reporting on progress in achieving balanced gender representation.

Furthermore, the Resolution instructs the HRC Advisory Committee to draft a report, in consultation with CEDAW and the WG, and including the input of States and other relevant stakeholders, to systematize good practices and recommendations for increasing gender representation in international bodies. As part of the first step towards the preparation of the report, the HRC Advisory Committee has posted a call for inputs and views, including a questionnaire on the issue for stakeholders to submit information.

The call for inputs and views, was released on September 12, 2019 and the deadline to submit is January 12, 2020. The questionnaire to facilitate the submission of inputs for the report is posted here.

Submissions and other information should be submitted to:

Secretariat of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee
OHCHR – United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
E-mail: hrcadvisorycommittee@ohchr.org
Fax: +41 22 917 9011

The Resolution and the call for inputs and views by the HRC Advisory Committee provide a unique opportunity for civil society, academia and other interested parties, to submit information and proposals that contribute to improve selection procedures and to realize women’s right to equality in UN bodies.

Also, please contact the GQUAL Campaign should you have an interest in supporting this report at gqual@cejil.org

GQUAL Campaign: 2019 achievements on gender equality and opportunities for 2020

During 2019, GQUAL carried out a very extensive and successful agenda, which resulted in important gains for moving towards gender parity in international justice. Some highlights of our work are described below. For a full report of activities see here.

Launched in September 2015, GQUAL is a global campaign to achieve gender parity in the composition of international tribunals and monitoring bodies. Data available on GQUAL’s website shows that the underrepresentation of women continues to exist across almost all international bodies in charge of imparting international justice.

GQUAL STRATEGIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2019
As part of its goal to develop international standards, as well as good practices for national and international selection procedures that include gender as criteria for the appointment and selection of candidates, GQUAL embarked in several successful initiatives that included:

Adoption of Human Rights’ Council Resolution

GQUAL worked with the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women (WG) and the Mission of Mexico in Geneva to develop language for a Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution promoting gender balance in UN bodies. GQUAL’s efforts were successfully translated in Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/41/L.6 on the “Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls.” This landmark resolution acknowledges for the first time the lack of gender balance in UN treaty bodies and special procedures, and calls upon States, the UN and other international organizations to promote gender balance in the composition of international organs at all levels. In particular, the Resolutions calls upon states to develop better procedures at the national level to take gender as a consideration for the appointment and election of candidates, and the OHCHR to deepen their efforts to promote women candidacies.

Additionally, the Resolution calls on the HRC Advisory Committee to draft a report, in consultation with CEDAW and the WG, and including the input of States and other relevant stakeholders, to systematize good practices and recommendations for increasing gender representation in international bodies. As part of the first step towards the preparation of the report, the HRC Advisory Committee has posted a call for inputs and views (now extended), which includes a questionnaire for stakeholders to submit information. This provides a unique opportunity for civil society, academia and other interested parties, to submit information and proposals that contribute to improve selection procedures and to realize women’s right to equality in UN bodies.

Adoption of OAS General Assembly Resolution on criteria for the selection of members of the IA Commission and Court

For the fourth straight year, in 2019 GQUAL proposed language and advocated for a resolution at the Organization for American States (OAS) addressing the need for selection procedures at the national and regional level for the appointment of judges at the Inter-American Court and members of the Commission. AG/RES. 2941 (XLIX-O/19) Resolution, approved by the OAS General Assembly in June 2019, underlines the need of achieving better gender balance in these bodies.

Briefings before the WG and CEDAW

Both the WG and CEDAW play a fundamental role in developing legal standards on the obligation to promote gender parity in international representation and monitoring State’s compliance with this obligation.

– In June 2019, GQUAL briefed the members of the WG on a research conducted by the Campaign regarding the WG’s practice on issues of parity and representation. Also, in the briefing, both parties explored avenues for collaboration.

– Additionally, in July 2019 GQUAL conducted a private briefing to the CEDAW Committee during its 73th sessions in Geneva. GQUAL presented the results of research conducted by the Campaign on the Committee’s jurisprudence regarding gender parity in international bodies and called on the Committee to develop standards under article 8 of the CEDAW Convention and issue recommendations to States.

Submission of position paper to the UN treaty bodies strengthening process

In April 2019, GQUAL submitted a position paper to the OHCHR as part of a call to provide inputs to the human rights treaty body strengthening process launched in 2014 through UN General Assembly Resolution 68/268. Inputs were sought to enrich the UN Secretary General report to be published in January 2020, in anticipation of the state review process starting in April 2020.

GQUAL’s position paper adds a unique focus on gender, by highlighting the importance of reviewing nomination and selection procedures and practices and adopting measures to achieve gender parity in the composition of human rights treaty bodies.

Participation in events

Additionally, to amplify knowledge and networks, in 2019 GQUAL participated in the following events:

Women Delivering Justice: Investing in Women Justice Professionals for the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda, side event during the Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW63) with IDLO and International Association of Women Judges Link to video
Event organized by the Commission of Judiciary and Political Affairs of the OAS to discuss good practices for the nomination and elections of members to the IACHR and Court and the text of a resolution to be discussed by the OAS General Assembly,
Gender Parity in UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, side event to the 41st Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, with the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), and Women@theTable.
Panel Discussion on Accelerating Gender Equality – 42nd Human Rights Council Session in Geneva. The panel discussion was part of a series of Meeting organized annually by the OHCHR. The objective of this session was to discuss the recently adopted HRC Resolution A/HRC/41/L.6, which addresses, inter alia, gender balance in international court and was promoted and drafted by the GQUAL Campaign.

2020 will be a busy year for the campaign. The HRC Resolution opened an important opportunity to develop guidelines and recommendations that can improve international selection processes and ensure that more women are nominated and elected. There will also be important elections both at the UN and at regional systems. We invite you all to check the upcoming elections here, and to contact us to learn more about our plans and actions.

GQUAL Conference: Changing the Picture of International Justice

From October 3-5, the GQUAL Conference: Changing the Picture of International Justice will take place in The Hague, Netherlands, organized by GQUAL and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) along with the support of States, Foundations, and Partner organizations.

Women are under-represented across almost all international tribunals and monitoring bodies that play key roles in developing international law, human rights, international relations, and cooperation. For example, in 2017, only 18.1% of judges sitting on international tribunals are women. Within the United Nations Treaty Bodies, several Committees have less than 30% of female representation, among them the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR, 27%), the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED, 10%) and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 6%). In response to this critical dearth of women serving across international justice, GQUAL was launched in 2015 at the UN Headquarters as a global campaign to achieve gender parity within these entities.

On its second anniversary of the campaign, the GQUAL Conference will convene, at the Hague, Vice-Presidents, high level representatives of States and members of international tribunals and organizations, international law and gender experts, academics, advocates and activists from all over the world to build on the work done over the past two years. The goal of the conference is to approve an Action Plan that will build upon the campaign’s three strategies outlined in the GQUAL Declaration. The conference will include a series of workshops where participants will discuss the multiple angles that influence the representation of women and possible avenues for improvement, at the national and international level.

Check out the event splashpage to RSVP and see the full program of the conference, the organizations and States supporting the initiative, and a preview of participating speakers at https://gqualconference.splashthat.com .  The Opening Ceremony will take place at The Peace Palace on October 3rd and will be live streamed starting at 5:00 PM (Netherlands) here: https://goo.gl/gbx97t .

For more information, please contact Alex McAnarney at amcanarney@cejil.org.

 

Update on Gender Parity at the Human Rights Council

On November 8, I published Taking-stock: The Human Rights Council and Gender Parity in Special Procedures after 10 years in this blog. The Article was also cross-posted at the Human Rights Brief. To complement my article, the Human Rights Brief recently interviewed Ambassador Marta Maurás Pérez from Chile. Ambassador Maurás is a pioneer for gender parity in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). As the only woman in the 2015 HRC Consultative Group, she was a leader in the Consultative Group’s creation of the 2015 Gender Parity Guidelines. She continues to work to increase the number of women holding special procedures positions. The interview with Ambassador Maurás discusses her dedicated work on closing the gender gap within the UN and around the world. In addition, she discusses the challenges ahead to ensure that gender parity becomes mandatory in the work of the HRC. The full interview is posted at the Human Rights Brief. I hope her words encourage us to continue our advocacy to promote gender parity at the HRC and other international tribunals and organs.

Taking-stock: The Human Rights Council and Gender Parity in Special Procedures after 10 years

The Human Rights Council (HRC) completed its 33rd session on September 30, 2016. After 10 years of functioning, this organ seems to be doing a better job of appointing women for special procedures than other human rights bodies as a result of the application of gender parity guidelines adopted at the level of the Consultative Group (CG). After the latest appointments, and according to a report from the Universal Rights Group, the gender balance of mandate-holders has slightly increased from 41%-44%. However, more needs to be done to sustain the gains and ensure that gender parity becomes a mandatory standard and not a mere guideline in the selection of special procedures mandate holders.

In June 2015, the HRC’s Consultative Group (CG) adopted the “Guidelines on Gender Parity” (Guidelines) to address the gender disparity in the special mandate holder selection process. The Guidelines recommend the establishment of gender quotas for the CG in the selection of individuals for short-list interviews and short-list for final decision by the President and HRC. Specifically, Guideline Recommendation 2(a) – relating to short-list interviews – advises the CG “to list no more than three persons of the same sex out of the five candidates ranked for Working Groups and for individual mandates . . . .” Guideline Recommendation 2(b) – relating to short-list for final decision – recommends “their collective three-candidate short-list for the President and Council’s final decision ensures no more than two out of three are of the same sex.” When establishing the Guidelines, the CG took into account existing General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions and stated that given “the present situation of grave gender unbalance, the members of the Consultative Group should consider ways to achieve gender parity for appointments to be made at the 29th and 30th sessions of the Human Rights Council, in order to move towards the 2004 General Assembly target of fifty-fifty among all mandate holders and redress the reduced number of women candidates and women appointed in the last exercises, while minding geographical balance.”

The reports of the CG from the 29th, 30th, and 31st sessions of the HRC each make explicit mention of the Guidelines in the section of the report that outlines the selection process for special mandate holders.  In those sessions, the CG considered applications for 11 special procedure mandate holder positions, plus two positions to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People (EMRIP), a subsidiary body of the HRC. Of the short-list interviews, interview selection for four of those 11 positions did not meet the Guidelines’ “no more than three persons of the same sex out of the five candidates ranked” standard. However, three out of those four positions favored women over men in the selection process. Similarly, short-list for final decisions for four of the 11 positions did not meet the Guidelines’ “no more than two out of three” of the same sex standard, but again three of those four favored women over men. Therefore, although the CG did not strictly adhere to the Guidelines during those sessions, there was still a strong indication that the CG followed-through with the Guidelines and their stated purpose based on the two main factors addressed here. First, in almost of all the cases of non-compliance at the short-list interviews and short-list final decisions women were favored over men. Second, nearly all non-compliance favored the appointment of female applicants. The 29th, 30th, and 31st sessions produced about 45% female appointees to special procedure mandates, but two more women were proposed by the CG and elected by the HRC to the EMRIP. Overall, these sessions produced 56% female appointees.

Interestingly, the reports of the CG for the 32nd and 33rd sessions do not make any reference to gender or the Guidelines. They only state that the CG paid full consideration to several paragraphs of the Annex to the HRC’s Resolution 5/1, including para. 40 which provide, inter alia, that “due consideration should be given to gender balance” in the selection and appointment of mandate-holders. Notwithstanding, the final outcome of these sessions shows that the CG respected the parameters of the Guidelines and even contributed to slightly increased women’s representation among special procedure mandate-holders. The CG reviewed applications for 10 mandate holder positions. As to the short-list for interviews, the CG did not meet the gender standard in six cases, whereas only in two of the 10 positions it failed to comply with the “no more than two out of three” of the same sex standard. These numbers show that even if the CG had more difficulties with respecting gender balance when creating the short-list for interviews – mostly due to a significantly low number of women applicants for certain mandates- with few exceptions it was able to maintain the standard when proposing the short list of candidates for election. Overall, 6 women out of 10 positions were appointed by the HRC.

Since the adoption of the Guidelines, the CG put forward noticeably increased percentages of women for both interviews and the short-list of final nominations to be considered by the HRC. Before that, women represented about 37% percent of all special mandate holders. The recent increase in female applicants at each step of the selection process and the increased percentage of female appointees indicate the success of the Guidelines in achieving the stated goal of gender parity across all mandate holders. In spite of these gains, it is not clear if this policy will be sustained in the future, particularly taking into account that the current CG has not expressly extended the application of the Guidelines adopted by its predecessor and a new CG will start its functions in April 2017.  Experience shows that advances in gender parity do not preclude the possibility of regression. Thus, to sustain existing gains the HRC should take additional steps to solidify the Guidelines as formal requirements. Specifically, these guidelines should be included in a resolution of the HRC complementing Resolution 5/1 and incorporating gender parity as official protocol for the special mandate holder selection process.  Only that will ensure that women’s representation in the special procedures mandates are sustained in the future, regardless of the composition of the CG and the gender sensitivities of the HCR and its President.

Article 8 of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): A Stepping Stone in Ensuring Gender Parity in International Organs and Tribunals

Article 8 of CEDAW requires state parties to the treaty 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.” Given the plain text of the provision and its subsequent interpretation by the Convention’s enforcement body, the CEDAW Committee, it is clear that state parties have a duty to ensure gender equality in the access to positions in international tribunals and bodies that play key roles in developing international law and human rights. As of today, 189 states have ratified CEDAW, thereby making the obligations arising out of Article 8 an almost universal requirement. The goal of GQUAL is to work with states, international bodies, and civil society organizations towards the effective implementation of this duty.

The obligation to ensure equal opportunity “to participate in the work of international organizations” under Article 8 is two-fold. At the international level, states must exert influence when the rules regulating processes of appointment to international positions are adopted to guarantee that they conform to the gender equality requirements of that provision (Sarah Wittkop, Article 8, in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, A Commentary,at 224). At the domestic level, states must establish transparent selection processes to ensure that women benefit on an equal basis from the opportunity to work at the international level, particularly when such opportunity requires states to nominate candidates to be appointed to those positions (Id.). Even though the obligation to ensure gender equality at the international level is of a positive nature, at the domestic level states have an immediate duty to set up the necessary conditions to guarantee women de facto equality to access those opportunities. On the other hand, the duty to achieve in practice gender equality is considered to be of gradual implementation.

When Article 8 speaks of “international organizations,” it is understood that this notion encompasses not only international bodies such as the United Nations, but also regional organizations, including the Organization of American States, the Council of Europe, and the African Union to mention a few (Id.). Moreover, all organs within those organizations are covered by this obligation, including “courts, subsidiary bodies, funds and programmes, specialized agencies, and treaty bodies.”(Id.) Consequently, states have a duty to ensure gender equality in access to positions at both levels and to all international organs.

Additionally, Article 8 requires that state parties to the Convention “take all appropriate measures” to ensure gender equality in their representations to international organizations. According to the CEDAW Committee, the appropriate measures include the creation of objective criteria and processes for the appointment and promotion of women to relevant positions (CEDAW, General Recommendation No. 23 (1997) paras. 38, 50) and the adoption of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating substantive equality for women,(Id., para. 43) as provided by Article 4 of the Convention. The Committee has read this article to require state parties to adopt temporary measures such as special educational opportunities, recruitment policies, and quotas in order to expedite gender de facto equality in areas where women are chronically underrepresented (CEDAW, General Recommendation No. 25 (2004) para. 22). Such temporary special measures are necessary to bypass entrenched cultural and structural issues that make it impossible for women to compete on an even playing field with men (Id., para. 14).

The CEDAW Committee’s interpretation of the Convention through its Concluding Observations on state parties and its General Recommendations is vital to understand the practical implications and obligations of the Convention. Even if Article 8 has not been extensively interpreted, the CEDAW Committee has repeatedly obligated states to take whatever measures necessary to ensure de facto gender equality in international representation. Specifically, the Committee has repeatedly recommended that state parties establish temporary statutory quota systems to achieve substantive equality in both the diplomatic service and states’ representations to international organizations. (Concluding Observations, the Netherlands, 2010, para. 33). Finally, given the precise nature of the obligation to take all appropriate measures, this duty is of immediate application and may be subject to enforcement at the domestic and international jurisdiction (Sarah Wittkop, Article 8, supra, at 231).

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