Women in international law interest group luncheon.

The luncheon meeting was convened at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, April 10. The honorees were Judge Joan Donoghue, Judge Xue Hanqin, and Judge Julia Sebutinde of the International Court of Justice. The special guest was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court (retired).


Good afternoon. I am so honored to be here today to present the Prominent Woman in International Law Award to Judges Joan Donoghue, Xue Hanqin, and Julia Sebutinde of the International Court of Justice.

The bench of the International Court of Justice is made up of men and women who represent the finest minds from the various legal cultures across the globe. These judges represent both the greatest minds in international law and the finest aspects of humanity. They serve on the bench of the aptly named "Peace Palace" to carry out the Court's mission of providing a forum where states can resolve their differences off the battlefields. In doing so, the judges of the International Court of Justice determined not only the fate of disputing states, but also the course of humanity and legal history.

For several decades after the Court rose out of the ashes of World War II, this honor and great responsibility were carried out by only male judges. While the judges of the Court represented the regions of the world, they did not represent half of its population. Today that is no longer the case.

The first female judge ever to serve on the Court's bench was Suzanne Bastid of France, who acted as an ad hoc judge in the early 1980s. As an ad hoc judge, she was appointed by one of the state parties, Tunisia, in the Continental Shelf case with Libya because Tunisia did not have a national on the bench.

It is no doubt familiar to many of you that Dame Rosalyn Higgins was the first female judge elected to the Court in 1995. Dame Higgins served on the Court for 14 years, three years as its president. Quite appropriately, just one year before joining the Court, she received the Prominent Woman in International Law Award, which it is our privilege to present today to Judges Donoghue, Sebutinde, and Xue. Like Dame Higgins, each of these women has been a trailblazer in her own legal tradition and has reached the pinnacle of the field of public international law. It is a particularly heartfelt honor for me as a female lawyer who practices before the Court to be able to present this award to these three women who are a very personal inspiration every time I enter the Great Hall.

On behalf of the American Society of International Law's Women in International Law Interest Group, it is our privilege to bestow on Judges Xue, Donoghue, and Sebutinde the Prominent Woman in International Law Award.


* Associate, Foley Hoag; Co-Chair of the Women in International Law Interest Group.


Judge Joan Donoghue joined the Court in 2010 after a long and successful career counseling the United States government in its international legal affairs. In fact, early on in her trailblazing career, Judge Donoghue was among the first American women counsel in a case before the Court in the 1980s, as an Attorney Advisor to the United States government in the Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua. Joan Donoghue continued to serve the U.S. Department of State for more than 30 years, providing her legal advice on the full spectrum of international law, from seabeds to sanctions. Among her many leadership roles throughout her career, she was Director of the Office of Diplomatic Law and Litigation and Assistant Legal Advisor for Oceans, Environment, and Science; African Affairs; and Economic and Business Affairs. Upon her election to the Court, she was the senior career attorney of the Department of State, serving as the Principal Deputy Legal Advisor.

Judge Donoghue, if you would please step forward. It is our honor to present to you the Prominent Woman in International Law Award.


* Director, International Humanitarian Law, American Red Cross.


Thank you to all of you for coming today. It is really a great privilege to have you all here to share in our celebration of the contribution that women have made to international law and our expectations for what we will continue to do, and thank you to WILIG for this award. Thank you also to the Dutch government, which sponsored our trip here and has put together a program for us that involves not only activities here at the joint ASIL ILA meeting but also some other activities around town for which we are grateful.

I joined the State Department Office of the Legal Advisor 30 years ago this week. Also 30 years ago this week--as Alain Pellet probably remembers, because he had quite a bit to do with it--the Nicaragua case was filed against the United States. I worked extensively on the jurisdictional arguments. I was the youngest member of that team when we traveled to The Hague to present the arguments, and I was the only woman lawyer on the team. And I often looked around the room and said, "Hmm, I'm the only woman here, and I am the youngest person." Well, I am often not the youngest person in the room any more, but it is disappointing and surprising to me, frankly, that quite often I still am the only woman or only one of a few women at international law gatherings. So it is nice to be here and look at a very mixed audience, diverse in many ways, but to see so many women in the group. And I thank you all for coming.

I think it's also a little bit sad that we celebrate the fact that today, 20 percent of the members of our Court are women, because I think if you had asked me 30 years ago what the international legal community would look like 30 years from now, I would have painted a more optimistic picture of it.

I thought I would share with you some numbers that I find quite disturbing and that are cause for some further reflection. Two former legal assistants at the Court, Cecily Rose and Shashank Kumar, have put together a paper to appear in the European Journal of International Law, which looks at the counsel appearing before the ICJ from a variety of perspectives. Gender is one of them, but the authors look at questions of national origin, et cetera, on diversity questions, generally. It's a numbers article and very, very interesting for what it reveals. They say that during the period of 1999 to 2012, 205 lawyers appeared and addressed the ICJ in oral proceedings. Of those, 23 were women. Of the total speaking time consumed by women during the period that they studied, seven percent of the time was consumed by women. That means that 93 percent of the arguments that the judges of the ICJ heard during that period came from men. It is quite interesting to think about, and when you look at other studies of arbitration, investor-state arbitration in particular, you see also significant gender disparity. Of course, there are questions about why this is and what can be done about it, and I don't have answers to those questions today.

But one thing I certainly would say is that it is not going to work to put forward the argument that if you just add more women to your legal teams, that will be more persuasive to the judges on the bench because now more of the judges are women. At least speaking for myself, I am going to be looking at the quality of your legal arguments, not the composition of your team, so that is not a great way to advance the cause for having more women be present.

But we do need to figure out how to change it. And I think gender is an illustration of the lack of diversity in the bar that appears before the ICJ, and then the bar before the ICJ is an illustration of the broader international law community. It just serves as a reminder, because the numbers are so stark, that we are a World Court, and international law in the main is law for the world. So if that is the case, then all of those who shape that law--whether we are judges or advocates or scholars or practitioners or lawyers for NGOs--we need to contribute our diverse backgrounds. The lack of diversity that we see in respect of gender, race, national origin, et cetera, remains troublesome, and this group is important in its ability to contribute to overcoming that by recognizing the contributions made by women in particular. I thank you very much for doing that today.



Judge Xue Hanqin also joined the Court in 2010. She is both an experienced diplomat and an eminent international lawyer. Upon...

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