Public Statement of the GQUAL Campaign during International Women’s Day 2023

On #IWD GQUAL pauses to honor the struggle, the courage, the creativity, the sorority, and the persistence of all women who continue to make this world a better place by demanding and building gender equal societies and institutions. We celebrate the progress achieved so far, while assessing the obstacles that we still need to tackle together. We renew our commitment to achieve a world where women in all our diversity and paths of life can lead, influence and be represented in the spaces where important decisions are adopted.

Since its launch in 2015 GQUAL has studied the underrepresentation of women in international institutions and the negative effects of such inequality. We evidence and seek to overcome the underrepresentation of women in the international tribunals, bodies and mechanisms that shape global conversations, develop international law, and define the scope of human rights. According to our data, as of December 2022, 40,48% of 578 positions in the 91 international judicial and monitoring bodies monitored by GQUAL are occupied by women, and the percentage falls to 36% when excluding bodies with mandates tied to “women’s issues” and to 31% when counting only tribunals. In fact, women are underrepresented in all areas where international law and politics are shaped, including human rights, international arbitration, international trade, international security, and diplomacy. A recent study by GWL Voices evidenced that only 12% of the 33 main multilateral institutions have been led by women since 1945.

When women are not equally represented in these spaces the decisions adopted are less legitimate, less impactful, and less profound, as they miss including and considering the unique lived experience and diverse perspectives that women can bring to the discussions. Not only women have a right to equally contribute to shaping all critical decisions that affect humanity, but gender equality is also an effective way to achieve the results we seek and to strengthen international justice institutions.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap it will take another 132 years to reach gender parity, and according to the United Nations – one of the top multilateral organizations that has yet to be led by a woman – we still need 300 years to reach full gender equality.

We can’t afford this; we don’t have time. To respond to the challenges we face, we need women to be able to lead, contribute and be represented in international decision making on equal terms. Concrete and bold steps must be taken, including by demanding that gender parity becomes the measure of equality in decision making systems.

The time is now, and we are hopeful. Several countries are proposing feminist foreign policies and debating how to implement them. On March 16th, we will be discussing the intersection of feminist foreign policy and international justice at CSW and invite you to join the conversation. At the same time, several international bodies are taking steps to advance women’s equal representation in decision making systems, including CEDAW with its future general recommendation and the Inter-American Commission on Women with its future report on gender parity in the Organization of American States. We argue that these legal and policy developments need to address the importance of achieving gender equality in all areas, including in international justice and politics, by developing the scope of women’s right to equal representation, defining gender parity as a 50-50 standards, and presenting concrete recommendations to States and international organizations to ensure that parity is achieved and sustained.

Clear commitments and action by States, international organizations, civil society and others must be taken to make gender equality a reality. Gender parity is not a dream to be achieved in 300 years but a right and a goal to be realized now.

On this IWD we renew our invitation to join our campaign and our efforts to #changethepicture of international representation and justice.