The ICJ Remains a Sophisticated Political Environment, And Becomes a Little More Gender-Diverse

The ICJ Remains a Sophisticated Political Environment, And Becomes a Little More Gender-Diverse

I tread warily into ICJ blogging after my last bizarre brain cramp, but I can’t resist commenting on Roger’s posts (and the comments to his posts by very knowledgeable folks like Paul Stephan and David Kaye) on the new U.S. nominee Joan Donoghue.  Unlike Roger, I don’t have a problem with Donoghue’s qualifications in general (although it is worth pointing out that serving as General Counsel at Freddie Mac from 2001-2005 is NOT a positive credential). Although an academic is a fine qualification for the ICJ, being a career government lawyer in the foreign ministry of a leading power seems at least as good (and probably a better) qualification for the job of being an ICJ member than writing academic scholarship.

Indeed, (as Dapo Akande points out here) China’s selection of a new member this year, Xue Hanqin, suggests that the Donoghue choice is a wise one.  Like Donoghue, Xue is currently Legal Adviser to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and she has served as ambassador to ASEAN and a member of the International Law Commission.  Xue has published some interesting international law scholarship in English (and probably much more interesting stuff in Chinese) and is an impressive and dynamic speaker at public events. She will be formidable and Donoghue’s experience in government will probably prepare her well to work with a savvy intellectual/political figure like Xue.  Sure, the ICJ is a court, but it is also a sophisticated political environment where experience in international diplomacy still matters.  Academics may or may not have these skills

Although I doubt it was the most important factor in their selections, it is worth noting that Xue and Donoghue would be only the second and third women ever to serve as a permanent ICJ judge (the first was Dame Roslyn Higgins).  To the extent the ICJ has an expressive and symbolic power, the arrival of Xue and Donoghue will be an important and welcome milestone.

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Well, diversity is a great thing.