Saturday 21 May 2022 | 14:41 | SYDNEY
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The 2016 Defence White Paper describes a rules-based global order as a “fundamental strategic interest”. 

This project, supported by the Department of Defence’s Strategic Policy Grants Program, aims to lead a national debate on the rules-based order and its implications for Australian security and defence. It will connect the legal, political, and historical debates about the nature of the global order with the practical realities of Australia’s strategic environment. It will address how the order can evolve to meet new technological challenges and modes of warfare, including grey zone operations.

Cover image: Official U.S. Navy / Flickr


Ben Scott
Director, Australia’s Security and the Rules-Based Order Project
Sam Roggeveen
Director, International Security Program
Bobo Lo
Nonresident Fellow
Sasha Fegan
Research Associate, Australia’s Security and the Rules Based Order Project

Latest publications

History in the making: AUKUS, allyship and the 1957 Defence Review

The surprise AUKUS announcement in September this year was arguably the most significant development in Australian defence and foreign policy in a generation, and it has since heralded a frenzy of analysis.

As a three-way information and technology sharing arrangement – including a first time commitment by the United States to share nuclear propulsion technology with an ally other than the United Kingdom – AUKUS brings into sharp focus the perceived scale of the threat posed by China and puts an end to the increasingly untenable question of Australia hedging its bets.

Of course, AUKUS also saw Australia end a contract for electric-powered submarines with the French, and terse words between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the disgruntled French President Emmanuel Macron in the aftermath. In the decision to join AUKUS and cancel the contract, Australia made a frank assessment of allyship, interoperability and the United States’ recommitment to the Indo-Pacific.

To my mind, these themes echo Australia’s 1957 Defence Review and the Menzies government’s decision to bring its force composition and defence technology in line with that of the United States. In this, there was an acknowledgement that that US-led system offered the greatest assurance for regional security, in turn, marking a departure from Australia’s historic reliance on British defence planning and technology.

The 1957 Defence Review was preceded by developments heralding Britain’s waning economic and defence capabilities. The year 1956 opened with the announcement that Britain would grant Malaya independence. While Britain would reserve the right to maintain forces, the symbolic implication of Britain ceding control of one of its few remaining colonial footholds in the Asia-Pacific was significant.

With both Britain and the United States committed to nuclear deterrence, Australia needed to reconsider its strategic position.

The year 1956 closed with the Suez Crisis, which damaged Britain’s international prestige and revealed its economic vulnerability. Britain was forced to withdraw following international condemnation and threats from the US government that it would categorically block attempts by Britain to access assistance from the International Monetary Fund to maintain forces in Egypt.

Alongside these developments, the United Kingdom conducted a major review of its defence policy. The revision included plans to invest in nuclear deterrence and reduce conventional forces in the Asia-Pacific to avoid expensive and inflexible long-term commitments.

Britain’s plans were in line with US President Eisenhower’s New Look defence policy and the Southeast Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) strategic concepts.  Broadly outlined, the concepts planned for an immediate response to communist aggression in Southeast Asia, followed by smaller counter-offences when necessary. The unpredictability of this kind of warfare required SEATO members to maintain highly mobile and flexible forces.

Menzies learnt of these plans during a mid-1956 visit to London and Washington. With both Britain and the United States committed to nuclear deterrence, Australia needed to reconsider its strategic position and how best to make a meaningful contribution to the defence of Southeast Asia.

US President Joe Biden (c), Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (l) and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (r) announce the AUKUS security pact on 15 September 2021 (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

These revelations triggered a Defence Committee review of Australian defence policy in October 1956. The review acknowledged that Australia was “dependent on the Western Powers, in particular the United States, for her ultimate security”. It was recommended that Australia align its defence planning with that of the great powers to “strengthen her case for the support of her allies”. Participation in collective regional security arrangements was “the best means” of achieving this. Of these arrangements, SEATO was “the most practicable organisation in which Australian strategic plans can be coordinated with those of the US”.

On 4 April 1957, Menzies announced his government’s decision to adopt the review’s recommendations. Among them was a move away from the traditional organisation and deployment of large divisions of multi-purpose forces, to be replaced by “hard-hitting, flexible, mobile and readily available forces”. In this, Australia brought the organisation of its defence forces in line with the SEATO strategic concepts.

The review also identified a critical lack of modern conventional weapons. There was, as External Affairs Minister Richard Casey noted in a private diary entry, “only one country from which we could get equipment of consequence … and that is the United States”. “I realise,” he continued, “that this means a departure from our traditional standardisation with the United Kingdom – but we have to face up to this break sometime.”

The United States was both increasingly invested in Southeast Asia and appreciative of its importance within global strategic planning.

Then prime minister Robert Menzies faced this break on 4 April, announcing his government’s decision to standardise Australian Military Forces and Royal Australian Air Force equipment with that of the United States. Having historically operated in line with British defence standards, Menzies was conscious of the implications for the Australian–British relationship. He stressed that the decision was “not a heresy”, simply a recognition of “the facts of war”. By virtue of SEATO and ANZUS, Australia would fight any future war in Southeast Asia alongside the United States, while Britain appeared to be retreating from the region. He also stressed that the United States had the capacity to maintain a supply of defence goods, while Britain would find it “manifestly difficult”. Although not specified, this conclusion was no doubt the result of Britain’s ongoing economic challenges and embarrassing exit from the Suez Crisis.

Certainly, there are limits to the parallels between the 1957 Defence Review and AUKUS. Still, both speak to the importance of interoperability and assessments about which defence technologies and partnerships best serve Australia’s security interests in a rapidly changing strategic environment.

In the 1957 Defence Review Australia acknowledged that Britain was withdrawing from Southeast Asia and the defence capabilities that had for so long underpinned Australian security assumptions were in steady decline. Conversely, the United States was both increasingly invested in Southeast Asia and appreciative of its importance within global strategic planning. Australia realigned to a US-led order accordingly.

It will be for historians to examine, but Australians can only hope that the same careful and forthright assessments were made about which partner – France or the United States – and their capabilities and priorities will best serve Australia’s national interest in the future.

Honae is currently a Research Officer at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government at the Australian National University. The Genesis of a Policy is Honae’s first book.

Taming the “grey zone”

Unease about so-called “grey zone” tactics is increasingly in vogue. From a position of relative obscurity, the term has surged onto the official agenda. There was no mention of “grey zone” in Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper, but it appears 11 times in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.

Grey zone tactics are generally understood as coercive activities which do not reach the threshold of conventional military warfare, enabling the perpetrator to avoid risks associated with escalation. The concept rose to prominence in the West in response to developments such as Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, China’s pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea, and perceptions of an increase in proxy warfare in the Middle East.

In Australian foreign policy and defence circles, a dizzying array of action has been grouped under the label of grey zone tactics. Speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in 2019, Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell made the grey zone a synonym for political warfare. Quoting George Kennan, he declared that “Political warfare is the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives”. The Defence Strategic Update is similarly sweeping, defining grey zone tactics as military or non-military, including measures such as interference, disinformation campaigns and economic coercion. Grey zone tactics have even featured in discussions of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The grey zone has become something of a catch-all phrase. But to what extent is this helpful?

The Defence Strategic Update gives a sweeping definition of grey zone tactics as military or non-military (Patrick W. Menah/US Navy/Flickr)

The very notion of grey zone tactics should be treated with caution not least because it can smuggle assumptions about intentions and capabilities. Positing an action as a grey zone tactic can lead analysts to think of the other country as a mastermind, with a long-term plot to undermine their enemies. Everything done is assumed as a further trap.

There is still work to do in setting out a definition of grey zone threats.

But some things definitely aren’t grey zone tactics. If it’s China that Australia is worried about, Beijing’s policies can be subject to pressures such as intra-elite and inter-bureaucratic competition. The Belt and Road Initiative, for example, has been characterised as a geopolitical strategy to trap developing countries into debt, making them malleable to Beijing’s demands. Yet the evidence suggests that fears of the “debt trap” are overstated, that the initiative is primarily driven by economic factors, and that it is surprisingly lacking in central management.

China’s trade restrictions on Australian barley and beef are likewise not evidence of a plan driven by some strategic mastermind. Imposed after Prime Minister Scott Morrison voiced his support for an independent inquiry on the origins of the coronavirus, it is tempting to interpret the restrictions as punishment for speaking out – yet China’s actions against Australia fits a recent pattern of “diplomatic self-sabotage”. Beijing has also recently demanded foreign recipients of its personal protective equipment publicly voice their support for its coronavirus response, for instance, burning up much goodwill. It’s not the grey zone – it’s reactionary and ill-tempered diplomacy.

China’s actions against Australia fits a recent pattern of “diplomatic self-sabotage” (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

The term “grey zone” should not be consigned to the bin, but it is important to be disciplined in when to use it. If everything is a grey zone tactic, analysts miss out on what the term can help them understand. One distinctive feature of a grey zone tactic is that it occurs between the realm of covert and overt. Specialists in intelligence history, Rory Cormac from the University of Nottingham and Richard J. Aldrich from the University of Warwick, call this the realm of “implausible deniability”. In other words, grey zone tactics are open secrets. An example is Russia’s use of paramilitaries in Ukraine, the so-called “little green men”. Russia initially denied such involvement but that belied the evidence. It is also no secret that China uses fishing vessels in its South China Sea operations.  

If everything is a grey zone tactic, analysts miss out on what the term can help them understand.

Grey zone tactics have been comfortable bedfellows of post-truth politics. Secrecy is difficult, but by exploiting the ambiguity of a situation a state can communicate toughness to domestic and foreign audiences alike. Importantly, these cases are different from coercive economic sanctions or political donations. They’re also different from the generally uncoordinated Belt and Road Initiative. As such, they call for different responses.

Without reining in the use of the term grey zone, analysts and officials alike risk overestimating the utility of grey zone tactics. Russia has incurred costly sanctions following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. China’s belligerence in the South China Seas has left the Philippines and Vietnam embittered, causing them to strengthen ties with the United States.

There is still work to do in setting out a definition of grey zone threats. Such conceptual boundaries will be important because if Australians see grey zone tactics in China’s every move, the term isn’t helping them understand anything at all.

Kurt Campbell on what America is for, “rather than what we’re against”

Veteran US official Kurt Campbell has long championed more American engagement in Asia and is credited as the architect of Barack Obama’s 2015 “Pivot”. He is often referred to as President Joe Biden’s “Asia Tsar” and has been influential in shaping the “Quad” grouping and the recent AUKUS agreement.

Speaking at the opening of the Lowy Institute’s Indo-Pacific Operating System Conference, Campbell’s message was resolutely future oriented. He pushed back against criticism that the United States was trying to preserve the status quo or return to the past, which he called “a fool's errand”. And he repeatedly stressed the evolving nature of the Indo-Pacific region.

“I see the operating system as a living thing” Campbell said, requiring “the deepest integration with partners and allies”.

Campbell stressed America’s continued commitment to the region, which he said is animated more by what the United States is for, “rather than what we’re against”. Adding that the United States remains the largest investor in most Indo-Pacific countries, he said that its “Build Back Better World” program with other G7 nations will emphasise further climate and infrastructure spending – a move many see as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Campbell sought to clarify the Biden administration’s recent inconsistent messaging on Taiwan, saying there had been no change in US policy since the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Campbell also said that the “feedback loop in China is not working as effectively as it was in the past” and that recent changes by the Chinese Communist Party means “the only way to get things done in China today is at the senior leader level”.

Campbell said that China’s “dramatic economic warfare directed against Australia” in recent years had concerned the United States. He said that “China’s preference would have been to break Australia … to drive Australia to its knees” (a comment picked up in media reports). He said Biden brought up the treatment of Australia during the recent leaders’ summit with President Xi Jinping, and had pointed out to Xi that the moves were “antithetical to China’s interests” and were “backfiring”.

Campbell said he firmly believed that China fundamentally respects Australia’s “strength, fortitude and resilience” and will eventually re-engage “on Australia’s terms”.

Campbell said that the AUKUS arrangement, which will see the United States and United Kingdom share nuclear submarine technology with Australia, was a response to China’s assertive actions over the last five-to-seven years and amounted to the “most important strategic innovation of this period”. He added that the “strategic intimacy” between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia will stretch well beyond nuclear submarine secrets, to sharing technology over artificial intelligence, cyber and long-range weapons systems.

Campbell said Biden brought up the treatment of Australia during the recent leaders summit with President Xi Jinping, and had pointed out to Xi that the moves were “antithetical to China’s interests” and were “backfiring”.

He acknowledged that Australia’s path to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines is “an enormous challenge” given it currently has no nuclear capability. But he reiterated that the United States would ensure that there is no gap in capacity in Australia’s submarine program, without going into specifics of what that might look like. Campbell did say that “Australian sailors will have the opportunity to serve on American vessels and vice versa”, adding that an American submarine will soon port regularly in Australia and in “20 years it will be taken for granted that our sailors sail together”.

Asked whether other countries may one day join AUKUS, Campbell revealed that many close allies had privately approached the United States in the immediate aftermath of the AUKUS announcement to ask if they too could join in the agreement. Campbell said that the United States will only share its “crown jewels” of nuclear submarine technology with the United Kingdom and Australia. But he credited both with insisting that the AUKUS agreement be written as an “open architecture”, leaving open the possibility that other nations could participate in some way in the future.

Asked whether the United States would seek to upgrade its relationship with the Association of Southeast Asia Nations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”, Campbell said that the United States recognises the “critical importance” of ASEAN centrality in the region and will focus on “high-level leader-to-leader engagement” ahead of the next leaders’ summit in January 2022.

Campbell said that China’s pursuit of a larger nuclear deterrent capability has been shrouded in secrecy and is potentially destabilising for the region. Campbell said that during Biden’s talks with Xi, the US President had underlined the need to have clear comminutions between the two countries to avoid misunderstandings and told Xi that open communications are “part and parcel of being a responsible global leader”.

Arms control is not just about arms

Relations between Russian and the United States have been rocky since the 2014 Crimean crisis. Washington imposed various sanctions on the Kremlin in the aftermath of the annexation, accusing it of violating Ukrainian sovereignty. US charges of Russian interferences in the 2016 and 2020 elections further hurt the already troubled ties. The two countries also withdrew from many strategic arms control agreements that formed the basis of post-Cold War strategic stability – two of which were the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty.

Worse, for the United States, the deterioration in the Russian relationship has coincided with a time that Russia and China have consolidated their strategic partnership. Talk of a Russia-China military alliance is gaining traction. The prospect of Washington facing a two-front battle against both Beijing and Moscow is no longer a distant possibility.

Still, there are positive developments in US-Russia ties as well. During US President Joe Biden’s first week in office, he agreed to extend the New START Treaty with Russian President Vladimir Putin for five years to 2026, saving the last standing bilateral arms control agreement from expiring. The two presidents also agreed to establish the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue to facilitate further discussions on strategic arms control.

The Biden administration should not pursue arms control just for the sake of better US-Russia relations. In a recent journal article on International Security, my co-author Timothy Crawford and I argued that the United States should also use bilateral arms control talks with Russia to drive a wedge into the Russia-China partnership and to indirectly improve US ties with Russia’s traditional partner in Southeast Asia, Vietnam.

Better US-Russia ties can weaken the common perception of the US threat that binds China and Russia together as well as bolster the defence capabilities of Vietnam, which heavily relies on Russian arms, against Chinese coercion.

US Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc during talks in Hanoi on 25 August 2021 (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images)

Through the examination of three landmark cases of 20th century strategic arms control, we found that states rarely perceived strategic arms control in pure military terms. In addition to the traditional concerns of arms control such as cutting costs, increasing stability, and preserving military advantages, arms control allows states to divide adversarial coalitions by targeting the different bonds that held them together.

The United States succeeded in terminating the Anglo-Japanese alliance via arms control agreements signed at the 1921 Washington Naval Conference. Washington also exacerbated the Sino-Soviet split to the point of bursting it wide open by signing the Limited Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union in 1963. The Soviet Union successfully delayed the normalisation of US-China diplomatic relations to 1978 via the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) with the United States.

This confirms the idea that arms control is not just about arms.

If the United States imposes sanctions on Vietnam for its arms purchases, it will not only hurt US-Vietnam mutual trust but also damage US national interests since Vietnamese acquisition of Russian arms is to check Chinese ambition in the South China Sea.

The United States can leverage the ongoing arms control talks with Russia to peel it away from China. Because Russia and China are aligning out of their common US threat, the United States can accommodate some of Russian interests in Europe to ease the military pressure on Russia’s European border. These accommodations can include addressing Russia’s concerns about US missile defence, limiting the formal expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and conditionally lifting sanctions against Russia on a step-by-step basis if it agrees to halt military actions in Ukraine.

One of the sanctions the United States can consider lifting first is the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets countries that do business with sanctioned Russian entities. The objective of CAATSA is to reduce the sale of Russian weapons to foreign countries. Unfortunately, Vietnam, a country that the United States is trying to court, may be subject to CAATSA sanctions for its close ties with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.

In 2018, Vietnam signalled its interests in buying Russian S-400 missile system despite knowing that it could trigger CAATSA sanctions. Hanoi is also interested in acquiring Russian frigates and fighter jets and is working with the Russian navy to train its military officers and learn how to operate Russian weapons. If the United States imposes sanctions on Vietnam for its arms purchases like it did against Turkey and China, it will not only hurt US-Vietnam mutual trust but also damage US national interests since Vietnamese acquisition of Russian arms is to check Chinese ambition in the South China Sea. The United States can grant Vietnam a waiver, but so far there has not been any information on that possibility.

Russia-US talks in July, Switzerland (

Better US-Russia ties also afford Hanoi greater leeway to improve relations with Washington. The post-Cold War Russia-Vietnam relationship is based on the 1994 Treaty on the Basic Principles of the Vietnam-Russia Relationship, which functions as a non-aggression pact. Under the terms of the treaty, Vietnam and Russia commit to refrain from inking treaties with other countries or undertaking actions that hurt either party’s interests. Hanoi and Moscow celebrated the 25th anniversary of the treaty in 2019, which only validates its importance in Vietnam’s foreign policy of non-alignment.

Vietnam thus will hesitate to sign major defence agreements with the United States, if it perceives those agreements to exert negative effects on Vietnam-Russia relations so long as US-Russia ties remain rocky. Despite positive developments in US-Vietnam relations, Russia remains a far more important partner to Vietnam than the United States.

Considering that arms control is one of the few areas the United States and Russia can collaborate, the United States should expand the talks to other areas beyond the bilateral ties. Major improvements in US-Russia ties will without a doubt undermine the growing Russia-China partnership on an anti-US basis and remove a major obstacle in US-Vietnam relations. On a broader scale, shifting the focus away from Europe to the Indo-Pacific under a more accommodative Russia policy will demonstrate US commitment to the security of its Asian allies and partners against Chinese coercion.

An opening on the ICJ and an opportunity for renewal

In the early 20th century, the Peace Palace in The Hague – seat of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) since 1946 – was envisioned as “a sort of holy place”, “prized … by thinking men throughout the world … to which, in … danger of war between any two countries, the minds of men would turn”. Today, this talk of “thinking men” sounds retrograde (implying the exclusion of women and those men deemed “unthinking”, many at the time still enslaved as a matter of national law). Nonetheless, there was always something radical, even other-worldly about the idea of states submitting their most high-stakes disputes to a panel of 15 independent judges, expert in the world’s principal legal systems.

With the very worldly event of an ICJ election imminent (to fill a seat made vacant by the death of Judge James Crawford), United Nations member states have a chance both to affirm and renew the ambition of that vision. Current nominee, Hilary Charlesworth, Harrison Moore Professor of Law and Melbourne Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University, is uniquely qualified to aid that renewal.

Hilary Charlesworth, as judge ad hoc, at the opening of the hearings in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic, Australia vs Japan, on 26 June 2013 (UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ)

The ICJ is a very particular court, composed by and for purposes of resolving disputes among nation-states and to issue advisory opinions on legal questions posed by authorised international organisations.

Moreover, as the principal judicial organ of the UN, the ICJ holds extraordinary symbolic significance. Members of its bench serve, per the ICJ Statute, as “independent judges” elected “from among persons of high moral character”. They must “possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices” or “recognised competence in international law”. Collectively, they must ensure “representation … of the principal legal systems of the world”.

Its caseload is replete with the thorniest issues confronting the globe and recent ICJ elections evidenced fundamental geopolitical realignment underway.

Under the UN Charter, all UN members states are automatically parties to its constitutive instrument, the ICJ Statute, and undertake to comply with its rulings when party to disputes submitted to it – submission that is contingent upon states’ agreement. Nominations of individuals for judicial election are, however, one step removed from states’ grasp. Candidates are nominated not by national governments but by individuals comprising “national groups” with varying degrees of independence from government. The process then moves to the UN: the Security Council and General Assembly vote concurrently but independently until an absolute majority in each body has selected the same candidate.

Charlesworth has been nominated by Australia’s national group to fill the remainder of the term for which Crawford was elected, expiring in February 2024. The Greek national group has also nominated a candidate, Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, Professor of Law at the University of Athens and a former President of the European Court of Human Rights. Less than a month after Crawford’s untimely death, the UN Security Council set 5 November 2021 as the date upon which states would vote to fill this vacancy. This comes at a critical juncture for the institution; its caseload is replete with the thorniest issues confronting the globe and recent ICJ elections evidenced fundamental geopolitical realignment underway.

In this context, Charlesworth’s candidacy has several noteworthy features. First among these is her prior experience as judge of the very court to which she has been nominated. Charlesworth has been appointed judge ad hoc in two contentious rulings of the ICJ: Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) and Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening).

International Court of Justice at The Hague (UN Photo/ICJ/Jeroen Bouman)

Charlesworth’s election would preserve a sense of the ICJ’s imperviousness to political vagaries. That is because it has been longstanding practice, in the great majority of cases, for an ICJ seat vacated by death or resignation to be filled, for the remaining term in question, by a nominee of the same nationality as the departing judge, even in the rare instances of such elections being contested. That practice was upheld, for instance, after both US- and Chinese-nominated judges resigned in 2010, and more recently, in 2018, when a Japanese-nominated judge resigned mid-term.

As a common law-trained jurist, Charlesworth’s election would also help ensure the Court’s representativeness. Only four of the 14 current judges are common lawyers while around 40 of the 193 states of the world have common law systems; a significant number more have hybrid systems incorporating common law features. Given her regional engagements – through the Asian Society of International Law, for example (where she served on the Executive Council) – Charlesworth is highly attuned to this jurisprudential diversity.

Charlesworth’s candidacy is also distinguished by the unusual combination of fearless critique and constructive engagement apparent in her scholarship: work for which she has garnered the field’s highest accolades: from the American Society of International Law; the International Studies Association; the Hague Academy of International Law; the Institut de Droit International and elsewhere.

Recognition notwithstanding, Charlesworth has consistently shown herself beholden to no one. Her playfully titled 1993 article on feminist legal scholarship, “Alienating Oscar”, took its name from colleagues’ reported alarm that her questioning of international legal orthodoxy might alienate the eminent international lawyer Oscar Schachter. In fact, the argument landed well with Schachter, evidencing Charlesworth’s skill at engaging diverse audiences with the acuity of her analysis.

It would be more than 50 years before “thinking men” turning to the ICJ would face a female judge, after Rosalyn Higgins was elected to the Court in 1995. Today, three among the 14 ICJ judges are women.

If elected, Charlesworth would be only the fifth female-identifying person elected to its bench in the ICJ’s 76-year history. With Charlesworth’s nomination, UN members have an opportunity to advance efforts against persistent inequality, while gaining a jurist of the utmost prowess.

Disclosure: Although they have never worked together closely, the author of this post once contributed to a book edited by Professor Charlesworth and, like many in the international law community in Australia, considers Professor Charlesworth a friend.


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