International law has long recognized the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family and yet around the world women and girls and LGBTQIA individuals continue to experience inequality and discrimination in many aspects of their lives. Sustainable Development Goal 5 adopted by the UN General Assembly in September of 2015 calls for achieving gender inequality and the empowerment of women and girls by 2030. SDG 16 calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and inclusive institutions at all levels. The International Law Research Program is extending its research on women’s economic empowerment through trade to explore the broader topic of Gender Equality Impacts and Opportunities in International Law and Governance, in furtherance of SDG5 and SDG16.
At a time when gender equality and the empowerment of women are recognized as key drivers of success in achieving all the sustainable development goals, questions about international law’s readiness to facilitate change come into focus. There is an urgent need to reflect upon the entire body of international law to identify the pressure points where legal concepts, language or practice may adversely impact on girls, women and LGBTQIA individuals and where there are opportunities to use existing legal concepts, language and practice to give momentum to achieving gender equality. Framed in the broader context of all international law while shining a light particularly on international economic law, environmental law, Indigenous peoples’ rights and intellectual property law (the four foci of ILRP research), the roundtable will discuss the structural barriers preventing gender equality and empowerment, and the prospects of using innovative approaches to international law and governance to help effect meaningful changes in the lives of women, girls and LGBTQIA individuals globally in support of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.