In November 2021, Dr Penelope Ridings was elected as one of eight representatives from the Western European and other group of countries, for a five-year term on the International Law Commission, beginning January 2023.
Dr Ridings was nominated by New Zealand. She was co-nominated by the Governments of Australia, Canada, and Sierra Leone.
This profile provides a view of Dr Ridings' approach to the ILC. It was originally prepared for her election campaign.
Dr Penelope Ridings, MNZM, is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished international lawyers. She has extensive experience representing States and finding common ground and solutions to complex legal issues.
In her long career with New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she has been both Chief International Legal Adviser and Ambassador, and has developed a deep understanding of the academic and diplomatic aspects of international law.
"Integrity, responsibility, and fairness are the fundamental values that underpin and inform my extensive practical experience in developing, implementing and adjudicating international law."
My approach to the ILC
The work of the International Law Commission must not only be intellectually rigorous, it must be relevant to the real-world needs of States who created it.
This means prioritising the relationship between the Commission and States and aligning its work with contemporary international issues.
More broadly, I would seek to promote greater understanding of and engagement with the work of the Commission.
At a time of increasing tensions in the international order and challenges to the international rule of law, it is crucial to support the development of international law as the basis for moving forward to a more stable, secure and prosperous world.
Ensure a relevant, contemporary ILC work programme
We live in an age where new technologies are advancing at a rapid pace. Successful modern international organisations must be adaptable. They need to quickly identify and respond to emerging issues. They should find practical and enduring legal solutions to contemporary challenges whether posed by the impacts of fast-paced global pandemics, or the inter-generational impacts of rising seas on small island communities.
"I will bring my diverse experience working across a range of inter-disciplinary and emerging legal issues to ensure that the work of the ILC focuses on contemporary problems and needs."
Revitalise the relationship between the ILC and States
The ILC’s impact relies on ensuring its work reflects the interests and perspectives of States.
"I offer the ability to understand and reconcile a diverse range of State perspectives. I have extensive experience in representing States and finding common ground and solutions to complex legal issues. I will prioritise the relationship between the ILC and States to ensure the ILC’s work incorporates and leverages these diverse viewpoints."
Promote wider understanding of and engagement with the ILC
The ILC’s work is too important to be the sole preserve of academics and experts. Its contributions to international law must be accessible to States, to civil society, and to the people it ultimately serves.
"As a member of the ILC, I would bring my skills as a leader and communicator to promote greater understanding of and engagement with the ILC’s work. I would advocate for making it more widely accessible and user-friendly, to achieve broad understanding of the significance of the ILC’s work and the value of international law."
Caption: Dr Ridings appearing as Agent for New Zealand before the International Court of Justice in Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan, New Zealand intervening) 2014. Photo: ICJ:CIJ
New Zealand and the ILC
New Zealand is a long-standing champion of the ILC. Our small geographically distant nation has historically been a strong advocate of the rule of law.
Our key priority is ensuring a strong, representative and inclusive ILC membership, with a contemporary and relevant work programme that responds to the issues critical to States.
Penelope Ridings is the first candidate put forward by New Zealand in 20 years. She brings the right attributes at the right time – a distinguished practitioner with the skills and experience required, and who embodies key values of Aotearoa New Zealand: integrity, responsibility and fairness.
"We espouse fairness and the idea of kaitiakitanga, an indigenous Māori concept about guardianship and care of people and the environment. On the international stage, this translates to strong support for multilateralism and the importance of rules to guide the relations between States. We are internationally recognised for our willingness to cooperate, collaborate and see diverse perspectives."
The significance of the ILC
Over the past 70 years, the International Law Commission has been at the forefront of the development of international law that has far-reaching and lasting benefits for people, communities and States around the world.
It has drafted international conventions on the most pressing and complex issues that cross national boundaries and affect all humanity. Without these legally binding and globally agreed conventions, the world and its resources remain subject to the will and exclusive exploitation of the powerful.
The ability to guide and influence international law for the betterment of all of us who share this fragile planet is the reason I am standing as the New Zealand candidate for the International Law Commission for the 2023-2027 term.
My experience and qualifications
Over a 30-year career, I have built a strong track record in negotiating, collaborating, seeing diverse perspectives, and bringing people to a common understanding.
- Honorary Professor, University of Auckland, New Zealand: 2021 – present
- Appointed to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) “Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement”
- Adjudicated high-profile, complex disputes as a WTO Dispute Panellist
- Acted as Counsel and Advocate before international tribunals, including the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the World Trade Organisation
- On the Panels of Arbitrators and Conciliators at the International Centre for Settlement of International Disputes
- Legal Adviser to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
- Chair of the First Performance Review Panel of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation
- New Zealand’s Ambassador to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, 2008-2011
- New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa, 2001-2004
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Twitter: follow Penelope @pj_ridings
Penelope Ridings - in her own words
Watch Dr Ridings campaign video (July 2021), setting out her values, priorities and contribution she hopes to make to the International Law Commission.
Watch Dr Ridings keynote address to Beeby Colloquium, Wellington New Zealand in November 2020.