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Honouring the legal leaders fighting for women’s rights

Article 2 to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Despite the unequivocal nature of this statement, application of the rights enshrined in the Declaration has been far from universal.

Our focus is on the disapplication of certain of these rights to women. We see this as a failure of both local and global governance as well as a call for continued international cooperation among players at all levels in the field of women’s rights activism.

We at Allen & Overy LLP believe that one way to instigate change in support of women’s rights and at the same time bolster good global governance, multilateral cooperation and collective action with respect to those rights, is to enhance the visibility of the members of the legal community who, on a global or local scale, are driving significant changes in law and policy relating to gender equality and women’s rights. To that end, we (in collaboration with other law firms on multiple continents ) seek to establish an annual prize to reward and offer support to lawyers making strides in the advancement of women’s rights, including in those countries viewed by the World Bank as being low and middle income, in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

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In some countries, highly visible activism for women’s rights puts the activists in grave danger. For example, the plight of Ms Nasrin Sotoudeh (a lawyer recently sentenced to lashes and 38 years in prison in Iran for defending women imprisoned for refusing to be veiled) stands as a grim reminder of the barbarism that often endangers lawyers and other activists advocating women’s rights. For every cause célèbre such as that of Ms. Sotoudeh, many more receive little or no support from the global legal community or attention from the media. We need to unite as a global legal community to support these champions of women’s rights.

We are proud to have been invited to present our project at the second edition of the Paris Peace Forum, which seeks to strengthen global cooperation among the various jurisdictions of its distinguished members and guests. The prize we seek to establish will offer recipients visibility and comprehensive support for their action on behalf of women’s rights, going beyond simple recognition and a financial award. As part of global collaboration underpinning the prize, sponsors (lawyers, bar associations, etc.) will provide recipients, when needed, with support relevant to their legal practice (e.g., training, secondments, donations of subscriptions to legal databases and productivity and case management software), as well as to media and government contacts. We hope you will join us in celebrating these brave champions of women’s rights.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

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Diana Billik, Partner, heads the international capital markets department of Allen & Overy in Paris. Diana joined Allen & Overy in 1998 and became a partner in 2007. Diana specializes in cross-border debt and equity offerings, involving capital raising in the U.S. market. She has deep experience advising issuers, arrangers and underwriters in relation to a broad range of transactions by foreign private, sovereign and supranational issuers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Diana is admitted to practice in the State of New York and is a member of the Paris bar.

Karin Braverman is a Senior Associate in the international capital markets department of Allen & Overy in Paris. Karin is admitted to practice in the State of New York and is qualified as a Solicitor of England and Wales and Ireland. Karin has a wide range of experience in international capital markets offerings, with an emphasis on international debt offerings by foreign private and sovereign issuers.

Romaric Lazerges, Partner, heads the public and environmental law department of Allen & Overy in Paris. Romaric specializes in public contracts (PPP, concessions, public procurement), regulatory in the media, energy and telecom sectors. In addition, Romaric is a lecturer (maître de conferences)
at Sciences Po Paris as well as one of the founding members of the Sciences Po Paris “public law club”, a think tank established in 2010, comprised of academics, judges and practitioners.

Hippolyte Marquetty, Partner, specialises in criminal law and heads the Paris Pro Bono initiative. Before joining Allen & Overy, Hippolyte was a Partner at Chatain & Associés, a French boutique law firm specialising in Commercial and Criminal Litigation. Hippolytes’s practice focuses primarily on complex white collar crime issues. In addition to his criminal law experience, Hippolyte has strong expertise in media law and commercial litigation.

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