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Professor Catherine O'Rourke

Professor of Global Law

Professor of Global Law in the Durham Law School


Catherine O'Rourke is Professor of Global Law at Durham Law School. She researches, teaches and engages in policy work in the fields of gender, conflict and international law. Catherine is centrally interested in the regulation of women’s rights in conflict under international law, and has relevant expertise across international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international criminal law and the UN Security Council. She has a particular interest in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda, with growing expertise in the regulation of sexual orientation and gender identity under CEDAW and the WPS agenda. Her emerging thematic work in international law is focused on questions of care in international law and on the achievement of general and complete disarmament under international law. More broadly, as an international lawyer, Catherine has a deep interest in both the role of civil society and the implications of fragmentation for international law-making.

Catherine is an Honorary Senior Fellow in Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. She is the former Director (2020-21) and Gender Research Coordinator (2010-20) of the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University School of Law. She led the Gender Theme of the £4.4 million pound DFID-funded Political Settlements Research Programme. Her academic awards include the Kevin Boyle Book Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship 2020-21 from the Irish Association of Law Teachers for her monograph 'Women's Rights in Armed Conflict under International Law' (Cambridge, 2020), an Ulster University Distinguished Researcher Award (2019), an Irish Fulbright Scholar Award (2016), and the 2010 Basil Chubb Prize, for the best PhD in politics from an Irish university, which was published as 'Gender Politics in Transitional Justice' (Routledge, 2013).

Catherine works with the Irish and UK governments, the United Nations and several non-governmental organisations in policy work connected to her research. She is regularly commissioned to conduct expert research on gender and conflict by intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, including UN Women, the UN Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, and the International Criminal Court Trust Fund for Victims. She is centrally involved in Durham University’s work as academic partner to the Saferworld-led Helpdesk on Women, Peace and Security for the UK Government.

Esteem Indicators

  • 2022: Honorable Mention, Women in International Law Book Prize, American Society of International Law: Awarded an Honorable Mention for 'Women's Rights in Armed Conflict under International Law' (CUP, 2020) in the biannual Scholarship Prize of the American Society of International Law - Women in International Law Interest Group, for excellence in international law scholarship involving women and girls, gender, and feminist approaches.
  • 2021: Kevin Boyle Book Prize for Oustanding Legal ScholarshipKevin Boyle Book Prize for Oustanding Legal Scholarship, awarded by the Irish Association of Law Teachers: For the monograph 'Women's Rights in Armed Conflict under International Law' (Cambridge, 2020). The Irish Association of Law Teachers awards the Kevin Boyle Book Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship every two years.
  • 2019: Distinguished Research Fellow, Ulster University Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences: Awarded to the Faculty's most accomplished researcher within 10 years of the award of his/her PhD
  • 2016: Irish Fulbright Scholar Award: Awarded for demonstrated academic and personal excellence, a strong rationale for going to the U.S., a robust program of research, strong leadership skills or potential, and an understanding and commitment to the ethos of being a Fulbrighter.
  • 2010: Basil Chubb Award for the best PhD produced in an Irish university in any field of politics, awarded by Political Studies Association Ireland: Awarded for doctoral research that underpinned the monograph Gender Politics in Transitional Justice (Routledge, 2013)


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Supervision students