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An international or territorial dispute is a disagreement over the rights of two or more states
with regard to control of a given piece of land. International disputes find their roots in a
number of issues including natural resources, ethnic or religious demography, and even
ambiguous treaties. When left unchecked, international disputes have caused criminal
actions, terrorism, wars, and even genocideall in the name of reasserting rights over
territory. The UN Charter in no way allows states to use force to annex territory from any
other state: All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of
force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other
manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
Arbitration can be made an appropriate international dispute settlement mechanism for
international disputes when arbitration agreements are carefully drafted. Arbitration is
especially valuable in contract disputes between a private company located in a Western
nation and a government agency or government-controlled company in a developing state as
well as in the framework of East-West trade agreements. Parties to international contracts
often favour arbitration because compared to litigation they believe it is inexpensive, rapid,
informal, generative of consensus, and a means of minimizing or avoiding the need for
lawyers. These advantages are partially attainable through the careful structuring of the
arbitration agreement, but without the proper agreement they can prove illusory. International
dispute settlement is a relatively new field of academic study that increasingly combines
private and public international law and raises enduring issues of global importance.

International dispute settlement is concerned with the techniques and institutions which are
used to solve international disputes between States and/or international organizations.
International disputes can be solved either by use of force (coercion) or by peaceful
settlement. Techniques used for peaceful settlement of international disputes are negotiation,
inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or
arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice (Art. 33, UN Charter).

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/disputes.htm, last accessed on June 25, 2014.
dispute-settlement/, last accessed on June 25, 2014.
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In a general way, international law provides the practical rounding out of the principles of
peaceful co-existence. International law provides the criteria for the identification of States
and organizations of States, and of the nationality of individuals and legal entities.
International law provides the definition of the political and territorial limits and the
jurisdiction of States, and also their immunities from jurisdiction. International law also
provides the basis of the civil responsibility of States for breaches of international law,
together with the appropriate remedies. And lastly international law provides the principles
and modalities governing the peaceful settlement of disputes between States.

A dispute can be defined as a disagreement on a point of law or fact, a conflict of legal views
or of interests between two States. Disputes relate to an alleged breach of one or
more legal duties. They may also relate to a question of attribution of title to territory, to
maritime zones, to movables or to parts of the cultural heritage of a State.
Peace is very much the heart of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter
which provides that "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful
Indeed, the U.N. Charter obliges Parties to, first of all, "seek a pacific settlement of
Still, war is an unfortunate reality and, as such, is a subject for international law.

The U.N. Charter does not shy away from the sad reality of war. In fact, the Charter
envisages a state of armed conflict by recognizing the right of self-defence in the event of an
armed attack.
The obligation to seek peaceful solutions, however, is supplemented by the
duty of all States to promote a complete and general disarmament.

http://chinesejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/2/267.full, last accessed on June 25, 2014.
U.N.CHARTER, art. 2, Para 3.
U.N.CHARTER, art. 33.
Aldrich, New Life for the Laws of War, 75 AM. J. INT'L L. 764 (1981)
U.N. CHARTER, art. 51.
Art. 15, The Economic Rights and Duties of States, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3281, 29 Sess. (1974).
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Once the principle of the obligation to seek a peaceful settlement of disputes is established, it
becomes necessary to look to the procedures of international law which implement this
principle. The principle of pacific settlement of disputes is not an isolated concept in
international law. The monotony and uniformity in formulation of the principle contrasts with
the wide variety of the nature and effect of the proposed procedures. Peaceful settlement of
disputes is intimately supported, supplemented, and reinforced by nations in terms of friendly
relations, good neighbourliness, good will, and cooperation.
The raison d'etre of diplomacy
and diplomatic relations regards negotiations as the first and most important means of
peaceful settlement of disputes.

Negotiation is undoubtedly the oldest means of dispute settlement. In their dissenting
opinions in Mavrommatis, Judges Moore and Pessa referred to it as, respectively, the legal
and orderly administrative process by which governments, in the exercise of their
unquestionable powers, conduct their relations one with another and discuss, adjust and
settle, their differences and as debate or discussion between the representatives of rival
interests, discussion during which each puts forward his arguments and contests those of his
opponent. Like consultation within the context of the World Trade Organizations dispute
settlement system, negotiation allows the parties to a dispute to exchange information, assess
their respective cases, and attempt to reach a mutually agreed upon understanding.
Negotiation serves to focus disagreements and make disputes more concrete, with a view to
settlement. Negotiation ...is a diplomatic procedure whereby representatives of states
engage in discussing matters...between them...to clarify and reconcile their divergent
positions and resolve the dispute.

Boleslaw A. Boczek, International Law: A Dictionary 379 (Scarecrow Press, Dictionaries of International Law,
No. 2, 2005)
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Arbitration is the most common judicial means of settlement of international disputes.
According to the International Law Commission, international arbitration is a procedure for
the settlement of disputes between States by a binding award on the basis of law and as the
result of an undertaking voluntarily accepted. Some of the characteristics of Arbitration are
as follows
it is voluntary;
it is binding on the parties;
the parties can agree on what law is to be applied (however, often International Law is
used as most international arbitration is concerned with issues of International Law,
but it does not have to be);
The arbitrator(s), which can be a single person, a number of persons, or a
Commission/Tribunal, is/are chosen by the parties.
The permanent machinery for the establishment of an international arbitration court was
founded under the Hague Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
1899 & 1907, but this machinery has only been used 28 times, and only four times since
The terms of arbitration are agreed on in advance either through an ad hoc agreement or a
treaty. The parties agree to the jurisdiction of the arbitrators, the method of selecting the
arbitrators, a definition of the dispute, the procedure to be followed, and sometimes the
applicable law.
Recent examples of international arbitration are:
the Beagle Channel Arbitration between Chile & Argentina;
the Anglo-French Continental Shelf case;
the Rainbow Warrior case between France and New Zealand (the then UN Secretary-
General was the arbitrator);
the Taba dispute between Israel & Egypt;
Iran-US Claims Tribunal;
the very important Island of Palmas case (Topic 8) - note that this is one area (issues
regarding sovereignty over Territory) where international arbitration has made some
very important contributions to International Law;
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the agreement between Libya and the international community to establish a Scottish
court in the Netherlands to try the two Libyan suspects;
International commercial arbitration between a state and an international corporation,
using various arbitration treaties and international arbitration institutions (see the
Redfern & Hunter extract)


The next type of procedure is mediation, which is the first of a series of modes of third-party
settlement. Good offices is a similar mechanism. There is no standard definition of mediation
but it is nonetheless normally distinguished from conciliation. In principle, mediation
involves the direct conduct of negotiations on the basis of proposals made by the mediator.
Modern practice contains an important example of an effective mediation.
These procedures involve the participation of a neutral third party, whether an individual, a
group of persons, or a state or international organisation through their representatives or
senior officials. The third partys role, which is dependent on the consent of the disputants, is
to encourage states to reach an agreed compromise or settlement of their dispute. Terms of
settlement may be proposed by the mediator, or a third partys role may be limited to
bringing the contending parties together to negotiate directly (this is known as good offices).
Whatever form the process takes, any settlement will result from negotiation and agreement
of the parties themselves, perhaps assisted by the third party; but it will not be a binding
decision issued by that party on the basis of its findings of fact and legal rulings (as in judicial
Mediation is commonly provided for in various multilateral treaties for the peaceful
settlement of disputes. The United Nations and, in particular, the Secretary-General, have
often either recommended or performed mediation or good offices, for example in Cyprus
from 1984 onwards. The UN Secretary-General and his counterparts in regional organisations
are often engaged in mediation, such as periodically in the Kashmir dispute between India
and Pakistan; the Cyprus question involving the two governments on Cyprus itself and

http://chinesejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/2/267.full &
http://www.users.on.net/~roehr/notes/old/International%20Law/SG/law00521to10sg06.pdf, last accessed on
June 25, 2014.
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Greece and Turkey. Another example was the Falkland/Malvinas Islands dispute following
the Argentine invasion in 1982 and before UK forces recaptured possession of the islands.
The Pope or his representative sometimes mediates, and did so successfully in the aftermath
of the Beagle Channel Arbitration between Argentina and Chile, when Argentina refused to
implement the award and armed conflict seemed imminent. Eventually mediation succeeded
and Chile accepted the settlement promoted by the Popes representative, under which Chile
gave up its rights in South Atlantic waters around the disputed islands but was confirmed in
its sovereignty over the islands themselves.


The essence of conciliation is the impartial examination of a dispute by a third party, either
appointed ad hoc or a standing conciliation body or panel set up by treaty, with a view to
recommending terms of settlement to the parties. It is not a procedure based on law, and
recommendations do not have to respect parties legal rights. The parties are not obliged to
accept the recommendations. Conciliation is often a private procedure, and the report and
recommendations are confidential to the parties. It is a middle ground between inquiry (which
does not produce concrete proposals) and arbitration (which does produce a binding ruling).
Questions of law may well arise in any international dispute, and many conciliation
commissions have included lawyers as well as diplomats and persons with relevant expertise
such as geologists, geographers, fisheries experts and environmental scientists. There are
extensive provisions for conciliation of a range of disputes that may arise under the Law of
the Sea Convention 1982, which is now in force. Mechanisms for conciliation are also
established under The Hague Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
1899 & 1907 and the General Act on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes 1928.
A fairly recent example of successful resort to conciliation is the Jan Maven Island case in
1981. Title to the island was disputed between Norway and Iceland, the issues being over the
continental shelf and fishing rights. The two states agreed to the establishment of a
conciliation commission that made certain recommendations and the two governments
accepted these. Norways title to the island was upheld in the commissions Report.

http://www.users.on.net/~roehr/notes/old/International%20Law/SG/law00521to10sg06.pdf, last accessed
on June 25, 2014.
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A device which has proved useful on some occasions is the Commission of Inquiry. This
institution originated in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Its specific purpose is to
elucidate the facts behind a dispute in order to facilitate a settlement. It does not involve the
application of rules of law. The purpose of the Commissions of Inquiry is provisional and
political. The device is linked to the idea that the resort to an inquiry provides a cooling off
period and reduces the risk of counter-measures or breaches of the peace. Moreover, the
Report on the facts de facto facilitates the settlement of the dispute. Recent examples of
Commissions of Inquiry concerned the Red Crusader incident between Denmark and the
United Kingdom (1962), and the Letelier and Moffitt case between Chile and the United
States (1992). By way of exception in both these cases, the role of the Commission was not
confined to findings of fact and was essentially judicial.
This method attempts to establish the factual basis for a settlement between states, whereby
the states involved voluntarily refer the dispute to a neutral fact finding person or body.
Although there is no legal obligation for the parties to accept the findings of the person/body,
this procedure can be invaluable - there is presently no permanent fact finding machinery set
up under International Law.


The Charter of United Nations says as under regarding the pacific means of settlement of
international disputes
Article 33
1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the
maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by
negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to
regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle
their dispute by such means.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter6.shtml, last accessed on June 25, 2014.
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Article 34
The Security Council may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to
international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance
of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and

Article 35
1. Any Member of the United Nations may bring any dispute, or any situation of the
nature referred to in Article 34, to the attention of the Security Council or of the
General Assembly.
2. A state which is not a Member of the United Nations may bring to the attention of the
Security Council or of the General Assembly any dispute to which it is a party if it
accepts in advance, for the purposes of the dispute, the obligations of pacific
settlement provided in the present Charter.
3. The proceedings of the General Assembly in respect of matters brought to its attention
under this Article will be subject to the provisions of Articles 11 and 12.

Article 36
1. The Security Council may, at any stage of a dispute of the nature referred to in Article
33 or of a situation of like nature, recommend appropriate procedures or methods of
2. The Security Council should take into consideration any procedures for the settlement
of the dispute which have already been adopted by the parties.
3. In making recommendations under this Article the Security Council should also take
into consideration that legal disputes should as a general rule be referred by the parties
to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of
the Court.

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Article 37
1. Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred to in Article 33 fail to settle it by
the means indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the Security Council.
2. If the Security Council deems that the continuance of the dispute is in fact likely to
endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, it shall decide whether
to take action under Article 36 or to recommend such terms of settlement as it may
consider appropriate.

Article 38
Without prejudice to the provisions of Articles 33 to 37, the Security Council may, if all the
parties to any dispute so request, make recommendations to the parties with a view to a
pacific settlement of the dispute.

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In coming to my conclusion, I shall look at the more problematical aspects of the process of
adjudication, whether in the International Court or in courts of arbitration. The special
attraction of adjudication is that it is definitive and removes a source of political antagonism
and tension between the parties. The alternative is either negotiation, which involves the
responsible officials in making compromises, or inaction. In any event, adjudication has
certain inherent limitations. In the first place, the International Court is to a great extent
dependent upon the parties when it comes to matters of fact and the Court is reluctant to ask
questions of the parties. And there is no appeal. Second, the International Court sometimes
operates in legal fields on the margins of normal areas of justiciable issues.
By way of conclusion, it is convenient to present a series of propositions:
First, the system of peaceful settlement of inter-State disputes is a significant part of
the universe of international relations.
Second, the modalities are very varied and adjudication is simply one instrument
forming part of an entire orchestra of modes of peaceful settlement.
Third, in relation to settlement on the basis of law, the practice of arbitration is as
significant as the work of standing tribunals, such as the International Court.
Fourth, the system we have is not attuned to the settlement of purely
political disputes.
Fifth, the International Court has a successful record of the settlement of disputes
concerning territory and delimitation, including maritime delimitation.
And lastly, resort to both the International Court and to ad hoc arbitration constitutes
the general practice of all regions.
The general outcome is ironical, to say the least. In the era of decolonization, in the 1960s,
western pundits expressed portentous concerns about the aptitude of the new States to
participate in what was seen as a western system of international law and dispute settlement.
These concerns were both condescending and unfounded.