In an increasingly interdependent world with changing pattern of trade, one can detect a pattern of increasing and more serious disputes involving both States and non-State entities. This development is linked to the revolution in communication and information technology, new horizons in science and trend of decentralization in the international society; affirmation of cultural values, outburst of nationalism; and emergence of alternative centres of political power. ‘Notwithstanding the extent of this phenomenon, the State is likely to remain a central actor in the international system.’
It has been noted that perhaps, “the pressures of national sentiments, new forms of exploitation of barren and inaccessible areas, the strategic significance of areas previously neglected, and the pressure of population on resources, give good cause for a belief that territorial disputes will increase in significance.” Apart from territorial disputes, breach of treaty obligation or conduct by one State which may adversely affect or influence activities in another State may also result to dispute between States.
With 193 or more sovereign States engaged in diplomatic and commercial activities, there is an increasing likelihood of disputes between the various entities. As international disputes are complex, the chances of settlement of disputes are enhanced if a number of different avenues can be explored simultaneously. Over the years different methods of settlement of disputes have developed. Some of them have evolved with time and adapted to suit different circumstances and situations. Each and every method has a common objective of making-peace.
Nevertheless, international society moves towards centralization, at the same time includes increasing decentralized activities and a multiplicity of actors and subjects. Therefore, disputes resolution system devised by such society must make available both centralized and decentralized mechanisms for attending to the social needs of this evolving structure. According to Arthur Eyffinger; in an era of unprecedented economic prosperity, peace was too precious an asset to be left at the whim of despots. In times of peace nations should co-operate as much as possible and in times of war reduce mutual injury to the bare minimum. Disputes should preferably be settled in an amicable manner.
Perhaps, the basic principle of peaceful resolution of disputes in Public International Law is established in Article 2(3) of Charter of The United Nations:
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
In accordance with the above principle, States under the signatories of United Nations’ Charter assented to various methods through which disputes could possibly be settled provided in Article 33(1) of Charter of The United Nations:
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.
The methods were affirmed in the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Dispute, and in 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (GAR 2625). It is pertinent to note that the declarations are necessary for order in multilateral interactions between States.
Classical international law as characterised by the Westphalian system, considered states to be the only actors in the realm of international law. However, contemporary rule provides that a States owed certain obligations in international law to community of all states and recognized international personalities. Owing to this development, States have lost the exclusive right to be parties to settlement procedures in international law. However, this work is limited to methods of dispute settlement in ‘Public’ International Law defined as body of rules which are legally binding on states in their intercourse with each other.
Dispute settlement mechanisms aims to identify at the earliest possible stage situations that could produce conflict, and to try through diplomacy to remove the sources of danger before violence results; where conflict erupts, to engage in peace-making aimed at resolving the issues that have led to conflict. Perhaps, the proactive measures of the Agenda for Peace (June 1992), is necessary if one considers the view that, ‘disputes among states are at present, and also in the foreseeable future, a permanent and unavoidable part of international relations,’ and also one of the central feature of international relations and law.
Interestingly, pertinent to this work is the argument that the International Law of dispute settlement is not only built on co-operation, but even constitutes a network of obligations. It is a mixture of vertical and horizontal relationships, a criss-cross of relationships. It is partly rigid, partly flexible. The network embodies not only different types of co-operational duties, but also duties with different degrees of bindingness, depending, inter alia, on the different actors involved. Perhaps, the relationships are central to methods of Public International Law disputes settlement to be explored in this work.
As pointed out by Judge Christopher Weeramantry and Professor John Burrough, Public International law is the combination of treaties, conventions and customs which governs relations between and within states and lays down generally accepted norms of behaviour for the entire world. It draws upon the principles of peace expressed by great peacemakers and embodied in ancient writings, religions, and disciplines, and places them in the social and political context of today to dissipate the clouds of prejudice, ignorance and vested interests that stand in the way of world peace and harmony.