Growing global interdependence has greatly increased the importance of multilateral relations and the possibilities of disputes in the relationships. Therefore, the developments of peaceful methods of disputes settlement are necessary to meet the challenges of the growing multilateral and bilateral relations.
It has been noted that most peaceful dispute settlement instruments do not meet the requirements of the contemporary developments in international relations, or contain provisions which are too general and unspecific and are of declaratory rather than binding character. This development may result to delays and confusion on what method to use and perhaps dissatisfaction with some methods of dispute settlement. It follows that methods of peaceful settlements of dispute are not perfect and could further be improved or developed.
Perhaps, as the nature of international dispute threatening the world order evolves, the institutional structures provided to respond must also evolve. Nevertheless, availability of various methods of disputes settlement , and the principle of free choice of methods of settlement laid down in Article 33(1) of the Charter of the United Nations and in section I(3) and (10) of the Manila Declaration offers States adequate options and opportunity to utilise one or combination of more methods in settling disputes.
In its effort to further develop methods of peaceful settlement of dispute, the United Nations in promoting greater acceptance of and respect for the principles of international law and in encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification, declared the period 1990-1999 as the United Nations Decade of International Law, aimed at; (a) To promote acceptance of and respect for the principles of international law; (b) To promote means and methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes between States, including resort to and full respect for the International Court of Justice; (c) To encourage the progressive development of international law and its codification. The success of the programme would enhance the awareness and the significance of peaceful methods disputes settlement.
Although many different ways of resolving disputes have been developed, there is often a considerable gap between what is possible in theory and what States are prepared to do in practice. Besides, there is no guarantee that a particular method will be effective in a given case .Perhaps, the starting point on the improvement of disputes settlement will be the United Nations. A reform with greater democratic process in its decision making and enlargement of the Security Council would help in easing the workload of the Security Council and facilitate resolution of disputes.
The Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and so, equipped with extensive power s under the Charter’s chapter VI and VII. Art 39 of the Charter of the United Nations authorizes the Council to determine the existence of any threat to peace, or act of aggression. Such decisions are precondition to sanction. However, the dominance of the rich and powerful nations in the Security Council makes it more likely for the Security Council decisions to favour the friends and allies of the dominant members of the Security Council.
Perhaps the possibility of a judicial review of the Security Council decisions by ICJ would help in improving the quality of their decision. It is pertinent to note that some of their decision has been questioned in many fora. Perhaps, their decision cannot be challenged as was held by The Court (ICJ) that parties are obliged to carry out the Council decision by virtue of Article 25 . In the case of Certain Expenses of the UN, 1962 ICJ. 151 (July 20). The Court in its advisory opinion rejected the idea that it might have judicial review power.
Nevertheless, Ken Roberts argues that United Nations Charter Article 24(2) require the Council to exercise its power in accordance with the purpose and principle of United Nations. This would imply that the Court has the power to review Council decisions in order to determine whether or not they are intra vires . It is submitted that the Court should be able to review decisions of the Security Council. This will promote just and fairer settlement of disputes.
It is suggested that attention should be paid to prevention or early detection of dispute. This may be done by constituting a standing dispute commission/body of experts on regional basis to monitor on continuous basis situations likely to result to dispute, and bring to attention of relevant governments as soon as possible, and suggest steps that should be taken to prevent deterioration. This will help reduce dispute or get them settled at an early stage.
Furthermore it is suggested that maintaining a register of experts acceptable to governments from which members of fact-findings may be chosen; and by making some aspects negotiation, good office and mediation binding will improve the results of the established dispute settlement methods. Besides, codifying choice of sanction where agreements are breached rather than leaving it with Security Council will provide a fairer dispute settlement, than leaving it at the whims of the most powerful States in the Security Council.
The absence of duty to settle disputes constitute a gap in the international system. Nevertheless, since States are obliged to settle dispute peacefully, perhaps, the potential gap in the international system is often addressed through Articles 34 and 35 of the United Nations Charter which allows disputes to be reported to Security Council and the general Assembly. They are empowered to determine the existence of disputes and to encourage the parties to negotiate settlement of the disputes.
However, compelling a disinterested party to engage in resolution of dispute through the Court system would help in encouraging the parties to choose any appropriate method to resolve their disputes before it escalates.
Furthermore, there is a serious problem when settlement is effected by political organ, due process is often lacking. Perhaps, problem of enforcement may also arise.
Besides, if a State losses a case in ICJ or tribunal, its politicians may be in serious trouble with its’ political constituents. These obstacles may be assuaged by educating people and raising awareness of the importance of peaceful co-existence and respect for rule of law as is being projected in the United Nations declaration of the decade of international law.
To strengthen various means of disputes settlement, all the provisions on the subject which are now scattered in variety of documents of limited acceptance or contested normative value, should be codified into a set of guidelines; a code of international procedures for settlement of international disputes. States may find such a code convenience, as it may help them to avoid current practice of having to investigate repeatedly what procedure may be available and where information on them may be found. Some states may be willing to accept the code in whole or in part as binding on them; others may be willing to accept at least the procedure for fact-finding or advisory opinion for certain categories of disputes.
It is submitted that although the proliferation of courts and tribunal would facilitate peaceful settlement of disputes, but it would also create problem of conflicting judgment which would likely create confusion and unpredictability of international law.
However, a restructured International Court of Justice empowered to act as the supreme court of the international community would help in harmonising and developing international law. Consequently, peaceful settlement of dispute vide adjudication would be more predictable, fairer and just.
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