Rule of Law: Introductory remarks by Uri Rosenthal Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands at the side event: “The Peaceful Settlement of Conflict: The Elegant Way Out”.
Introductory remarks by Uri Rosenthal
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
side event “The Peaceful Settlement of Conflict: The Elegant Way Out”.
New York, 24 September 2012
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining the Netherlands at this early hour for this breakfast meeting. Let me welcome in particular the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, the President of the International Court of Justice and the Secretary-General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The obligation on states to settle their disputes peacefully, without the threat or use of force, is part and parcel of the rule of law at international level. The peaceful settlement of disputes is also one of the key purposes of the United Nations. As we all know, there is a wide variety of means by which disputes can be settled peacefully. The UN Charter mentions seven specific ones: negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement and resort to regional agencies or arrangements. This morning the Netherlands would like to focus on two of these: arbitration and judicial settlement. There are two reasons for this selection. First, they are essential for establishing the rule of law at international level. Second, the Netherlands is host to two institutions that play a vital and indispensable role in judicial settlement and arbitration: the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. I am therefore grateful and honoured that both the President of the ICJ and the Secretary-General of the PCA have travelled from the Peace Palace in The Hague to New York, to share with us their thoughts about the role of these two Courts.
The ICJ plays a key role in the judicial settlement of international disputes. Of course, it is no longer the only international court. In the last few decades, other courts have been created at both global and regional level. But the ICJ is widely seen as primus inter pares. It is the principal judicial organ of the UN. Its jurisdiction is general, not limited to specific kinds of legal disputes. Indeed, nowadays states from all corners of the globe bring disputes to the ICJ which cover almost every area of international law. Yet at the same time, the ICJ’s position is not as strong as that of certain other international courts. For example, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights have compulsory jurisdiction to settle disputes relating to EU law and human rights law. It is not possible to be a member of the EU or a Party to the European Convention on Human Rights without accepting the jurisdiction of these courts. The ICJ is in a different position, since it does not have compulsory jurisdiction. It may rule only in disputes between states that have recognised its jurisdiction, either in general or with respect to a specific treaty or dispute. To date, only 67 states have recognised the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ. Ireland is the most recent state to have done so. So I am grateful that Ireland’s legal adviser is here today, and is willing to offer some comments.
Later today, I am sure we will hear many general observations on promoting the international legal order and the rule of law. The challenge we face is to translate them into concrete action. One of the best examples of concrete action would be to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ. In this connection, the Netherlands fully supports the campaign launched by the UN Secretary-General in his rule of law report of March of this year to increase the number of states that accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction as compulsory. In this way, states can show that they take seriously the promotion of the international legal order and the international rule of law. We are honoured that the Deputy Secretary-General is here with us today to tell us more about the campaign. We encourage other states to underline their commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and, particularly, to consider accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ by making a pledge at today’s high-level meeting.
Arbitration is another means of peacefully settling disputes. The Permanent Court of Arbitration plays a key role in this area. It has its own niche in international dispute settlement. Of course, like the ICJ, it settles disputes between states. But it also arbitrates in disputes involving private enterprises and international organisations, and it deals with internal disputes within states. The Secretary-General of the PCA will discuss this role further. The PCA is now busier than ever. It acts as a registry for over 60 cases, in which the parties are states, corporations, international organisations and individuals. India is one such state and later I would like to invite the representative of India to give us a brief reflection on that country’s experiences with the Court.
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It should be clear from what I have said that the Peace Palace in The Hague is no longer visited only by tourists, as was sometimes the case in the 1960s and 70s. The Hague has become a global centre for the peaceful settlement of disputes. It is now widely seen as the legal capital of the world. We will use the occasion of next year’s centennial of the Peace Palace to reflect on the crucial importance of the peaceful settlement of disputes.
The ICJ and the PCA each have a heavy caseload. But their roles need to be strengthened further in the years to come. Today’s high-level meeting gives states an opportunity to do exactly that. More states should accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ. More states should join the PCA. Now more than ever, the Peace Palace should be the place where arbitration and judicial settlement are practised.