Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Herman Schaper at Security Council Arria Formula meeting


Statement by H.E. Herman Schaper

Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

on The peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution: Mediation, judicial settlement and justice

Security Council Arria Formula meeting

New York, 30 May 2012


It is an honour to address you on an issue that is central to my government’s foreign policy.

Over the past few years international and regional organizations and their member states have shown a greater interest in multilateral conflict prevention as a tool for avoiding the escalation of political disputes into armed conflict. The increasing preparedness of regional and international actors to address conflict risks before they materialize, and the greater willingness of many at-risk states to accept third-party action translated into normative evolutions and growing capabilities for multilateral conflict prevention.

This debate comes at a timely moment as we will celebrate next year, in August 2013, the 100th Anniversary of the Peace Palace, home to the ICJ and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Both institutions play a major role in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution, and which my country is proud to host.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ)

The ICJ has been able to settle disputes which could not be settled by negotiation and other means of peaceful settlement. As a result, States with good political relations have been able to maintain the general political climate between them by submitting their dispute to the ICJ. The ICJ has been able to play a meaningful role in the peaceful settlement of disputes in spite of the fact that it can only deal with a dispute when the States concerned have recognized its jurisdiction. By its very existence and availability, the ICJ helps to avoid disputes or induce the settlement of disputes. In some cases, the mere fact that a State proposes to submit a dispute to the ICJ may induce the other party to negotiate a settlement. In other cases, the very act of submitting a dispute has a considerable positive effect upon the ultimate settlement of the dispute.

In addition to the afore-mentioned roles, the ICJ through its advisory jurisdiction has also contributed meaningfully to the settlement of disputes. The advisory opinions gives on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized UN organs and specialized agencies have indirectly helped to resolve disputes or to defuse tension between States. There is therefore no doubt that despite the consensual nature of its jurisdiction, the ICJ plays a meaningful role in the settlement of disputes.

Over the past decade, the trust and respect of the international community for the activities of the Court as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations have been growing. This growth is reflected in the increase in the number and the widening in subject of the cases brought before the Court. What is more remarkable is that these cases before the Court have involved States from all continents; the docket of the Court indeed represents the universal character of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, for example two recent cases worth mentioning are ‘the jurisdictional immunities of the State’ (Germany v. Italy) and ‘Pulp mills on the river Uruguay’ (Argentina v. Uruguay). Their subject-matters have been wide-ranging, extending from such classical issues as territorial and maritime delimitation and diplomatic protection, to issues of increasing relevance to the contemporary international community like human rights, the status of individuals, international humanitarian law and environmental issues.

Despite recommendations by the General Assembly encouraging States to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, States are still reluctant to do so. Out of over 190 States, only 67 have made declarations under Article 36(2) of the Court’s Statute. Those that have made declarations have often appended broad reservations. The Netherlands warmly welcomes the announcement by the Secretary-General (in his recently published program of action to strengthen the Rule of Law at the National and International levels) to launch a campaign to increase the number of Member States that accept as compulsory the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. We stand ready to assist the Secretariat in this endeavor. I once again call upon all states that have not yet done so to accept the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

Now let me turn to the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The PCA was established by the 1899 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague during the first Hague Peace Conference. The 1899 Convention was revised in 1907 at the second Hague Peace Conference. There was the danger that the creation of the Permanent Court of International Justice, and subsequently the International Court of Justice, would wield a fatal blow to arbitration. This did not occur, and its International Bureau has successfully accommodated over the last two decades, the growth of arbitration. The PCA even has increased in popularity over the last decade. The arbitration on the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea that took place in 2003 was one of the big cases that helped put the PCA back into the international limelight.

Its caseload reflects the breadth of PCA involvement in international dispute resolution, encompassing territorial, treaty, and human rights disputes between states, as well as commercial and investment disputes, including disputes arising under bilateral and multilateral investment treaties.

I would like to encourage States, international organizations and private parties to make greater use of the Court's services, which also include fact-finding and conciliation; such recourse would help ease the workload of the International Court of Justice and fill gaps concerning arbitrations involving private parties and international organizations. I also urge States which have not ratified the Hague Conventions to do so. Developing countries, in particular, could well find the flexible instruments of dispute resolution to be invaluable.

Thank you.