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An International Dispute Settlement

International Dispute Settlement deals with the settlement of disputes between states, organizations from different countries, individuals, juristic people, or institutions from different nations, etc. in a manner that is amicable to them. To understand this better, we need to first understand what is meant by a Dispute.

The Permanent Court of International Justice defines dispute as "a disagreement on a point of law or fact, a conflict of legal views or interests between two persons". J G Merrills, in his book International Dispute Settlement, further defined that 'international dispute' can be said to exist "whenever such a disagreement involves governments, institutions, juristic persons (corporations), or private individuals in different parts of the World".

International Dispute Settlement believes in implementing mechanisms that would lead to disputes being sorted peacefully and healthily, which would not be detrimental to world peace. The United Nations Charter provides for the same in two of its Articles. Article 2 (3) provides for how disputes should be resolved among the countries. It states that "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered". Article 33 further mentions how such settlement shall take place. It states that:

"The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger their maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their disputes by such means.".

Classification of Disputes:

Majorly, disputes in the International arena can be classified into two types. These are:
  • Political Disputes
    These types of disputes are usually based on questions on diplomacy, territorial claims, infringement on sovereignty, etc. It is based on Facts.
  • Legal Dispute
    These types of disputes are usually based on the question of jurisdiction, implementation of treaties, agreements, and conventions, etc. It is based on the question of law.

However, the meaning of these two types can vary from case to case. The lines of division are rather blurry. To understand the type of dispute, one must look into how the nations or parties involved are handling it. However, one must understand that this classification becomes important once we start looking into the resolution for it. The International Court of Justice stated that when it comes to resolving a dispute using their help, the dispute should be of a legal kind as only then they shall be able to answer. The court cannot associate itself with a political dispute.To ascertain whether a matter is a legal dispute or a political dispute, the issue shall be referred to a court where they shall recognize the type of the dispute.

Manner of settlement:

As specified before, the manners in which disputes should be resolved are mentioned in the UN Charter.
  1. Negotiation
    This manner of dispute settlement includes the two disputing countries only. When any disputes initiate, the measures taken by the two parties to settle it, using its representatives is negotiation. There exists no third � party during the settlement.
  2. Arbitration
    This method is a process in which both parties consent to refer the dispute to a body or a tribunal. The resolution of this settlement is a legal decision. The body of arbitration that is used internationally is the Permanent Court of Arbitration. However, unlike the name suggests, this body is not a court.
  3. Inquiry
    This method includes the constitution of a commission. A commission is made to look into the matter of the dispute I.e., the facts forming the dispute and the question of law or the mixed question of law and fact stemming from it. The duty of the commission restricts only pointing out the facts and issues.
  4. Mediation
    This manner of settlement involves a third party. They have to actively take part in the deliberation of the dispute and give suggestions that can lead to the closure of the dispute. The third party is not supposed to strictly follow the laws but should give away flexible solutions that are satisfying for both parties.
  5. Conciliation
    This method is similar to Inquiry. It also involves the constitution of a commission. However, they have two major tasks. The first task is to ascertain the facts and the pointers of issues between the states and determine the type of issues. The second task is to make a list of proposals that can resolve the dispute between them. This list is not binding on the parties but can give good suggestions to them.
  6. Judicial Settlement
    Judicial Settlement is one of the most important manners in which dispute is resolved in the International arena. This manner of settlement is facilitated by the Permanent International Court of Justice. This settlement is very similar to Arbitration. It requires the consent of the parties involved. The decisions that are given by this court are based on International Laws recognized and the procedure is governed by the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
  7. Good Offices
    Good Offices is an act of bringing parties towards working into a settlement rather than a manner of settlement. It includes a third party that brings the parties at dispute together to resolve their dispute in any peaceful and amicable manner. Their duty ends once the parties choose a manner of resolving their dispute and starts working on it.
Other peaceful means:
Security Council:
The Security Council is one of the most important organs of the United Nations. They consist of 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members who work towards resolving any dispute that is a threat to the world order and global peace. They are entrusted with certain powers towards the resolution of disputes via the provisions of the United Nations. The Security Council also has powers under Article 33to call up such disputing parties to resolve their issues.

General Assembly:

The General Assembly is another important organ of the United Nations. Though it is not given any specific powers of dispute resolution, it can always use its general powers of deliberation that can give useful resolutions for the dispute to resolve.

Source of Law:
There exist mainly 3 main sources of International Dispute Settlement:
  1. United Nations Charter
    Article 1 of the first Chapter of the Charter mentions its purpose. The purpose summarizes that the United Nations shall take necessary steps to eliminate any threat towards world peace and security. For this, they shall come up with peaceful mechanisms that are based on the principles of justice. It continues to state that the members shall work towards ensuring the same. They shall follow peaceful mechanisms such as those prescribed in the Charter towards resolving any dispute that they may have amongst one another.
  2. General Assembly's Resolutions and Declarations
    There have been various declarations and resolutions that have been passed by the General Assembly towards the peaceful settlement of disputes amongst various countries. Some of these include the Resolution 2627 (XXV) of 24th October 1970, Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and cooperation among states (United Nations Resolution 2625 XXV), etc.
  3. Other related means
    There are many other conferences, conventions, and treaties that are agreed upon among the countries. Some of these include the Manila Declaration, the Final Act at Helsinki, etc. These also create new principles with regards to the peaceful resolution of international disputes. Some of these principles include the principle to refrain from interfering with another Nation's sovereignty and integrity; duty of not interfering in any Nation's domestic matters; etc.

International Dispute Resolution is ever-evolving. To keep up with the newer times, new ideas and trends are being introduced. New international courts and tribunals are being made with the newer technology of case resolution. There are active efforts also being made to increase corporation among the countries.

However, it is difficult to ascertain what changes could be made firmly. Anyhow, international dispute resolutions are an active manner in which peace can be achieved internationally. Disputes between countries are much higher in magnitude and International Dispute Settlement mechanisms are a good mechanism to ensure that they are handled in a manner not detrimental to the present World Order and for the current society to not evolve backward.

  • U.N. Charter art. 36, para.6.
  • See Note 4
  • Statute of the International Court of Justice
  • U.N. Charter art. 33
  • U.N. Charter art. 1
  • Dr David Cowan, Top 10 dispute resolution trends of 2020, The Global Legal Post.

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