International Law Peaceful Settlement of Disputes
by
Alicia Cebada Romero
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0145

Introduction

Peaceful settlement of international disputes is a fundamental principle of international law of a peremptory character. It is formulated as such in the UN Charter (Article 2.3), and developed in UNGA Resolution 2625 (XXV) on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States. The origins of this principle can be traced back to the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899, which produced a Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The second Hague Peace Conference, in 1907, yielded another Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. Within the League of Nations’ Covenant, this commitment to pacific dispute settlement was reinforced by a moratorium on the use of force. The states’ obligation to resolve their differences by pacific methods gained all its significance when the prohibition of the use of force was eventually formulated in article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter (Article 2.3; Article 33). (ICJ, Judgment, 27 June 1986, Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua, Rec. 1986, p. 145, par. 290, stating that the principle that the parties to any dispute should seek a solution by peaceful means is complementary to the principles of a prohibitive nature). On the basis of this principle, Article 33 of the UN Charter presents a non-exhaustive list of pacific methods for dispute settlement, including negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, and resort to regional arrangements. As established in UN Charter, Article 37.1, should the parties’ efforts to solve their dispute fail, they fall under the obligation to refer it to the Security Council. Traditionally, within the field of peaceful settlement of disputes, much of the international law scholarship’s attention has revolved around binding methods for pacific settlement. Less attention has been devoted to diplomatic means of settlement. Nevertheless, international lawyers have acknowledged that nonbinding dispute settlement methods are worth being examined as a source of interstate practice. The states’ action in this field can be presented as a benchmark for the interpretation of some international rules, and even as a driver for the transformation of international law. This entry is exclusively concerned with the analysis of diplomatic/ nonbinding means for peaceful settlement of international disputes. With the exception of general references to the practice of international and regional organizations, we do not intend to engage here in a systematic study of dispute resolution within the framework of those organizations. While diplomatic means of dispute settlement are not exclusive of contemporary international law, they are growing increasingly relevant at the present moment. Within the framework of the United Nations, for instance, the demand for mediation services has skyrocketed in the last two decades, and the UN Secretary-General has referred to mediation as the most promising dispute settlement method (UN SG Report on Enhancing Mediation and its Support Activities, S/2009/189, p. 3).

Monographs and Collected Volumes

A considerable number of monographs and collected volumes are devoted to the analysis of peaceful settlement of international disputes. Boisson de Chazournes, et al. 2012 provides an analysis of the interaction between diplomatic and judicial means in selected areas, such as international trade law or human rights, among others. In particular, see chapter 14 on the relationship between diplomatic and judicial means of dispute settlement. Merrills 2005 is a book that can be used as a manual on dispute settlement. This text offers a broad survey of international dispute settlement, combining theory with references to more than one hundred cases and agreements. Chapter 18 in Remiro Brotóns, et al. 2007 offers an overview of the methods for peaceful settlement, focusing on the principles of free choice of means and the duty to solve conflicts peacefully. Dahlitz 1999 is a collected volume in which chapter 3 on the difficulties of diplomacy is of particular interest. O’Connell 2003 offers a collection of pivotal essays in the field that had already been published in other volumes or scientific journals. Collier and Lowe 1999 provides a broad survey of the field, with more attention given to the analysis of binding dispute settlement. The authors examine not only interstate disputes but also disputes in which private parties are involved. Caflish 2002, a course at the Hague International Law Academy, presents an insightful survey of peaceful settlement of differences between states in the last century. Oellers-Frahm and Zimmermann 2001 is a text that can be used as a solid basis for any course on international dispute resolution. And last but not least, the UN Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States (United Nations 1992), although based on a limited concept of dispute, is still a must for anyone who wants to approach this field.

  • Boisson de Chazournes, Laurence, Marcelo G. Kohen, and Jorge E. Viñuales, eds. Diplomatic and Judicial Means of Dispute Settlement. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 2012.

    E-mail Citation »

    This volume offers an assessment of the interaction between diplomatic and judicial means of settling international disputes in selected areas: territorial issues, international criminal law, international trade law, investment arbitration, and human rights. It includes contributions from some of the world’s leading academics and practitioners.

  • Caflish, L. “Cent ans de règlement pacifiques des diffèrends interètatiques.” Recueil des Cours de l’Académie de Droit International de la Haye 288 (2002): 245–468.

    E-mail Citation »

    This course offers an insightful survey of the peaceful settlement of differences between states in the last century. The author approaches the interstate practice from a historical perspective to subsequently engage in an examination of the current state of affairs. He also offers his vision on the future of dispute settlement in international law. He insists on the need to promote the negotiation of treaties on peaceful settlement as well as on inclusion of settlement clauses in international agreements.

  • Collier, John, and Vaughn Lowe. The Settlement of Disputes in International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book is conceived as a basis for courses on settlement of disputes in international law. The text offers a thorough survey of the field. One salient feature of the book is that it presents an analysis not only of interstate disputes, but also of disputes in which private parties are involved.

  • Dahlitz, Julie. Peaceful Resolution of Major International Disputes. New York: United Nations, 1999.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collected volume presents, in Part I, an analysis of different aspects of dispute settlement related to the United Nations. With regard to nonbinding methods, chapter 3 focuses on the difficulties of diplomacy. Part II offers a survey of border-delimitation disputes, and Part III concentrates on disputes related to arms control accommodation. Finally, Part IV offers an overview of international trade disputes.

  • Merrills, J. G. International Dispute Settlement. 4th ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139165488E-mail Citation »

    The author presents an overview of international dispute settlement. The text can serve as a manual on dispute settlement, which can offer guidance to students taking courses on this topic. The book combines the theoretical approach with case study, including references to more than one hundred cases and agreements. With regard to the political methods of dispute settlement, we find chapters on negotiation, mediation and good offices, and inquiry and conciliation.

  • O’Connell, Mary Ellen, ed. International Dispute Settlement. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collected volume is a recommendable collection of pivotal essays in the field of international dispute resolution that had already been published in other volumes or scientific journals. The chapters focus on binding and non-binding procedures of peaceful settlement: negotiation, good offices, inquiry, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, and agencies for dispute resolution.

  • Oellers-Frahm, Karin, and Andreas Zimmermann. Dispute Settlement in Public International Law. Berlin: Springer, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-56626-4E-mail Citation »

    This text makes important documents relating to the international law on dispute settlement accessible to researchers, scholars, and practitioners. The book covers universal, regional, and bilateral general agreements.

  • Remiro Brotóns, Antonio, Rosa Riquelme Cortado, Javier Diez-Hochleitner, E. Orihuela Calatayud, and Luis. Pérez-Prat. Derecho Internacional. Valencia, Spain: Tirant lo Blanch, 2007.

    E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 18 of this volume offers an overview of the peaceful settlement of international disputes, focusing on the basic principles governing this area: free choice of means and duty to solve conflicts peacefully. The text offers a description of the different methods of dispute settlement.

  • United Nations. Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States. New York: United Nations, 1992.

    E-mail Citation »

    This handbook is basic material for any course on international dispute resolution. It provides a thorough analysis of the classic means of dispute settlement, combining a theoretical approach with a more practical vision based on a broad survey of the practice in the field. Available online.

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