Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


S. Gozie Ogbodo


The effectiveness of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is critical for global survival and progress in the 21st century. Unfortunately, after over six decades in existence, the Court’s influence is declining. This work argues that to revitalize the influence and effectiveness of the Court, some vital reforms must be undertaken in the ICJ system. These reforms must address: (1) the process of election and re-election of ICJ judges; (2) the conflict of interest arising from the presence of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on the Court; (3) the issue of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction; and (4) the appointment of ad hoc judges under Article 31 of the Statute of the Court.

Under the United Nations system, the ICJ is the “principal judicial organ” charged with two main functions, to wit; to assist in the resolution of disputes between states, and to provide advisory opinions to specified international organizations. Although established under the UN Charter, the Court is nevertheless governed by the Charter, the Statute of the ICJ, the Rules of Procedure adopted by the judges and amended from time to time, as well as the Practice Directions adopted in October 2001. Though many rules governing the ICJ strive to create an unbiased and honorable entity, the Court’s legitimacy and impartiality have nevertheless been compromised by issues surrounding the election and re-election of its judges, the UN Security Council’s permanent members’ roles in the ICJ, the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, and the nomination of ad hoc judges by parties before the Court.

After six decades, the ICJ is at a crossroads as it braces to adjudicate the disputes arising in the 21st century. Modern issues concerning environmental protection, terrorism, and human trafficking—among many others—are global problems deserving of attention from a global court. This article argues that the ICJ is ill-equipped to tackle modern international disputes if the jurisdictional and compositional problems outlined above are not remedied, while also offering recommendations for reform.

Part I introduces the reader to the inner-workings of the ICJ by discussing the composition of the Court, beginning with an explanation of its roots. Next, Part II critically dissects the challenging preliminary issues of jurisdiction and admissibility. Part III provides an in-depth analysis of the different bases for the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction, with particular focus on contentious and advisory jurisdiction. Part IV highlights four main challenges facing the International Court of Justice, while Part V concludes by proffering recommendations for a more efficient ICJ in the 21st century.

Cite as: 18 Annl. Survey Int'l. Comp. L. 93 (2012).