IR - One Definition A Day: AdjudicationA method of settling disputes by referring them to an established court; as such, it ought not be confused with arbitration. The basis of adjudication is that the adjudicator applies international law to settle the dispute. The creation of the World Court in the present century has meant that the means for international adjudication now exists on a permanent basis.
In 1920 the Permanent Court of International Justice (JCIJ) was established by the League of Nations and between 1922 and 1940 it made thirty-three judgments and gave twenty-seven advisory opinions. In 1945 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established as its successor. The main difficulties both courts have experienced are the limitations upon their jurisdiction. Parties can only submit a case for adjudication by express consent, although there is an optional clause in the statute of the ICJ (see Article 36). Moreover, only states may be party to cases before the Court (Article 34). This has had the effect that important non-state actors, including individuals, cannot directly initiate litigation.
It must be recognised that many disputes are simply not justiciable. International actors find that other modes of conflict settlement allow greater flexibility for bargaining and comprise and do not imply the same loss of control over the outcome that is inherent in adjudication. Also, international law tends to have a status quo orientation. Revisionist states thus tend to find that the use of adjudication does not allow sufficient scope for peaceful change. This must be said notwithstanding the ability of the World Court to apply principles ex aequo et bono if the parties agree (see Article 38).
Although the World Court represents the most significant attempt yet to apply the rule of law in international disputes instead of the more traditional modes of settlement (war, diplomacy, arbitration), it is severely hampered in its operation by the absence of the principle of compulsory jurisdiction. International adjudication is always dependent on the consent of states, and this is rarely given on matters of vital importance. The doctrine of sovereignty is therefore seen by many as an insuperable barrier to the development of the international judicial system. Compulsory jurisdiction is not on the horizon and the international judicial process has played no significant part in the major issues of world politics since 1946 (e.g. The Cold War, the anti-colonial revolution, the North-South division, or the regulation of nuclear weapons).
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