Assessing the Effectiveness of the International Court of Justice
Cambridge Companion to the International Court of Justice, Carlos Espósito, Kate Parlett and Callista Harris eds., Forthcoming 2021)
21 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2021 Last revised: 18 Apr 2021
Date Written: December 25, 2020
Through continuity with its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the longest-lived international court in existence. As the ‘World Court’, it embodies a crucial link between the present-day reality of international adjudication and its antecedent intellectual and ideological premises and institutional incarnation. As such, the ICJ serves as the archetype of international adjudication. Furthermore, as ‘the principal judicial organ’ of the UN, it enjoys a special position among other international courts and tribunals, and forms part of a global organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security. Among international courts and tribunals, it alone can claim to exercise jurisdiction that is potentially both general and universal, and its jurisdiction and jurisprudence may, and often does, touch on high politics and global governance. These unique features and the tensions they embody are crucial to the assessment of ICJ effectiveness.
The nature and magnitude of the challenges confronting the Court since 1945 are crucial for assessing its effectiveness. It survived, without major structural adjustment, dramatic changes in the world and in the nature of its business. Its constituency has radically transformed in numbers, identity, and outlook shortly after its establishment. All of these twists and turns underscore the high degree of institutional resilience of the ICJ in the face of exogenous pressures; the Court’s durability must also be accounted for when assessing its effectiveness.
The following Chapter offers a ‘broad brush’ discussion of the effectiveness of the ICJ. In Part 1 we introduce the evaluative framework used throughout this Chapter for assessing the Court’s effectiveness—a goal-based analysis. Part 2 discusses the goals of the ICJ as they derive explicitly and implicitly from its core documents. Part 3 introduces the structural features of the Court that facilitate, at times, and constrain, at other times, its potential for goal-attainment. Part 4 reviews the outcomes generated by the Court and juxtaposes them against its goals. Part 5 concludes.
Keywords: International Court of Justice, judicial effectiveness, jurisdiction, compliance, legitimacy, judicial goals, judicial independence, impact of international judgments
JEL Classification: K33, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation