Reform of the International Court of Justice - a Jurisdictional Perspective

Perspectives, Vol. 5, No. 2, June 30, 2004

13 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2004

See all articles by Bingbin Lu

Bingbin Lu

Nanjing University - Law School


The International Court of Justice ("ICJ" or the "Court") has been criticized for its limited effectiveness and the many failures it has experienced. In order to understand and discuss the operation and problems of the ICJ, jurisdiction is the key issue. The jurisdiction of the ICJ falls into two distinct parts: contentious jurisdiction and advisory jurisdiction. This paper first provides a brief introduction to the Court and an overview of the ICJ's jurisdiction by way of some case studies. It then explores reform of the ICJ from a jurisdictional perspective, and discusses the theory and history of the ICJ's jurisdiction. To reform the ICJ will not be easy. It can be achieved through a step-by-step process. This paper does not advocate that the ICJ should adopt compulsory jurisdiction. The Court's jurisdiction was intentionally limited at its outset. Some have suggested the WTO dispute settlement system as a good example for introducing compulsory adjudication and appellate review on a worldwide level through "constitutional reforms." However, the author believes it is not practical to re-build a totally new ICJ structure under the UN system. Instead of focusing on substantial reforms to the ICJ, there is different trend of reconstructing the international judicial system; namely, the proliferation of international Courts and Tribunals, especially the establishment of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Criminal Court. Under this approach, rebuilding a World Court with compulsory jurisdiction is not necessary. Such a step might even produce some conflicts with other fora. So, it suggests instead that the Court take a broad interpretational approach towards jurisdictional disputes. This is the most the Court can do under the current ICJ statute.

Keywords: International Court of Justice, ICJ, Reform, Jurisdiction, Compulsory Jurisdiction

JEL Classification: K33, K41

Suggested Citation

Lu, Bingbin, Reform of the International Court of Justice - a Jurisdictional Perspective. Perspectives, Vol. 5, No. 2, June 30, 2004, Available at SSRN:

Bingbin Lu (Contact Author)

Nanjing University - Law School ( email )

Nanjing, Jiangsu 210093

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