GA: Report of the International Court of Justice

11/1/2012 // The International Court of Justice is a cornerstone of the international legal order, said Director General for Legal Affairs, Mr. Rolf Einar Fife in the Plenary meeting on the Report of the International Court of Justice.

I would like to start by thanking the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, for its annual report to the General Assembly.

As one of the principal organs of the United Nations and the only international court of a universal character with general jurisdiction, the Court occupies a special position. It plays a significant role in the promotion of the rule of law through its judicial activities in contentious cases and its advisory opinions. This was also duly noted at the plenary of the high-level meeting on the rule of law at the national and international levels that was held here in New York on 24 September 2012.

As noted in the report, almost as an understatement, the subject matter in the cases referred to the Court has varied widely. Moreover, these cases are growing in factual and legal complexity. Also for the above reasons, the Court is particularly well placed to provide guidance, through its judicial activities, on how to counter difficulties arising from the diversification and expansion of international law, sometimes referred to as the fragmentation of the latter. We are convinced that the cohesion of international law is actively promoted notably through a coherent interpretation of treaties on the basis of the principles and rules contained in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.


Photo: Knut Storberget.

The reporting period was marked by a number of significant decisions on the part of the Court. We would also like to commend the Court for the steps it has taken to enhance its efficiency and cope with the steady increase in its workload. We note with appreciation that it has successfully cleared its backlog of cases, as explained in the report.

It is also against this background that Norway notes that the potential for active use of the Court as a key organ for the peaceful settlement of disputes in conformity with the Charter actually surpasses the number of States - 67 so far - that have made a declaration recognizing as compulsory the jurisdiction of the Court. Thus, some 300 international agreements also provide for the jurisdiction of the Court. Moreover, States may decide to agree on the referral of cases to the Court after negotiation of special agreements, where the parties may agree on the specific issues they wish to submit to the Court.

The costs related to dispute settlement before the Court should not discourage States from submitting their disputes for settlement. States that are able to do so should therefore consider contributing to the Trust Fund established by the Secretary-General from which States may apply for financial support in order to finance their dispute settlement or to comply with the Court’s judgments.

In that regard I am pleased to announce that Norway has decided to contribute USD 80 000 to the Trust Fund.

Mr President,
the International Court of Justice plays a crucial role, not only in the resolution of contentious cases and through its advisory role, but also in the clarification and development of international law. We welcome the Court’s seminal contributions in various fields, including as regards the development of the modern law of the sea and in particular its role in consolidating and refining principles of maritime delimitation. In doing so, the Court has provided invaluable guidance also to States engaged in the negotiation of treaties on the delimitation of the continental shelf and economic zones.

We are also pleased to note that in its first delimitation judgment, delivered in March this year, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea also confirmed the cohesive body of law developed by the Court, thus contributing to further consolidation and preventing the fragmentation of international law in this field. This comes in addition to similar contributions by ad hoc arbitral tribunals established to resolve maritime delimitation issues.

Mr President,
I would like to conclude by reiterating Norway’s long-standing and unwavering support for the International Court of Justice, as a cornerstone of the international legal order.

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