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The International Court of Justice and the Preservation of Peace in the 21st Century: Global Governance in Action

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CaPE (The International Court of Justice and the Preservation of Peace in the 21st Century: Global Governance in Action)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

CaPE addresses the role of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the cause of peace and its contribution to governance. As the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, the ICJ fulfills two main tasks: resolving legal disputes between States and adopting advisory opinions on the interpretation of international law. CaPE proves that the ICJ does something more:. as the main purpose of the United Nations is the preservation of international peace and security, the Court selects the interpretation of international law which is more conducive to the achievement of the goals of the UN. The Court considers the wider implications of its decisions for the future and takes into account the potential response of the parties and the world public opinion. The ICJ stepped out of the constraints of legal formalism, and focuses on constructing international law so as to advance peace, security, and good governance.
My project is important for society, because it has the ambition of bringing the society closer to the Court. First, the ICJ is not a ‘regular’ Court deciding routine disputes, but it is the World Court. Awareness of its functions and performance is necessary for decision-makers and the public at large. Second, my analysis takes a forward-looking perspective and indicates the future possibilities of the Court’s action. Third, by exploring the geopolitical and policy-related dimensions of the Court’s jurisprudence, my analysis is also an invitation to the mass media to reflect more and be more attentive to the signals given by the Court. Fourth, CaPE raises the profile of a core institution of the international community in an era of populism and may dispel some of the prejudice against international institutions.
The core objective of the project is to review the position of the ICJ under the conditions of the 21st century. Other objectives of the project are the following: First, to analyze the hidden dimensions of the jurisprudence, in particular the role of geopolitics and how the Court responds to it. Second, to dispel the prejudice of a ‘conservative’ ICJ, which allegedly loses its relevance by ceding ground to the new international courts and tribunals. Third, to prove that the ICJ determines the form of the core principles of international law with universal validity. Fourth, to assess the jurisprudence with regard to its contribution to peace and security. Fifth, to assess the authority of the Court.
CaPE has resulted in four publications to be made soon available to the public as open-access. The first publication explores the methodological aspects of the study and discusses the nature of contemporary world society. This publication discusses both the way the decisions of the Court may be understood, and the 'risky' international environment, within which the ICJ operates. The second publication is about the geopolitical dimensions of the ICJ jurisprudence in instances of security threats and ‘negative peace’. In this publication, I explore the way the ICJ has approached major international crises, and how it integrated considerations on law and power in its decisions. The third publication is about the contribution of the Court to the construction of a sustainable territorial governance through self-determination and ‘positive peace’. The fourth publication is about the authority and power of the ICJ in world society.
Other initiatives for the dissemination of the ideas linked to my project: Presenting the drafts of my publications at the Universities of Copenhagen and Lund; giving a talk in the Greek Parliament for the potential contribution of the ICJ in the management of migration flows, which will be published soon in a book under the aegis of the Parliament; convening a conference at the University of Copenhagen on various dimensions of the ICJ jurisprudence; co-convened a conference at the same University on the judicial response to the migration crisis, including the potential contribution of the ICJ; engaging in a public discussion in Copenhagen with Sir Michael Wood, Special Rapporteur of the International Law Commission (ILC), on the function of the ICJ; discussing the objectives of my research at the Max Planck Institute for International Law in Heidelberg; joining the Max Planck Institute as a result of the research; receiving a proposal to edit the Research Handbook on the International Court of Justice, on which I am working on now (Elgar Publ).
CaPE has created a novel approach to the understanding of the ICJ and its jurisprudence. In the first paper, I conclude that since 1989 the Court has been operating in a world characterized not so much by the threat of a major war among Great Powers, but rather in a world of risks. There is a major change of the international environment between the period of the Cold War, when the context of the Court’s jurisprudence related to the prevention of a major East-West conflict, and the post-1989 period. My study is based on an in-depth analysis of the positions of Thomas Hobbes.
In the second study of the project, I introduce the discussion of geopolitics in the analysis of Court’s jurisprudence on negative peace and security. This is a major turn in scholarship, which has so far ignored this dimension. Here, I provide evidence that the change of the geopolitical balance and the emergence of new actors. The suppression of the threats to the peace as understood by the UN Security Council has become the core interest that steers the Court’s jurisprudence in the field of security.
The third study is about territorial governance, positive peace, and self-determination. Here, I develop the idea that self-determination is not merely a ‘right’ in international law, but rather a principle that fulfils specific functions. I explore the decisions of the Court that relate to self-determination and I conclude that the Court is hesitant to adopt a certain model for governance, but that its concern is rather the governability of a territory and its stability.
The fourth and last study reflects on the authority of the Court. The authority depends on the unique function that the ICJ performs, which is to relate international law to the diplomatic and geopolitical environment. How this linkage takes place, is a matter of judicial policy and interpretation of the pertinent norms. The authority of the Court is maximized, if it succeeds in finding the right balance between these two poles. Success or failure depend on many factors, in particular on whether the Court is able to distinguish between the power of States, in particular of Great Powers, and the power of function systems, which define the structural conditions and constraints, under which States interact with each other.
The impact of CaPE will be long-term. I hope to contribute to a turn in the analysis of the ICJ that includes sociological and theoretical aspects. There are so far two encouraging signals for the impact my research will have. First, I realized during my research that the publication of four separate journal articles on this theme, as originally planned, is not fit for purpose and decided to proceed with the publication of the four studies in the SSRN series of iCourts, and then to develop them into a book at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. Second, I am editing the Research Handbook on the ICJ, following a contract with Elgar Publ.
In my office, working on the project!
Hobbes and the question of security: How should the ICJ respond?