Remarks by Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, Senior Advisor, United States Mission to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 72 - Report of the International Court of Justice

Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, Senior Advisor
New York, NY
October 31, 2013


Thank you, Madam President.

We would like to thank President Tomka for his leadership as president of the International Court of Justice, and for his recent report regarding the activities of the Court over the past year. We are struck by the continuing forward momentum of the Court reflected in the report. Over the last year, the Court issued two judgments and six orders, and held hearings open to the public in four complex cases. In addition, the Court has in its pipeline ten more contentious cases spanning the gamut of issues including border disputes, environmental matters, and the interpretation of treaties among multilateral parties, just to reference a few. Five of the pending cases are between Latin American states, two between European states, one between African states, and one between Asian states, while one is intercontinental in character. Truly, the case load of the Court is global and mirrors the work of the General Assembly itself in this regard.

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The preamble of the Charter underscores the determination of its drafters “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.” This goal lies at the core of the Charter system, and in particular the role of the Court. Taking stock today of approximately 70 years of ICJ jurisprudence, it is clear that the Court has made a significant contribution to establishing legal norms and clarifying legal principles in multiple areas of international law.

We see an increased tendency among States – reaffirmed again this past year – to take disputes to the Court and to vigorously advocate on behalf of their interests before the Court. In turn the Court has continued to become more responsive to them in multiple ways, including through measures to enhance its efficiency to cope in a timely way with the increase in its workload, and its commitment to continually review and refine its procedures and working methods to keep pace with the rapidly changing times. By working to resolve some disputes up front, helping to diffuse other disputes before those conflicts escalate, and providing a trusted channel for states to address and resolve disputes about legal issues, the Court is fulfilling its Chapter XIV mandate. We hope the Court will continue to receive appropriate resources for carrying out its important functions.

We also want to commend the Court’s continued public outreach to educate key sectors of society – law professors and students; judicial officials and government officials; and the general public -- on the work of the Court and to increase understanding of the ICJ’s work. From a transparency standpoint, we note, in particular, that the Court’s recordings are now available to watch live and on demand on UN Web TV. All these efforts complement and expand the efforts of the United Nations to promote the rule of law globally and promote a better understanding of public international law.

In closing, we want to express our appreciation for the hard work of President Tomka, the other judges who currently serve on the Court and all of the members of the ICJ staff who contribute on a daily basis to the continuing productive work of that institution.

Thank you, Madam President.


PRN: 2013/219