A fundamental pillar in the appropriate evolution of the globalization process is the existence of solid and reliable institutions behind it. Of particular importance is a functional global judiciary system.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ-also known as the World Court), the UN’s tribunal headquartered in the Hague, plays a paramount and irreplaceable role in world affairs. Its fifteen judges are elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council, voting simultaneously but independently. In order to ensure continuity within the Court, five judges are elected every three years.
The ICJ settles disputes between countries that voluntarily resort to it, which are obligated to comply with the Court’s decision. In addition to impeccable professional credentials, diversity and balance are objectives sought after in all selected judges. In the words of the ICJ: “The Court may not include more than one national of the same State. Moreover, the Court as a whole must represent the main forms of civilization and the principal legal systems of the world … the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.”
Peter Tomka, a Slovak, is the current president of the ICJ, and Bernardo Sepúlveda-Amor, a Mexican national, is the current vice president. The countries of origin of the remaining thirteen magistrates is as follows: Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Russia, Somalia, Uganda, UK, and the USA.
Last week we learned about the decision of the Court to settle an old territorial dispute between Peru and Chile. The disciplined attitude of both countries should be lauded, before, during, and after the verdict was released. Peru and Chile have a growing trade and generally smooth relationship, and have been an example of good neighborly conduct during the recent decades.
In April of 2013 Bolivia took another territorial dispute with Chile, looking for seashore territory. This claim is expected to be resolved sometime during 2014.
The world should aim to be a global village governed by international law, with a solid judiciary system. Nothing else will do. Despite all limitations and human deficiencies that the judiciary system might have, by far it is a better option than any other alternative. Naturally, constant efforts must be addressed towards continuously perfecting all legal systems.
In short, in our globalized world there is no appropriate substitute for the ICJ. Hence, the logical path of evolution is to strengthen, support, and use it.
Ideally, all controversies among countries should be settled in a peaceful, orderly, and civilized manner. Once the diplomatic dialogue between or among nations has reached a dead-end, and all other possibilities —like mediation by a third party— have been exhausted, there is no better way of settling international disputes than through the ICJ.
Indeed, the world as a whole is very fortunate to have a functioning and active institution like the ICJ, with a growing number of cases settled throughout the years. Since May of 1947, when the first process was filed, there have been 156 processes dealt with by the ICJ.
All major nations, like the US, China, and Japan should make a consistent effort to utilize the ICJ to settle international disputes. This is particularly relevant given the frequent reticence that the largest economies usually have towards settling disputes through this medium. That reticence is a significant obstacle in the normal and healthy development of the global judiciary system.
Ted Turner, a distinguished businessman from the US, made an unprecedented $1 billion dollar donation to the UN in 1997, spread throughout ten years. As a means to exert a better control and improve accountability over that donation, Turner demanded the creation of the UN Foundation. Turner’s case is an outstanding example of highly commendable global citizenship, handsomely contributing with his own money, yet simultaneously, to the degree possible, also conducting the global institution into better governance practices.
The UN is the only global forum of its kind. The birth of the UN was not accidental, it was a direct consequence of WWII, in hopes of providing the world with an impartial global forum to deal with international affairs.
In essence, there are only three truly global indispensable supranational institutions: the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank. The human and financial costs incurred to establish and keep them running has been vast, spread throughout many decades. Despite the multiple limitations and failures —inherent to any human endeavor— the world is far better off with them than without them. Hence the importance of fortifying and consistently improving them.
Due to political fighting, Washington, as well as other advanced countries have shown a frequent propensity to be in arrears of payments to this kind of institutions. This is highly regrettable and shameful. We all should aim towards a more responsible and mature attitude in these critical aspects of the political life. What is at stake is all too serious and consequential.
Martin Wolf from the Financial Times has very aptly stated: “Co-operation and communication should be the order of the day” (in world affairs).
Nowadays we are facing a truly unprecedented opportunity for growth and overall well-being for the world at large. If the two conditions just mentioned are effectively applied on a global basis, the humongous opportunities in front of us will bear very substantial fruits, in the form of new massive employment and a significant improvement in the standard of living, particularly among the billions of human beings living below the poverty line.