The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice

Elgar Companions to International Courts and Tribunals series

Robert Kolb

The first in a series of Companions that offer broad coverage of a range of international courts and tribunals, The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice is a one-stop reference for those wishing to understand this highly significant and successful court.

Chapter 14: Conclusion and outlook

Robert Kolb

Subjects: law - academic, public international law, politics and public policy, international politics


The best way to conclude this sketch of the structure and functioning of the ICJ is to take a look into the future. The ICJ will be faced in the coming years with contrasting needs and diverging challenges. It will therefore need a subtle and diverse legal policy in order to remain up to date with the most urgent needs of states in seeking a resolution of their disputes through its judges. There are very many aspects into which we could venture here, and some of them would be more highly speculative than others. However, at least five concerns may be mentioned briefly. The states parties to its system value the ICJ as a serious, prudent and attentive Court. It is slightly conservative and moves forward with care. It takes the greatest amount of time to consider and produce its judgments. Overall it inspires the confidence of states, which now submit a steady flow of cases for its attention. The Court would do well to manoeuvre in such a way as to maintain this state confidence, which does not mean that it should always lean towards a conservative or restrictive jurisprudence. Indeed there are subject areas in which states appreciate some movement towards a modified law to meet changing circumstances, and there are situations where there is an objective need to chart new lands. However, this course – as with any other – should always be engaged with care and reflection.

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