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Karin Oellers-Frahm

Proliferation of international courts and tribunals is generally seen as a danger for the unity and consistency of international law. Although the number of international courts and tribunals has significantly increased in the last 50 years, this is a positive fact, firstly reflecting, on one side, the development – namely the diversification, not fragmentation – of international law into new subject matters, and, on the other side, the readiness of states to accept the judicial settlement of disputes. Due to the particularities of international law with regard to law making and dispute settlement, overlap of jurisdictions is predetermined, including the possibility of diverging decisions. Secondly, the diversification of international law and the lack of any hierarchical coordinating authority gives international courts and tribunals a prominent position to reveal inconsistencies of international law and even, to a certain degree, the power to reach a harmonious interpretation of apparently inconsistent rules. As proliferation of international courts and tribunals is the result of the diversification of international law it is a chance rather than a risk for enhancing the consistency of international law in an otherwise uncoordinated legal system. KEYWORDS: proliferation of international courts and tribunals; fragmentation of international law; inconsistency of judicial decisions; lack of coordinating authority; maintenance of basic values