The Legitimacy of the International Court of Justice from the Vantage Point of UN Members

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Significant scholarly commentary exists on the legal aspects of the relationship between the International Court of Justice and the UN General Assembly. Legal scholars have mused about the role of General Assembly resolutions in the jurisprudence of the Court and dissected the General Assembly’s (mis)use of requests for advisory opinions from the Peace Palace. Yet one essential aspect in the interaction between the two institutions tends to be overlooked. Each fall, UN Members meet in the hall of the General Assembly to offer their comments on the annual report of the ICJ. The debate constitutes one of few occasions in which UN Members get the opportunity to express views on the Court’s activities and exercise of authority. Taking government statements issued in General Assembly debates over the past thirty years as its point of departure, the article teases out factors that in the eyes of UN Members contribute to or detract from the Court’s legitimacy. The article finds that four sets of sources affect UN Members’ assessments of the institution: 1) its access and outreach efforts, 2) diversity, representativeness, and the quality of its jurisprudence, 3) independence and impartiality of its judges, and 4) its efficiency, flexibility, and transparency. In so doing, the article contributes novel and empirically grounded perspectives to ongoing debates about the legitimacy of the principal judicial organ of the UN from the vantage point of its primary constituents, UN Members.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMax Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Law - International Court of Justice, United Nations General Assembly, Perceived legitimacy

ID: 345918023