LAW not War

Legal Alternatives to War: Towards universal jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice

“From the smallest village to the global stage, the rule of law is all that stands
between peace and stability and a brutal struggle for power and resources. I note the importance of accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court and call on all Member States to do so without any reservations.”

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General. Remarks to the UN Security Council Thematic Debate on the Rule of Law amongst Nations, January 12, 2023

Project outline

LAW not War is a new global campaign to enhance the jurisdiction and use of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in order to assist countries resolve international disputes peacefully rather than through recourse to the threat or use of force.

The principal objective of the campaign is to increase the number of States accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, with the aspiration to achieve universal acceptance of jurisdiction by 2045, the 100th anniversary of the United Nations.

In addition, the campaign works to enhance ICJ jurisdiction through:

  • Promoting greater use by UN bodies of the option to request Advisory Opinions from the ICJ;
  • Encouraging disputing States to make more frequent use of the option of taking cases to the ICJ by mutual agreement;
  • Encouraging more frequent use of the compulsory ICJ jurisdiction provision in a number of international treaties, and promoting the inclusion of compulsory ICJ jurisdiction in additional treaties;
  • Encouraging states to adopt constitutional amendments or legislative measures to affirm the UN Charter prohibition of war and the obligation to resolve international disputes peacefully including through recourse to the ICJ.

The campaign employs a mixture of education about the value and impact of ICJ jurisdiction, and advocacy to enhance such jurisdiction.

Authority, influence and impact of the ICJ

The ICJ has had considerable success at resolving international disputes, including some that involved the threat or use of force. Examples include:

  • Nicaragua v United States, which helped end US aggression against Nicaragua and paved the way for the Central American Peace Accords;
  • The Nuclear Tests case, which helped end nuclear testing in Pacific;
  • Chad v Libya, which resolved their territorial dispute and ended their armed conflict,
  • Costa Rica v Nicaragua, which resolved their territorial dispute over the Isla Portillos and ensured withdrawal of the Nicaraguan military forces.


The authority of the ICJ within the United Nations system, and the unique contribution the ICJ plays with respect to the application of the law, ensures that its decisions exert considerable influence and impact on the parties and other stakeholders in its cases.

An analysis of ICJ cases undertaken by Judge C.G. Weeramantry (former Vice-President of the ICJ), for example, indicated that approximately 90% of ICJ cases are implemented – either fully or mostly.

However, its role is limited by the fact that its jurisdiction is based on voluntary acceptance. As such, many disputes that could potentially be resolved with the help of the ICJ are not brought to the court because of refusal of one or more parties to accept its jurisdiction.

ICJ jurisdiction - general provisions

ICJ jurisdiction is conferred through a variety of processes including:

  • Voluntary declarations by UN Member states – under Article 36 of the ICJ Statute – by which they unilaterally accept compulsory jurisdiction for any dispute between them and other states that have also made such declarations (74 countries have made such declarations);
  • Mutual agreement by disputing states to take a specific legal issue to the court;
  • Advisory Opinions which are requested to the Court by the UN Security Council, UN General Assembly (UNGA) or other UN organs and specialized agencies which have been granted authority by the UNGA to request such opinions;
  • International treaties which provide for ICJ jurisdiction in disputes between States Parties relating to obligations under the treaty in question.


LAW not War is working to increase acceptance and use of ICJ jurisdiction through all four of these processes, but is placing a strong focus on enhancing the first process list above – increasing the number of voluntary declarations accepting ICJ jurisdiction for any international legal disputes.

ICJ jurisdiction - working with like-minded countries

The LAW not War campaign is building connection and cooperation with a like-minded group of countries that has produced a Handbook on accepting the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and released a Declaration on promoting the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice which promotes the handbook and encourages states to accept jurisdiction of the Court both generally and in specific circumstances.

LAW not War and Common Security

The International Court of Justice is a key global governance mechanism for enhancing common security, i.e. peace and security for all. The LAW not War campaign therefore works as part of – or in cooperation with – other common security campaigns and initiatives including the UNFOLD ZERO Common Security platform, the WFM-IGP Abolish War through Common Security and the Law program and the Common Security v Nuclear Deterrence initiative.

LAW not War and the UN Summit of the Future

The UN Summit of the Future, scheduled for September 2024, provides an opportunity to highlight the role of the ICJ and build support for universal acceptance of its jurisdiction.

A large number of civil society organizations, facilitated by the Coalition for the UN We Need, have been consulting and cooperating on a Peoples Pact for the Future which includes 33 recommendations to the Summit that have considerable support around the world. One of these is the recommendation that “all UN Member States should be encouraged to accede, by no later than 2035, to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to ensure the peaceful settlement of disputes.

C4UN will organise a second Global Futures Forum in May 2024 to build political traction for the recommendations in the Peoples Pact for the Future.

Partners, participating organizations and contact

LAW not War is a joint campaign established and managed by Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace, Basel Peace Office, Citizens for Global Solutions, UNFOLD ZERO, World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) and the World Future Council.

  • Join the growing number of participating organizations;
  • Subscribe to the UNFOLD ZERO newsletter for campaign updates.

For more information contact Alyn Ware, WFM-IGP Program Director at

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