Report of the International Court of Justice: Agenda Item 74

Statement by H.E. Ms. Yoka Brandt, 
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations 

NEW YORK, 2 November 2020

Mr, Madam President,

Let me first thank the President of the International Court of Justice for his presentation of the Court’s report.

The Netherlands continues to be grateful to host the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and would like to start by stressing its full support and commitment to the Court. The Court’s contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security, through the settlement of disputes brought before it and through the advice provided to international organisations on legal questions, should not be underestimated.

As the Court mentioned in its report, the fact that the cases currently pending before it have emanated from all regions of the world and concern a wide variety of subjects supports the notion that the International Court of Justice truly is the World Court. My Government would also like to express its deep appreciation for the way in which the Court continues to operate despite the challenges posed by the current pandemic.  

Mr Madam President, in my statement I will focus on three issues:

  1. The establishment of a Trust fund for the Judicial Fellowship Programme
  2. Compulsary jurisdiction
  3. The premises of the Court.
  1. the Trust Fund for the Judicial Fellowship Programme.

The Judicial Fellowship Programme was established in 2000, and enables law graduates from all over the world to enhance their knowledge of international law, jurisprudence and practice of the Court.

However, financial constraints have impeded universities in developing countries to nominate law graduates.

In order to be inclusive, and to ensure the representation of all legal traditions in the world, the participation in the Judicial Fellowship Programme of law graduates from all States and regions is essential. The President of the ICJ therefore proposed the establishment of a trust fund last year in his Report to the General Assembly. My Government would like to thank the President of the International Court of Justice for this initiative and we strongly support the establishment of a trust fund.

I am happy to confirm that, together with Argentina, Senegal, Singapore and Romania, the Netherlands is co-facilitating a General Assembly resolution to establish this trust fund for the Judicial Fellowship Programme of the ICJ.

The resources of the Trust Fund will be utilized to provide fellowship awards to eligible nationals of developing countries. The draft resolution calls on States, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities to contribute voluntarily to the Trust Fund. The core group intends to organize a first informal meeting to discuss this resolution soon, and hopes for a speedy adoption in the General Assembly.

2. Compulsory jurisdiction

My Government would note with regret that no further State has accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court by making a declaration under Article 36(2) of the Statute since the President of the International Court presented the Report last year. We cannot but emphasise the importance of the acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court by States. The consent of States is essential for the Court to be able to exercise one of its main functions, that is the resolution of legal disputes between States. My Government would therefore encourage all Member States of the United Nations that have not yet done so to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court by making a declaration under Article 36(2) of the Statute, and to do so with as few reservations as possible.

In this context, I would like to repeat that, in my Government’s own declaration accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, limitations to the jurisdiction of the Court in contentious cases involving the Kingdom of the Netherlands have been, in as far as possible, eliminated. Our only reservation to the jurisdiction is one ratione temporis: the Netherlands will accept all disputes arising out of situations or facts that took place no earlier than one hundred years before the dispute is brought before the Court. We regret that other States maintain reservations and note, with some concern, the development in recent years in the direction of more, rather than less, reservations made to the acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.

As an alternative to the acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court without reservations, the incorporation of compromissory clauses in any treaty to provide for the jurisdiction of the Court may be considered. The Netherlands will make a declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction when such a clause is optional.

Even so, the Netherlands continues to prefer the acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction by means of a declaration under Article 36(2) of the Statute, as the wording of a compromissory clause may limit the jurisdiction to such an extent as to force the Court to declare itself without jurisdiction; or it may force the Court to consider only part of a dispute.

3. Premises of the Court.

In its Report, the Court refers to the current issues related to the premises of the Court, the Peace Palace in The Hague. The Netherlands acknowledges the sense of urgency with respect to the implementation of the necessary renovations. To that end, the Netherlands’ Government has made an amount of € 150 million available for the renovation, including for the temporary relocation of the Court-staff throughout the course of the renovation. The Dutch Parliament has been informed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the renovation in a letter that is publicly available. The decision to make the required funds available was based on the responsibility of the Netherlands towards the Court as the host State. The most urgent renovations required to ensure the safety of the ICJ-staff and the security of the premises are being carried out at the request of my Government immediately. However, it has unfortunately not been possible yet to agree on the actual start of the more structural renovation as a result of ongoing negotiations regarding the ownership of the Peace Palace. My Government strives to reach a conclusion of the negotiations concerning ownership and the start of the renovation as soon as possible, and to avoid any unnecessary delays. The Court is and will be kept well informed of my Government’s progress on this. In the meantime, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains in close consultations with the Court in order to identify a suitable locality for the Court’s temporary relocation. We hope to provide clarity to the Court on the outstanding issues as soon as possible. The Netherlands, as the host State of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, would like to assure the Court of its full commitment towards the Court.


Finally, the Netherlands welcomes the Court’s endeavour to read the judgment within six months from the closure of the oral proceedings. Considering the complexity of the cases brought before it, and the fact that the Court faces a full docket, this is an impressive achievement.

It is also an important achievement, as it contributes greatly to the effective and prompt settlement of disputes.

Let me end, therefore, by thanking the Court again for its outstanding work.

Thank you Mr President.