Dispute Resolution in International Law

A world full of complexities and chaos is very prone to end into a dispute. In every person’s life, there comes a time when they are under the shadow of conflict. Results may vary but approaches are predictable. All such formal approaches to resolve a conflict comes under the ambit of dispute resolution. Now why one should opt for dispute resolution and not litigation instead. The primary reason is when a case is dealt with under litigation, as it is an adversarial system one party will end up winning over the other party’s loss. But the case with methods under dispute resolution is different. In dispute resolution, agendas are set, then those agendas are negotiated between the parties, and at the end of it, both the parties are able to take home something. Rather than losing it all, results are satisfactory enough. Hence it’s a win-win situation for all. And also it is more economical and time-saving than the traditional methods of court. Therefore alternate dispute resolution is more preferable.

What is Dispute Resolution?

Dispute resolution is nothing but the process to resolve a conflict between the parties. Historically speaking, all methods of dispute resolution were judicial in nature. However, with time, alternative methods have catch up the trend. Today most of the disputes are resolved through one of these methods which include arbitration, mediation, negotiation, conciliation etc. If a satisfactory result does not yield out of the methods mentioned above then, the last stop remains with litigation.

Here dispute may vary from-

  • Dispute amongst the individuals
  • Dispute amongst the employee and employer
  • Dispute amongst the governments or even nation-state

In all such situation, the parties to the dispute have range of options to resolve the matter. They may choose to resolve it by themselves or with help of private or government third party. If nothing works then the last resort is of course solving the matter with help of formal court or what we call it these days is litigation. With the growing demand for alternative dispute resolution, pressure on courts is reduced. Also disputes can be very time consuming and expensive at times. That’s why even parties to the dispute find it more convenient to settle the matter outside the court.

Scope of Dispute Resolution in International Law:

Dispute resolution plays a very important role in International law. International law was created with a purpose to maintain world peace and security.  But no one can stop war and violence when it is standing right at the door of your nation and it becomes the primary concern to get out of it peacefully. During such hard times, Nations at dispute agrees to settle the matter and move forward. Alternative dispute resolution being economical and times saving is the most preferred option.

Alternative dispute resolution service offers a systematic way to tackle the situation with harmony. The methods are divided into three peripheries[1].

  • Diplomatic Methods- It includes negotiation, mediation, conciliation etc.
  • Adjudicate Methods- It includes arbitration, judicial settlement etc.
  • Institutional Methods- It includes peaceful settlement with the help of an international organizations.

History shows that most cases of dispute resolution revolve around negotiations, mediation or arbitration, but nowadays the pattern of new methods are also taken into consideration. Clearly, the settlement of international disputes is an important concern and many international diplomats, lawyers and commentators aim to settles such matters through the means of dispute resolution.


In general, international law community hopes that international matters should be dealt with the help of disputes resolution, and not with political, economic or military power. The use of the latter mentioned way is often viewed as a failure of international law, and which directly defeats the purpose of international law that is peace and harmony. However, in a perfect world the use of law would be the means of resolving disputes, but we know that in reality factors such as military, political or economic ability overpower the law. Nonetheless law, and in particular International law, can play a significant role in resolving disputes. Thus, we need to be realistic in acknowledging the diverse role of law in many disputes resolution and at the same time we should never underestimate law and its power and we should be an advocate in favour of the powerful potential of law.

[1]Collier.J. (1999) “The Settlement of Dispute in International Law” Cambridge.

This article is authored by Anushka Fuke, First-Year, B.A. LL.B student at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai

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