Thank you, Mr President.
The Philippines would first like to thank President Ronny Abraham and the entire team at The Hague for their comprehensive report on the work of the International Court of Justice in the past year.
The World Court peacefully resolves sovereign disputes which cannot otherwise be resolved by or through the political organs of the UN. As we commemorate this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, its principal judicial organ continues to play a vital role in supporting peace and security, human rights, and development, not through armies, but through the rule of law.
Three years ago, we affirmed the Court’s essential contribution to the rule of law in paragraph 31 of our landmark consensus Declaration on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels. The Philippines today reaffirms both its support for that Declaration, and its duty to comply with the decisions of the Court in contentious cases.
We renew our call for Member States that have not yet done so, to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court.
In the period under review, the Court is seized of 12 cases. The gamut of subjects covered the big issues of our time, attesting to the Court’s stature as the only international court of a universal character with general jurisdiction. These include territorial and maritime disputes; unlawful use of force; interference in the domestic affairs of States; violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty; economic rights; international humanitarian and human rights law; genocide; and environmental damage to and conservation of living resources.
The sovereign parties to these cases come from all over the world. Almost half of the cases come from the Americas, and a third from Africa. Their example contributes to the progressive development of international law, and encourages the rest of us to also repose trust in international adjudication, including by the Court.
We are reminded of Article 1, paragraph 1 of the UN Charter, of our peremptory duty, “to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”.
Mr President, this is the very rationale for the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, which many delegations recognize to this day as one of the major achievements of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization. The Manila Declaration was negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly during the Cold War, when many non-aligned countries were still seeking to consolidate their political and economic independence. The Manila Declaration supported their aspirations by articulating the norms of the peaceful settlement of disputes as outlined in Chapter VI of the UN Charter.
To illustrate our point – beginning with the Corfu Channel case in 1947 until the adoption in 1982 of the Manila Declaration – or a span of 35 years – the Court had disposed of 49 contentious cases. Since 1982, however, the case load of the Court has increased, disposing of over 80 contentious cases in a comparably lesser period of 33 years.
This ever increasing confidence – especially among developing countries – in the capabilities, credibility, and impartiality of the Court to settle disputes exclusively by peaceful means, is not unrelated to the norms, values and aspirations articulated by the Manila Declaration. The most fundamental of these is the non-use or threat of use of force. After all, the Manila Declaration reflects the international community’s increasing reliance on the rule of law as a cornerstone not only of the peaceful settlement of disputes, but also of the maintenance of international peace and security.
Mr President, only the rule of law at the international level can we guarantee the respect, order, and stability that we desire and deserve. This is how we contribute to promoting and advancing the rule of law.
The creation of the International Criminal Court and specialized dispute settlement mechanisms like the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization, do not make the Court any less important in the 21st century. On the contrary, the contemporary international legal architecture only strengthens the Court as the only forum for resolving justiciable disputes between States concerning the vast field of general international law.
Mr President, if there is anything that the UN Charter, together with the Statute, jurisprudence and experience of the Court all teach us, it is that small nations, if their cause is just, should have no fear of the big powers. It is that, through the work of the Court, the rule of law in international relations has a chance to prevail.
Finally, we also call on the Security Council to seriously consider Article 96 of the UN Charter, and make greater use of the Court as a source of advisory opinions and of interpretation of relevant norms of international law, particularly on the most current and controversial issues affecting international peace and security.
Thank you, Mr President.