International Conventions Dealing with Dispute Resolution

Author:Anthony Connerty
Profession:Barrister and member of WIPO arbitration panel

1) UNCLOS III. -2) The ICSID / Washington Convention. -3) The New York Convention.


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There are various international conventions that deal with - or that include provision for - dispute resolution. Three of these are of particular relevance in the context of maritime disputes, investment disputes and international trade disputes generally:

1) The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III);

2) The International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (the ICSID/ Washington Convention);

3) The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention).

A fourth Convention - the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties - is of significance in the context of public international law and is therefore of general importance in relation to supranational dispute resolution and the supranational bodies dealing with such disputes. The Vienna Convention is considered in Part II of the Manual in the chapter dealing with international law.


The third UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (commonly known as UNCLOS III) states in Article 2 that:

"(1) The sovereignty of a coastal State extends beyond its land, territory and internal waters... to an adjacent belt of sea, described as the territorial sea.

(2) This sovereignty extends to the air space over the territorial sea as well as to its bed and subsoil.

(3) The sovereignty over the territorial sea is exercised subject to this Convention and to other rules of international law."

Articles 3 and 5 deal with the breadth of the territorial sea and the 'normal baseline'. Article 3 provides that:

"Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention."

Article 5 states that: "The normal baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low water-line along the coast...."

In addition to dealing with the territorial seas, the Convention also deals with contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves, and maritime delimitation.

Given the complexity of the subject matter of UNCLOS III, it is unsurprising that the dispute resolution processes contained within the Convention are themselves complex. Part XV contains provision for the settlement of disputes. Article 279 provides that States that arePage 16 parties to the Convention "shall...

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