The creation of the International Court of Justice is the culmination of a long development of methods for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. Its origins can be traced back to classical times.
Article 33 of the United Nations Charter lists the following methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes between States: negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, good offices and resort to regional agencies or arrangements. Mediation and arbitration preceded judicial settlement.
The modern history of international arbitration dates back to the Jay Treaty of 1794 between the United States of America and Great Britain. This Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation provided for the creation of three mixed commissions, composed of American and British nationals in equal numbers, whose task was to settle a number of outstanding questions between the two countries, which were not possible to resolve by negotiation.
The Alabama Claims arbitration in 1872 between the United Kingdom and the United States marked the start of a second phase. Under the Treaty of Washington of 1871, the United States and the United Kingdom agreed to submit to arbitration claims by the former for alleged breaches of neutrality by the latter during the American Civil War. The proceedings served as a demonstration of the effectiveness of arbitration in the settlement of a major dispute.
The Hague Peace Conference of 1899, convened at the initiative of the Russian Czar Nicholas II, marked the beginning of a third phase in the modern history of international arbitration. The chief object of the Conference was to discuss peace and disarmament. It ended by adopting a Convention on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, which dealt not only with arbitration but also with other methods of peaceful settlement, such as good offices and mediation.
A few years later, in 1907, a second Hague Peace Conference, to which the States of Central and South America were also invited, revised the Convention and improved the rules governing arbitral proceedings.
The work of the two Hague Peace Conferences and the ideas they inspired in diplomats and jurists had some influence on the creation of the Central American Court of Justice. It operated from 1908 to 1918. The various plans and proposals submitted between 1911 and 1919 both by national and international bodies and by governments for the establishment of an international judicial tribunal culminated in the creation of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) within the framework of the new international system set up after the end of the First World War.
Although this court was never in fact to see the light of day, the draft convention that was to have given birth to it enshrined certain fundamental ideas that some years later were to serve as a source of inspiration for the drafting of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ).
The outbreak of war in September 1939 inevitably had serious consequences for the PCIJ. After its last public sitting on December 4, 1939, the PCIJ did not in fact deal with any judicial business and no further elections of judges were held. In 1940, the Court removed to Geneva, a single judge remaining at The Hague, together with a few Registry officials of Dutch nationality. Even under the stress of the war some thought was given to the future of the Court, as well as to the creation of a new international political order. The judges of the PCIJ all resigned on January 31, 1946, and the election of the first Members of the International Court of Justice took place on February 6, 1946, at the First Session of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.