International Courts versus Non-Compliance Mechanisms: Comparative Advantages and Shortcomings

Book project by Professor Dr. Christina Voigt and Professor Dr. Caroline Foster to be published at Cambridge University Press.  

Short Summary: 

Non-compliance mechanisms established in international treaties are a facilitiative means to enhance parties´ compliance with their treaty obligations. But how effective are they? And how do they relate to recourse to an international court and tribunal? This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the comparative advantages and shortcomings of these largely under-explored, but highly relevant and widely used mechanisms.

More on the topic: 

International courts are traditionally seen as “guardians” of the treaties by which they were established and over which they have jurisdiction. However, in recent years have many international treaties been adopted, which establish “in-house” non-compliance mechanisms (NCMs) to facilitate implementation and promote compliance of parties with their obligations under the respective treaty. Some treaty regimes have complaint procedures and dispute resolution bodies to hear claims by parties, private entities or affected non-party stakeholder, such as individuals and communities. Others have facilitative committees that aim to help parties in overcoming implementation or compliance challenges.

Examples of multilateral environmental treaties that include such non-compliance mechanisms are, for example, the Montreal Protocol, CITES, Rotterdam Convention, Paris Agreement and Kyoto Protocol under UNFCCC, Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Nagoya Protocol under CBD, Minamata Convention London Protocol, or the UNECE Water Convention, Espoo Convention, and Aarhus Convention.

Also, human rights treaties have established complaint procedures to national human rights committees as well as individual communications under the human rights treaty bodies, such as the Human Rights Committee or the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Many other examples exist, such as the Inspection Panel of the World Bank and Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRM) for Investors in World Bank projects, and non-compliance mechanisms under arms control and disarmament treaties.

These “quasi-judicial” mechanisms exist alongside other means of dispute resolution, such as through international courts and tribunals (ICTs). Yet, the functions of these mechanisms are in some cases overlapping with those of ICTs, ranging from clarifying obligations and providing authoritative interpretations, rendering advisory opinions, inquiring into Parties’ compliance challenges and providing suggestions for addressing them, to the resolution of disputes between parties. The relationship between compliance mechanisms and courts is complex and not clear cut.

Published Aug. 22, 2022 11:08 AM - Last modified Aug. 22, 2022 11:08 AM