Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It Only Took 12 Years! Nigeria and Cameroon Agree to Implement ICJ Decision

Nigeria announced today that it had finally reached an agreement with Cameroon to implement a 2002 ICJ decision demarcating part of the boundary between the two countries.

To put it bluntly, it is about time. The original case was filed in the ICJ in 1994 and the final judgment was issued in 2002. Even after this judgment on the merits, the two countries have been haggling over the interpretation of that judgment for the past four years.

Although the ICJ probably could have moved faster on this case (but I'm not returning to that dead horse today), the final outcome is a reminder of why international tribunals can be useful.
It is also a lesson in their limitations. The ICJ provided a more less neutral mechanism for resolving a very complicated, longstanding territorial dispute. It took a long time, but they got a result.

On the other hand, in the end of the day, the ICJ's judgment still required the joint political cooperation of the governments involved to achieve final implementation. This is not to say the ICJ judgment is meaningless, but it is important to keep in mind that even after the ICJ issues a judgment, the resolution of a dispute still requires lots and lots of diplomatic cooperation and political will.


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