Good Faith, International Law, and the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

Inside the Internatrional Court of Justice.

Inside the International Court of Justice.

Nuclear disarmament “in Good Faith” is a legal obligation and not merely a political one and it applies to all states.  The International Court of Justice (ICJ), or World Court 1996 Opinion reinforces the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which states: “Considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war …”. It went on to say: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament. …”

The International Court of Justice is the court of the United Nations.  It’s rulings carry the highest possible weight in international law.  In 1996 the ICJ ruled that: There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

The “Good Faith” obligation is the heart of the matter. It means negotiating sincerely to achieve the desired result – global nuclear disarmament. The objective must be pursued with political will. It means considering proposals from the other side, and re-examining one’s own position. The conclusion should be reached within a reasonable time  and the parties must avoid policies which contradict the very purpose of the negotiations.

The conclusion should be reached within a reasonable time-frame and the parties must avoid policies which contradict the very purpose of the

The ICJ pronounced that the obligation is not just to sit down and talk about global nuclear disarmament. It is to make it happen. At the heart of Good Faith is trust that the parties to negotiations mean what they say and will carry out their promises. Good Faith is taken for granted at the start of negotiations and must be shown in the quest for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

Judge Bedjaoui

Judge Bedjaoui

In relations between states good faith occupies exceptional importance. It is the guarantor of international stability, because it allows state A to foresee the behaviour of its partner, state B, and thus makes it possible for the former to align its behaviour on that of the latter: Mohammed Bedjaoui former President of the World Court, speaking in Geneva, May 2008.

For the average person Good Faith should be the starting point. It is the way most people want to live their lives. There is a legal context to this but it has wider moral and social overtones,such as trust, integrity and honour.







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