Sovereignty of Aves Island: An Argument against Standardized, Compulsory Arbitration


States engaging in preemptive dispute resolution frequently call upon adjudicative or diplomatic means to resolve territorial boundary disputes and comply with international law. In light of reduced efficacy of such dispute resolution mechanisms, however, some propose that all states should engage in compulsory, standardized arbitration subject to International Court of Justice (“I.C.J.”) review to resolve their boundary disputes. Although arbitration is an effective method of international dispute resolution in certain cases, standardized arbitration will not effectively resolve all boundary disputes between neighbor states.

This Comment argues against the proposition that the United Nations (“U.N.”) implement a standardized arbitration mechanism and discusses implications of such a requirement on the current dispute over the sovereignty of Aves Island. Part I first presents Venezuela’s and Dominica’s claims of sovereignty of the Island. Part I next highlights arbitration and mediation as internationally accepted means of dispute resolution and discusses the use of arbitration in Case Concerning East Timor (“Portugal v. Australia”), and Case Concerning Land and Maritime Boundary Between Cameroon and Nigeria (“Cameroon v. Nigeria”).

Part II argues against a U.N. compulsory arbitration requirement by first discussing its inconsistency with Venezuela’s and Dominica’s sovereignty in light of Portugal v. Australia. Part II next discusses Cameroon v. Nigeria to demonstrate that compulsory arbitration subject to I.C.J. review will not effectively resolve the Aves Island dispute because the I.C.J. is unable to enforce decisions. Part II also illustrates how compulsory arbitration decreases the efficiency of international dispute resolution in light of Cameroon v. Nigeria.

Part III recommends that the U.N. should not implement compulsory, standardized arbitration but rather provide a forum in which states engage in a combination of mediation and arbitration (“Med-Arb”) to resolve their disputes. Part III also recommends that Venezuela and Dominica, similar to the parties in International Business Machines, Corp. v. Fujitsu, Ltd. (“I.B.M. v. Fujitsu”), engage in Med-Arb to capitalize on its advantages to resolve their dispute. Part IV then concludes that all states should engage in Med-Arb in their international boundary disputes to achieve effective redress in the future.


Comparative and Foreign Law | Dispute Resolution and Arbitration | International Law | Water Law

Date of this Version

May 2006