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The University of Southampton

LAWS6164 Dispute Settlement in International Law

Module Overview

International law aims to resolve disputes peacefully. What are the various tools that international law has as its disposal? How effective are they, and can international law do better? In this module we will interrogate the various methods of dispute settlement that international law presently deploys. We will begin by examining informal methods such as negotiation or mediation, before turning to more formal methods such as adjudication before international courts and tribunals. As well as analysing how these methods operate, we will debate their relative advantages and disadvantages. This audit of international dispute settlement will be supplemented with a close focus on prominent dispute settlement bodies. We will examine the International Court of Justice, a permanent court that hears disputes on any question between states, and the dispute settlement mechanism operating within the World Trade Organization, which is among the most active in the world. We will also analyse dispute settlement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, and investment disputes between investors and states as governed by the 1965 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The historical and political contexts shaping the nature and functions of the international system for settling disputes between States, particularly in the context of alternatives to adversarial forms of dispute resolution.
  • The international institutions that are the main fora tasked with settling inter-State disputes of both general and specific subject–matter, particularly in the context of the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well the procedural features unique to each.
  • The core concepts and principles of the jurisdictional provisions governing (and limiting) access to international courts.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Source, relevant legal materials, including international conventions and international case law and interpret and analyse in light of key secondary sources.
  • Identify, evaluate and apply legal principles to evaluate breaches of international or human rights law.
  • Identify and critically evaluate legal and policy issues in their social, economic and political contexts and possible policy responses.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Undertake independent research and access primary and secondary sources effectively.
  • Analyse complex written texts and evaluate different types of arguments.
  • Construct arguments and solve problems based on premises drawn from various sources.
  • Communicate arguments effectively and reference sources appropriately.


The syllabus will focus upon: - the UN Charter provisions (Articles 2(3) and 33) on the peaceful settlement of disputes - relevant provisions of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (on jurisdiction, third parties, revision of judgments); - conciliation, mediation and arbitration (including the Permanent Court of Arbitration) - the dispute settlement mechanisms of the World Trade Organization and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (and variations on the latter in other associated treaties); - the 1965 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: One 2-hour seminar per week Learning methods include: - Essential and additional directed reading, as per distributed reading lists reproduced on Blackboard; - Engagement with current international legal developments to ensure that you can relate the material being discussed in class to contemporary controversies.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

M.D. Evans (ed) (2018). Blacksonte's International Law Documents. 

J.G.Merrills (2017). Internatonal Dispute Settlement. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/ additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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