Lunch seminar with Jill Goldenziel

Weapon of the Weak: How Weaker States Challenge Stronger Ones in the International Court of Justice

Conventional wisdom holds that international law is primarily a tool of powerful states. Scholars have repeatedly argued that international law was created by powerful Western countries to preserve their own interests, and is enforced accordingly by international courts and international organizations today. This project challenges conventional wisdom and existing scholarly accounts by examining how smaller, weaker states use international courts to challenge more powerful ones. Unable to challenge militarily stronger states, weaker states hire lawyers to represent them before international courts—and often succeed. This paper introduces the International Tribunals Dataset, an extensive, original dataset of information relating to all cases filed at the International Court of Justice, Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea, and World Trade Organization disputes, including information related to the diplomatic relationships between parties, dyadic and regional military conflicts between states, other metrics of state power, and compliance with international disputes. This paper analyzes interactions between weaker and stronger states in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to argue that weaker states are using international law as a weapon to challenge more powerful states. The paper examines the conditions under which states file cases before the ICJ, conditions under which states are likely to prevail, and how trends in states’ use of the ICJ have changed over time.  

Speaker bio

Dr. Jill Goldenziel is a Professor of Law and Security Studies at Marine Corps University-Command and Staff College, where she teaches International Law, the Law of War, and National Security to mid-career U.S. and foreign military officers studying for a Master’s in Military Studies. She is also an Affiliated Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership International program and Penn’s Partnership for Effective Public Administration and Leadership Ethics. She is a contributor on National Security.

Dr. Goldenziel’s award-winning scholarship focuses on international law, lawfare and legal operations (using law as a weapon of war), refugees and migration, information warfare, human rights, and U.S. and comparative constitutional law. Her work has appeared in the American Journal of International Law, American Journal of Comparative Law, Cornell Law Review, and other top journals. She is also co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Immigration Law (forthcoming 2023). At iCourts, she will continue her work on how weaker states use international law to challenge more powerful states in international tribunals and organizations.

Dr. Goldenziel holds a Ph.D. and an A.M. in Government from Harvard University, a J.D. from the New York University School of Law, and an A.B. from Princeton University.  

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