When Representation Does Not Matter: Why Do Latin American States Litigate Before the ICJ?

By the beginning of 2018, out of the fourteen contentious cases pending on the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) docket, seven involved cases between Latin American states, submitted under the Pact of Bogota’s jurisdictional clause. This trend did not appear out of the blue. After the proceedings brought by Nicaragua against Costa Rica and Honduras in 1986, Latin American states’ resort to the ICJ —mainly under the jurisdictional clause of the Pact, a treaty that remained virtually dormant since its creation in 1948— increased sharply. While this move may appear natural to international lawyers, this paper first problematizes it by understanding the ICJ as an institution that does not necessarily represent nor serve the needs of Latin American states. Second, it identifies what factors could have propelled this turn. Overall, it hopes to provide a situated reflection on what attract states to the ICJ and how the question of representation features in these decisions.