international arbitration, judicial process by which international disputes, usually between states, are settled peacefully, generally through the use of a tribunal acting as a court of law. Such a tribunal may consist of an individual (e.g., an impartial head of state, the pope, the secretary-general of the United Nations), a neutral country, or an organization such as the Hague Tribunal. The parties to the dispute pick the arbitrating body themselves and are obligated to accept the terms of settlement. If the parties do not agree in advance to follow the decision reached by a third party, but merely agree to consider it, the process is termed conciliation (see mediation). Arbitration was practiced by the Greek city-states, and in the Middle Ages high ecclesiastical authorities were called upon to settle controversies. With the development of the modern system of nation-states, however, arbitration was less frequently used until the 19th cent. when the settlement by arbitration of the famous Alabama claims case between the United States and Great Britain brought this practice back into general use. Great advances have been made since then, most notably in the establishment of a Permanent Court of Arbitration (the Hague Tribunal) by the Hague Conferences. Functions analogous to arbitration were performed by the Permanent Court of International Justice (see World Court) under the League of Nations and have now been transferred to its successor, the International Court of Justice. Today many treaties contain clauses providing for arbitration or conciliation of disputes; the most notable of these is the Charter of the United Nations (Article 33).
See J. H. Ralston, International Arbitration from Athens to Locarno (1929); C. M. Bishop, International Arbitral Procedure (1930); K. S. Carlston, The Process of International Arbitration (1946); H. W. Briggs, The Law of Nations (2d ed. 1952); J. L. Brierly, The Law of Nations (6th ed. 1963); A. Cox, Prospects for Peacekeeping (1967); R. Fisher, Improving Compliance with International Law (1981).