a disagreement that arises between states concerning their relations with one another and with other states.
Contemporary international law, which forbids the use of force or the threat of force in relations between states, requires that all international disputes be resolved only by peaceful means, on the basis of an accord between the disputing states. This principle is maintained by the UN Charter (art. 2, para. 3), the Pact of the Arab League (art. V), the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (art. 3), and the Declaration on the Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations Among States in Accordance With the Charter of the UN (1970).
International law does not predetermine the precise peaceful means of resolving a specific dispute but allows the states to choose these means themselves. Article 33 of the UN Charter lists the following peaceful means for resolving international disputes: negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, and recourse to regional agencies or arrangements. Peaceful means of resolving international disputes also include various conciliatory procedures, including good offices and the creation of investigation and conciliation commissions. In contrast to direct negotiations, conciliatory procedures usually feature the participation of third states or international bodies, with the consent of the disputing states.
Disputes between states can also be resolved with the aid of international courts and arbitration bodies. International disputes today are resolved more and more often through international organizations, which resort to procedures provided for in their charters. In the UN, the peaceful resolution of disputes is handled primarily by the Security Council; the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice are sometimes called upon to resolve disputes.