Many international conventions, treaties, and other instruments confer upon the International Court of Justice or its president the function of appointing umpires or arbitrators in certain eventualities. Furthermore, even when no treaty provision to this effect exists, the court or individual judges may be requested to carry out functions of this nature.
In 1970, citing the relative lack of activity of the court, nine member states sponsored a General Assembly agenda item on a review of the role of the court. In an explanatory memorandum, they noted that the situation at that time was "not commensurate with either the distinction of the judges or the needs of the international community." Proposals for remedying the situation included a revision of the court's statute and rules of procedure, the appointment of younger judges and/or shorter terms of office, and wider acceptance of the court's compulsory jurisdiction.
The subject was debated at four subsequent sessions of the General Assembly, culminating in the adoption in 1974 of a resolution designed to strengthen the role of the court. The recommendations included the possible insertion of clauses in treaties that would provide for submission to the court of disputes arising from differences in their interpretation or application; acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the court with as few reservations as possible; and greater recourse to the court by UN organs and specialized agencies for advisory opinions.