Two international conferences at The Hague, in 1899 and 1907, contemplated the establishment of a permanent international court, but the conferees were unable to agree on a system for electing judges. They did agree, however, on a convention establishing a Permanent Court of Arbitration. That convention provides that each country that is a party to it shall name four jurists as arbitrators who will be available to consider a concrete matter for international arbitration. When the Permanent Court of International Justice was established after World War I, a solution was found for the difficult problem of electing judges. The legal experts named as potential arbitrators under the Hague convention were given the right to nominate candidates, and the League of Nations elected the judges from among these nominees. This system has in essence been preserved by the UN. To ensure that candidates are not mere government nominees, they are proposed by the groups of jurists already established in the Permanent Court of Arbitration or by similar groups specially constituted in countries not members of that court; no national group may nominate more than four persons, and only two of those may bear the nationality of the group.
The list of candidates so nominated then goes to the UN. To be elected to a judgeship on the court, a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in the Security Council and the General Assembly, both bodies voting independently and simultaneously. If more than one candidate of the same nationality obtains the required votes, the eldest is elected. In electing judges to the court, delegates are requested to bear in mind that "the main forms of civilization" and "the principal legal systems of the world" should be represented at all times on the international tribunal.