Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (1948) was born in Somalia and has worked as a legal advisor to various United Nations agencies in Geneva, Vienna, Paris, and New York. In 2009, he became a judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, where he has served as its president since 2018.
“I was born when Somalia was still an Italian colony under British rule in the aftermath of the Second World War. But as it was under UN control, expectations were high that we would gain independence. I grew up in the euphoric atmosphere of that hope. When I was 12, we finally became independent. The joy was immense. The UN had given this to us, I realised.
When I was in law school, Somalia had a dispute with some neighbouring countries. I thought, how can countries that are so similar, so closely linked, not live in harmony? I was convinced that international law and the principle of peaceful dispute resolution in the UN Charter could help resolve such conflicts. It was the subject of my graduate thesis and the beginning of my career.
Countries must work together for everyone's benefit.Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf
Today, we are facing new challenges. Covid-19 spares no one. Countries must work together for everyone’s benefit. In order to do that properly, we need new laws and regulations. Of course, there may be disagreement over the interpretation of those regulations. That is precisely why an International Court of Justice is essential. It resolves disputes in accordance with the law.
Yet there are still wars in many parts of the world. But I certainly see progress. More and more people believe in the principles of the UN and are standing up for those principles.Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf
International law prohibits the use of force, yet there are still wars in many parts of the world. But I certainly see progress. More and more people believe in the principles of the UN and are standing up for those principles. More than 150 cases have been brought before our court that could otherwise have led to war. It is very important that young people are aware of this so we can pass on the torch of progress. The horrific genocides that took place in Europe and elsewhere and the barbarism of slavery and colonialism in Africa show what people are capable of if there is no respect for the rule of law.”
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the highest judicial body in the United Nations.