In the past, utility of inquiry was a major tool for international dispute resolution. As a method of conflict resolution inquiry, involved setting up of the independent tribunal to investigate facts and issues that resulted in conflict in order to find a solution. Inquiry emerged as conflict resolution method in late 19th century. Inquiry was first applied in 1989 during Hague convention to resolve the dispute between United States and Spain when US war ship was destroyed by an explosion (Merrills,42). US alleged that Spain was responsible for the explosion, but Spain denied any responsibility. Other tribunals of inquiry that followed include Dogger Bank inquiry, 1907 Hague convention and treaty practice during World War I and World War II (Merrills, 43). The method was considered successful in settling disputes since it helped in settling major disputes of late 19th century and early 20th century (Mitchell 59).
Nevertheless, inquiry lost its popularity in solving conflicts in the late 20th century. Many countries could no longer use inquiry to resolve their disputes. The major reason that contributed to the decline of inquiry as a dispute resolution mechanism include time taken to settle the dispute, technicality of finding the cause of the problem, lack of cooperation between disputing parties and lack of trust. It has been noted that many inquiries that had been conducted in the past took several years to produce findings of their investigation. As a result, inquiry lost its relevance in settling emergency dispute. Moreover, parties in disputes could not agree on the result of the inquiry. There also technicality issues associated with inquiry as a method of conflict resolution. Inquiry involves setting up an independent commission to investigate the issues in the dispute. This usually takes a lot of time since all members of the commission must be vetted to ensure they are credible in handling the task. Several commission of inquiry reports that parties in disputes usually do not cooperate in giving information (Merrills, 55). This has been a main weakness to the commission since they are unable to conclude their investigation in time. Additionally, several nations lack trust with commissions of inquiry. It has been noted that where multiple independent commission participate in investigation they give conflicting findings and thus, several parties in dispute lack trust in employing inquiry as a dispute resolution mechanism (Mitchell 67).
Although utility of inquiry has lost popularity in the recent years, there is a possibility that it will regain materiality in solving modern disputes. For the last few years, some countries have been using inquiry to resolve some of their disputes and it has achieved positive results. Research shows that the modern information technology will play a big part in reviving inquiry in dispute resolution (Mitchell 69). The technology will enable commissions of inquiry to conduct their investigations easily and thus taking less time to produce their evidence. Technology will also improve the reliability and validity of the information gathered and thus, the findings of commissions will be trusted. Some analysts have also argued that inquiry gives permanent solution to a dispute hence disputing parties should adopt it in solving their conflicts.
Inquiry was widely used as a dispute resolution mechanism in 19th century; however, the method lost its popularity in the late 20th century due to its technicality and failure to give credible evidence from the investigation. Nevertheless, most parties prefer use of inquiry to resolve their dispute nowadays. Hence, it is likely that the method will come back to use.