The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was established by the United Nations General Assembly by its Resolution 2205 (XXI) of 17 December 1966 “to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law“.
When world trade began to expand dramatically in the 1960s, national governments began to realize the need for a global set of standards and rules to harmonize national and regional regulations, which until then governed international trade.
UNCITRAL’s original membership comprised 29 states, and was expanded to 36 in 1973, and again to 60 in 2002. Member states of UNCITRAL are representing different legal traditions and levels of economic development, as well as different geographic regions. States includes 14 African states, 14 Asian states, 8 Eastern European states, 10 Latin American and Caribbean states, and 14 Western European states. The Commission member States are elected by the General Assembly. Membership is structured so as to be representative of the world’s various geographic regions and its principal economic and legal systems. Members of the commission are elected for terms of six years, the terms of half the members expiring every three years. As of 21 June 2010, the members of UNCITRAL, and the years when their memberships expire, are:
- Algeria (2016)
- Benin (2013)
- Botswana (2016)
- Cameroon (2013)
- Egypt (2013)
- Gabon (2016)
- Kenya (2016)
- Mauritius (2016)
- Morocco (2013)
- Namibia (2013)
- Nigeria (2016)
- Senegal (2013)
- South Africa (2013)
- Uganda (2016)
- Bahrain (2013)
- China (2013)
- India (2016)
- Iran (2016)
- Israel (2016)
- Japan (2013)
- Jordan (2016)
- Malaysia (2013)
- Pakistan (2016)
- Philippines (2016)
- Singapore (2013)
- South Korea (2013)
- Sri Lanka (2013)
- Thailand (2016)
- Armenia (2013)
- Austria (2016)
- Belarus (2011)
- Bulgaria (2013)
- Czech Republic (2013)
- France (2013)
- Germany (2013)
- Greece (2013)
- Italy (2016)
- Latvia (2013)
- Malta (2013)
- Norway (2013)
- Poland (2012)
- Russia (2013)
- Spain (2016)
- Ukraine (2014)
- United Kingdom (2013)
- Turkey (2016)
- Argentina (2016)
- Bolivia (2013)
- Brazil (2016)
- Chile (2013)
- Colombia (2016)
- Paraguay (2016)
- Venezuela (2016)
The methods of work are organized at three levels. The first level is UNCITRAL itself (The Commission), which holds an annual plenary session. The second level is the intergovernmental working groups (which is developing the topics on UNCITRAL’s work program. Texts designed to simplify trade transactions and reduce associated costs are developed by working groups comprising all member States of UNCITRAL, which meet once or twice per year. Non-member States and interested international and regional organizations are also invited and can actively contribute to the work since decisions are taken by consensus, not by vote. Draft texts completed by these working groups are submitted to UNCITRAL for finalization and adoption at its annual session. The International Trade Law Division of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs provides substantive secretariat services to UNCITRAL, such as conducting research and preparing studies and drafts. This is the third level, which assists the other two in the preparation and conduct of their work.
- Coordinating the work of organizations active and encouraging cooperation among them.
- Promoting wider participation in existing international conventions and wider acceptance of existing model and uniform laws.
- Preparing or promoting the adoption of new international conventions, model laws and uniform laws and promoting the codification and wider acceptance of international trade terms, provisions, customs and practice, in collaboration, where appropriate, with the organizations operating in this field.
- Promoting ways and means of ensuring a uniform interpretation and application of international conventions and uniform laws in the field of the law of international trade.
- Collecting and disseminating information on national legislation and modern legal developments, including case law, in the field of the law of international trade.
- Establishing and maintaining a close collaboration with the UN Conference on Trade and development.
- Maintaining liaison with other UN organs and specialized agencies concerned with international trade.
The Convention is an agreement among participating states establishing obligations binding upon those States that ratify or accede to it. A convention is designed to unify law by establishing binding legal obligations To become a party to a convention, States are required formally to deposit a binding instrument of ratification or accession with the depositary. The entry into force of a convention is usually dependent upon the deposit of a minimum number of instruments of ratification.
- the Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods (1974) (text)
- the United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea (1978)
- the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1980)
- the United Nations Convention on International Bills of Exchange and International Promissory Notes (1988)
- the United Nations Convention on the Liability of Operators of Transport Terminals in International Trade (1991)
- the United Nations Convention on Independent Guarantees and Stand-by Letters of Credit (1995)
- the United Nations Convention on the Assignment of Receivables in International Trade (2001)
- the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (2005)
- the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea (2008)
A model law is a legislative text that is recommended to States for enactment as part of their national law. Model laws are generally finalized and adapted by UNCITRAL, at its annual session, while conventions requires the convening of a diplomatic conference.
- UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985) (text)
- Model Law on International Credit Transfers (1992)
- UNCITRAL Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services (1994)
- UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce (1996)
- Model Law on Cross-border Insolvency (1997)
- UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures (2001)
- UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation (2002)
- Model Legislative Provisions on Privately Financed Infrastructure Projects (2003)
UNCITRAL also drafted the:
- UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1976) (text)—revised rules will be effective August 15, 2010; pre-released, July 12, 2010
- UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules (1980)
- UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1982)
- UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings (1996)
CLOUT (Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts)
The Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts system is a collection of court decisions and arbitral awards interpreting UNCITRAL texts.
CLOUT includes case abstracts in the six United Nations languages on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) (Vienna, 1980) and the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985).
A legislative guide aims to provide a detailed analysis of the legal issues in a specific area of the law, proposing efficient approaches for their resolution in the national or local context. Legislative guides do not contain articles or provisions, but rather recommendations. Legislative Guides are developed by the UNICTRAL Working Groups and subsequently finalized by the UNCITRAL Commission in its annual session.
UNCITRAL has adopted the following legislative guides:
- UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Privately Financed Infrastructure Projects (2000)
- UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law (2004)
- UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions (2007)
- UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions: Supplement on Security Rights in Intellectual Property (2010)
- ^ For an analysis of the travaux preparatoire which lead to this legislative guide see Andrea Tosato, The UNCITRAL Annex on security rights in IP: a work in progress (2009) Journal of intellectual property law and Practice 743