The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was established by the General Assembly in 1966 (Resolution 2205(XXI) of 17 December 1966). In establishing the Commission, the General Assembly recognized that disparities in national laws governing international trade created obstacles to the flow of trade, and it regarded the Commission as the vehicle by which the United Nations could play a more active role in reducing or removing these obstacles.
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (established in 1966) is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly of the United Nations with the general mandate to further the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade. UNCITRAL has since prepared a wide range of conventions, model laws and other instruments dealing with the substantive law that governs trade transactions or other aspects of business law which have an impact on international trade. UNCITRAL meets once a year, typically in summer, alternatively in New York and in Vienna.
"Harmonization" and "unification" of the law of international trade refers to the process through which the law facilitating international commerce is created and adopted. International commerce may be hindered by factors such as the lack of a predictable governing law or out-of-date laws unsuited to commercial practice. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law identifies such problems and then carefully crafts solutions which are acceptable to States having different legal systems and levels of economic and social development.
"Harmonization" may conceptually be thought of as the process through which domestic laws may be modified to enhance predictability in cross-border commercial transactions. "Unification" may be seen as the adoption by States of a common legal standard governing particular aspects of international business transactions. A model law or a legislative guide is an example of a text which is drafted to harmonize domestic law, while a convention is an international instrument which is adopted by States for the unification of the law at an international level. Texts resulting from the work of UNCITRAL include conventions, model laws, legal guides, legislative guides, rules, and practice notes. In practice, the two concepts are closely related.
UNCITRAL texts are initiated, drafted, and adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, a body made up of 60 elected member States representing different geographic regions. Participants in the drafting process include the member States of the Commission and other States (referred to as "observer States"), as well as interested international inter-governmental organizations ("IGO's") and non-governmental organizations ("NGO's").
Members of the Commission
As is the case with most subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly, which is composed of all States members of the United Nations, membership in UNCITRAL is limited to a smaller number of States, so as to facilitate the deliberations. UNCITRAL was originally composed of 29 States; its membership was expanded in 1973 to 36 States and again in 2004 to 60 States. The membership is representative of the various geographic regions and the principal economic and legal systems of the world. Members of the Commission are elected for terms of six years, the terms of half the members expiring every three years.
There are five regional groups represented within the Commission: African States; Asian States; Eastern European States; Latin American and Caribbean States; Western European and Other States.
Methods of work
The Commission carries out its work at annual sessions, which are held in alternate years at United Nations Headquarters in New York and at the Vienna International Centre at Vienna. Each working group of the Commission typically holds one or two sessions a year, depending on the subject-matter to be covered; these sessions also alternate between New York and Vienna.
In addition to member States, all States that are not members of the Commission, as well as interested international organizations, are invited to attend sessions of the Commission and of its working groups as observers. Observers are permitted to participate in discussions at sessions of the Commission and its working groups to the same extent as members.
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.
TRADE LAW TEXTS UNCITRAL develops different types of texts to modernize and harmonize the law of international trade. These texts are generally legislative in nature, such as conventions, model laws and legislative guides, or non-legislative texts such as contractual rules that can be incorporated into commercial contracts and legal guides. Convention: an agreement among States establishing obligations binding upon those States that ratify or accede to it. Model law: a set of model legislative provisions that States can adopt by enacting it into national law. Legislative guide: a text that provides guidance for the development of laws, discussing relevant policy issues and choices and recommending appropriate legislative solutions. Contractual rules: standard clauses or rules designed to be included in commercial contracts. Legal guide: a text that provides guidance for the drafting of contracts, discussing relevant issues and recommending solutions appropriate to particular circumstances.
TECHNICAL LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANCE: One of UNCITRAL's priorities is providing technical legislative assistance for modernization of trade laws and commercial practices. In addition to promoting understanding of international trade law texts and the benefits they can bring to the expansion of international trade, UNCITRAL assists States to develop the laws required to implement these legislative texts and commercial associations to promote the use of non-legislative rules.
CLOUT: The Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts system is a collection of court decisions and arbitral awards interpreting UNCITRAL texts. Currently, 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). Other texts will be added as case law becomes available.
ACHIEVEMENTS: Over the last 24 years, UNCITRAL has completed major international texts on the sale of goods, transport, dispute resolution, procurement and infrastructure development, international payments, electronic commerce and insolvency. International arbitration, transport law, electronic commerce, insolvency law, security interests and public procurement are the focus of current work.
Sale of goods: United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (Vienna, 1980); UNCITRAL Legal Guide on International Countertrade Transactions (1992).
Transport of goods: United Nations Convention on the Carriage of Goods by Sea (Hamburg, 1978).
More than 90 per cent of the world trade is carried by ship. Many of the exotic goods and commodities surrounding us reach us in this way. Many of them actually change hands several times during their voyage at sea. What happens in the case of loss of cargo? What if it is difficult or impossible to ascertain the moment when the loss occurred? UNCITRAL's work in the field of maritime law provides States with a common legal framework, establishing clear rules that contribute to reducing transport costs for the benefit of us, the final consumers.
Dispute resolution: UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1976) • UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules (1980) • Recommendations to assist arbitral tribunals and other interested bodies with regard to arbitrations under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1982) • UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (1985) UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings (1996) • UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation (2002).
Cooperation with Ukraine
Ukraine was a member of the Commission in 2010-2014.
Belgium, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Vietnam were elected by secret ballot to be members of the UNCITRAL for a six-year term beginning from 8 July 2019.
Additionally, since the number of candidates nominated by the African States, the Eastern European States and the Latin American and Caribbean States corresponded to the seats to be filled by each group, the General Assembly declared that Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, Mali, Mexico, Peru, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Ukraine and Zimbabwe were elected members of UNCITRAL for a six-year term also beginning from 8 July 2019.
The main Central Authorities of Ukraine, responsible for the cooperation with the Commission, are the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
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.
Vienna International Centre
P.O. Box 500
A-1400 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43-(1)26060-4060 or 4061
The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna actively cooperates with the UNCITRAL Secretariat and coordinates the work of the Central Authorities of Ukraine, responsible for the cooperation with the Commission. The Permanent Mission of Ukraine also participates in all events, organised by the Secretariat and the Commission in the framework of the UNCITRAL in Vienna.