The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (French: Commission des Nations Unies pour le droit commercial international (CNUDCI)) is a subsidiary body of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) responsible for helping to facilitate international trade and investment.
Established by the UNGA in 1966, UNCITRAL’s official mandate is “to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law” through conventions, model laws, and other instruments that address key areas of commerce, from dispute resolution to the procurement and sale of goods.
UNCITRAL carries out its work at annual sessions held alternately in New York City and Vienna, where it is headquartered.
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 2004. Member states of UNCITRAL are representing different legal traditions and levels of economic development, as well as different geographic regions. States includes 12 African states, 15 Asian states, 18 European states, 6 Latin American and Caribbean states, and 1 oceanian state. 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.
- Coordinating the work of active organizations 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.
A 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 depository. 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 Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention) (1958)
- The Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods (1974)
- 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)
- The United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (2015)
- The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the Singapore Convention on Mediation) (2018)
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)
- UNCITRAL 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)
- UNCITRAL 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 Model Law on Secured Transactions (2016)
- UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (2017)
- UNCITRAL Model Law on the Recognition and Enforcement of Insolvency-Related Judgments (2018)
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 UNCITRAL 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)