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The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

Organization type Committee of the UN General Assembly
Abbreviation UNCITRAL / CNUCED
management Anna Joubin-Bret France
since 2017
status active
Founded 1966
Headquarters Vienna Austria
Upper organization United NationsU.N. United Nations
UNCITRAL website

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law ( English United Nations Commission on International Trade Law , UNCITRAL , French Commission des Nations Unies pour le droit international commercial , UNCITRAL ) has the purpose of the unification of international trade law to actively promote.


The creation of the commission was decided by the UN General Assembly on December 17, 1966 with resolution 2205 (XXI). With the establishment of UNCITRAL, the General Assembly recognized that international trade is hindered by inequalities in national laws. The commission therefore has the mandate to “promote the progressive harmonization and standardization of international trade law” and sees it as its task to remove obstacles to international trade, e.g. B. to identify obsolete laws that no longer correspond to practice and to work out solutions that are acceptable for states with different legal systems and different economic and social development status.

The Commission was originally headquartered in New York City ( UN Headquarters ) and was relocated to Vienna's UN City in September 1979 . It meets alternately in Vienna and New York. The Commission in its work by the supported International Trade Law Division ( International Trade Law Division ) of the Office of Legal Affairs ( Office of Legal Affairs ) of the UN Secretariat .

UNCITRAL is a subordinate committee of the UN General Assembly within the United Nations system . Members of this committee are representatives of currently 60 UN member states who are elected by the UN General Assembly for a period of six years. The list of member states including the termination of their actual membership is published online by UNCITRAL. The 60 states are composed as follows: 14 from Africa, 14 from Asia, 8 from Eastern Europe, 10 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 14 from Western Europe and other countries.

The composition of the member states guarantees that the different geographical regions with the essential economic and legal systems are taken into account and can consequently be incorporated into the actual work.

UNCITRAL is divided into six working groups, each of which is active in certain areas of law and reports to the Commission on this. The following working groups are currently active:

  • Working group I for procurement law;
  • Working Group II for International Arbitration and Conciliation;
  • Working Group III for Transport Law;
  • Working Group IV for Electronic Commerce;
  • Working Group V for Insolvency Law;
  • Working group VI for the law of security interests.

Significant results of UNCITRAL's work

To fulfill this mandate, UNCITRAL has drawn up a wide variety of legal acts over the past 40 years. These are not always binding international agreements, but often also e.g. For example, model laws that are intended to serve the member states as models for national legal reforms.

UN sales law

The most important is the " Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods " (CISG) from 1980, the so-called Vienna Sales Law , or UN Sales Law . This is an international agreement that regulates the legal framework for cross-border sales contracts. It has now come into force in 80 countries, including Austria since 1989 and Germany and Switzerland since 1991.


New York Convention

It is true that the New York Convention came into force before UNCITRAL was founded under the auspices of the United Nations. However, promoting the Convention is one of the main tasks of UNCITRAL.

UNCITRAL model law

The UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration was passed on June 21, 1985. It has now been adopted in whole or in part by more than 50 states, including in 1998 in Germany as part of the reform of Book 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure . The Model Law was updated in 2006 to allow the use of modern means of communication and to provide more detailed rules for provisional measures.

UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules

The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules are comprehensive rules of procedure for arbitration . The UNCITRAL Rules of Arbitration offer interested parties a basis for proceedings before a freely selectable arbitral tribunal with or without the support of an arbitration institution . The rules can largely be freely modified by the parties and adapted to their respective needs (Art. 1 Para. 1 UNCITRAL Rules of Arbitration 1976).

The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules 1976 (UNCITRAL-SchGO 1976) were adopted by UNCITRAL on April 28, 1976 and recommended for use by the General Assembly on December 15, 1976.

On June 25, 2010, new UNCITRAL arbitration rules were adopted to adapt to changed needs (UNCITRAL-SchGO 2010).

Transparency rules for investment arbitration

In 2013 UNCITRAL published new rules on transparency in investor-state arbitration proceedings . After that, the entire arbitration award and all procedural documents such as the parties' pleadings, minutes of negotiations and resolutions must be published (Art. 3). UNCITRAL operates a website for publication. The arbitral tribunal is given discretion to admit amicus curiae briefs (Art. 4). Oral negotiations are also in principle public, unless this proves to be logistically impossible (Art. 6). The transparency of all procedural steps is also subject to the fact that trade and business secrets are to be treated confidentially and that no defendant state has to disclose information that affects its security interests (Art. 7). In addition, the "integrity" of the proceedings must not be compromised by transparency, by hindering the taking of evidence, intimidating witnesses, party representatives or arbitrators or in "comparable exceptional circumstances".

In order to ensure the simple application of the rules without having to renegotiate all existing investment agreements, the UN General Assembly adopted a convention on transparency in investor-state arbitration (Mauritius Convention) at the end of 2014, which has been ratified since March 2015 . By April 1, 2015, ten countries, including Germany and Switzerland, had signed the convention.

The applicability of the rules is provided for in the draft free trade agreement between the EU and Canada published in September 2014 .

Other legal norms

UNCITRAL has published further legal acts, e.g. B. in the field of international insolvency , the international transport of goods or electronic commerce .

In 1996 UNCITRAL tried to lay the foundations for legally secure electronic commerce with the “Model Law on Electronic Commerce” . All the requirements for traditional contract conclusion are adapted to the needs of electronic commerce. Attention was paid to a technology-neutral design of the law. In 2001 UNCITRAL also issued a “Model Law on Electronic Signatures” , which creates an exemplary legal system for electronic signatures . However, UNCITRAL has long been drafting legal regulations for cross-border electronic payment procedures (e.g. the UNCITRAL Legal Guide on Electronic Funds Transfers ).

Practical relevance

UNCITRAL has no legislative competence of its own. The relevance of the developed instruments therefore depends either on the acceptance by national legislators (as in the case of the model laws and the UN Sales Convention ) and / or on the corresponding will of the contracting parties (as in the case of the UNCITRAL arbitration rules or the UN Sales Law, its application can be contractually excluded).

Web links

Wiktionary: UNCITRAL  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. https://uncitral.tumblr.com/post/168283740191/welcoming-the-new-director-of-the-international
  2. http://www.jus.uio.no/lm/uncitral.2205-xxi/doc.html
  3. a b A Guide to UNCITRAL. (pdf) UNCITRAL, January 2013, accessed on February 23, 2020 (English).
  4. cf. Origin, Mandate and Composition of UNCITRAL (English)
  5. cf. UNCITRAL Working Groups (English)
  6. http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/en/uncitral_texts/sale_goods/1980CISG_status.html
  7. http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/en/uncitral_texts/arbitration.html
  8. http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/en/uncitral_texts/arbitration/1985Model_arbitration_status.html
  9. Contrast: Arbitration proceedings administered by arbitration institutions that have a fixed organization and generally less flexible rules of procedure. An example of an arbitration institution is the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
  10. Also: UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules 1976
  11. UN Doc. A / 31/39 (1976).
  12. UNCITRAL, 61st Session, Supplement No. 17 (A / 61/17), para. 184.
  13. UN Information Services (UNIS / L / 139) (June 29, 2010). See: http://www.uncitral.org/pdf/english/texts/arbitration/arb-rules-revised/arb-rules-revised-2010-e.pdf Link
  14. ^ UNCITRAL.org: UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration
  15. UNCITRAL Transparency Register
  16. http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/en/pressrels/2014/unisl210.html
  17. https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=XXII-3&chapter=22&lang=en