What Is the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)?

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. It is the core legal body of the UN system in the field of international trade law. UNCITRAL describes its function as the modernization and harmonization of rules on international business.

Understanding the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

As global trade began expanding significantly in the 1960s, national governments realized there was a need for a harmonized global set of standards to replace the various national and regional regulations which until then largely governed international trade. It was in response to this demand that the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was established in 1966. UNICTRAL claims success in this mission, stating that "much of the complex network of international legal rules and agreements that affects today's commercial arrangements have been reached through long and detailed consultations and negotiations organized by UNCITRAL".

Purpose of United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

From the premise that international trade has global benefits to its participants, and acknowledging increasing economic interdependence globally, UNCITRAL seeks to help expand and facilitate global trade through the progressive harmonization and modernization of the law of international trade. The salient areas of commercial law its mandate covers include dispute resolution, international contract practices, transport, insolvency, electronic commerce, international payments, secured transactions, procurement and sale of goods. UNCITRAL aims to formulate modern, fair, and harmonized rules on such commercial transactions. Its work includes conventions, model laws, and rules which are acceptable worldwide; legal and legislative guides, and practical recommendations; updated information on case law and enactments of uniform commercial law; technical assistance in law reform projects; and regional and national seminars on uniform commercial law.

Membership of UNCITRAL is determined by the UN General Assembly. The original membership comprised 29 member states of the UN; this was expanded to 36 in 1973, and then expanded again in 2002, to 60 states. States represent a variety of legal traditions and levels of economic development. Member states are deliberately chosen to be globally representative, and the 60 states, therefore, comprise 14 African states, 14 Asian states, 8 Eastern European states, 10 Latin American and Caribbean states and 14 Western European and other states. The UN General Assembly elects members for terms of six years; every three years the terms of half of the members expire. In this way, no country or bloc should be able to dominate.

Part of UNCITRAL's mandate is also to coordinate the work of other bodies active in international trade, both within and outside of the UN, to enhance cooperation, consistency, and efficiencies and avoid duplication.