United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was established by the General Assembly in 1966. In establishing the Commission, the General Assembly recognised 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 General Assembly gave the Commission the general mandate to further the progressive harmonisation and unification of international trade law. UNICTRAL has since come to be the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.

The areas in which the Commission has worked or is working, are:

  • International sale of goods and related transactions
  • International transport of goods
  • International commercial arbitration and conciliation
  • Public procurement and infrastructure development
  • Construction contracts
  • International payments
  • Electronic commerce
  • Insolvency

The UNCITRAL Secretariat, originally located at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, was transferred to Vienna in September 1979. The International Trade Law Division of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs provides substantive adminstrative services to UNCITRAL. The Secretariat assists UNCITRAL’s work by undertaking a variety of different tasks, including the preparation of studies and reports, as well as the drafting of texts on topics under consideration for possible inclusion in the work programme; legal research, drafting and revision of working papers and legislative texts on topics already included in the work programme; reporting on Commission and working group meetings; provision of technical legislative assistance to states; preparation of UNCITRAL publications; as well as the provision of a range of administrative services to UNCITRAL and its working groups.