The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) (French Commission des Nations Unies pour le droit commercial international (CNUDCI)) was established by the United Nations General Assembly by its Resolution 2205 (XXI) of 17 December 1966 "to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law".
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. As at 3 July 2017, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law will be composed of the following member States:
The methods of work are organized at three levels. The first level is UNCITRAL itself (The Commission), which holds an annual plenary session. The second level is the intergovernmental working groups which is developing the topics on UNCITRAL's work program. Texts designed to simplify trade transactions and reduce associated costs are developed by working groups comprising all member States of UNCITRAL, which meet once or twice per year. Non-member States and interested international and regional organizations are also invited and can actively contribute to the work since 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. 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. This is the third level, which assists the other two in the preparation and conduct of their work.
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.
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 also drafted the:
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: