Background to UNCITRAL
Established in 1966, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) develops model laws and conventions that form an essential part of the legal framework for global trade.
UNCITRAL is often best known in Australia for its Arbitration Model Law which is used across the globe as the basis for settling international disputes. The Model Law also provides the foundation for Australia’s International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth).
A range of other significant conventions are developed through UNCITRAL and have been adopted in Australia and internationally, including laws relating to electronic transactions, cross-border insolvency and the international sale of goods.
Australia is currently a member of UNCITRAL, which is comprised of 60 member states elected by the General Assembly. Australia’s term of office is set to expire in 2016.
UNCITRAL’s aim to further harmonize and unify the law of international trade is progressed through annual Commission meetings with six Working Groups that convene twice a year. The work of UNCITRAL is coordinated by a permanent secretariat based in Vienna, and since 2012 it has established a Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific (RCAP) based in Incheon, Korea.
UNCITRAL and the Law Council
The Law Council has recognised the important work being undertaken by Australian lawyers in relation to UNCITRAL’s activities by supporting the creation of an UNCITRAL Coordinator in Australia in 2013.
Australian lawyers have an interest in developing harmonized laws to minimise transaction costs in international trade, as well as supporting developing nations in our region to participate in the expanding global economy through the adoption of uniform trade law texts of the type developed by UNCITRAL.
In 2012 the RACP commissioned Sydney solicitor and barrister Tim Castle to provide a report on strategic opportunities for increased participation by Australia in the work of UNCITRAL, in the development, adoption and implementation of uniform trade laws, both in Australia and in our region.
The decision to establish an UNCITRAL Coordinator was a direct result of consultations between Mr Castle, the Law Council, the Australian Government and other stakeholders, in connection with that report. Subsequently in September 2013, Mr Castle subsequently took up the honorary role as UNCITRAL Coordinator role, and is supported in this role by a Committee comprising representatives of the Law Council, as well as leading practitioners and academics interested in the work of UNCITRAL.
Also supporting the Coordinator will be eight ‘Communities of Interest’ comprised of members of the legal profession and academia in Australia. The first six mirror UNCITRAL’s working groups, being:
- Micro, small and medium enterprises;
- Arbitration and Conciliation;
- Online dispute resolution;
- Insolvency; and
- Security Interests
The last two ‘Communities of Interest’ represent aligned areas of the law in which UNCITRAL is also active. They are:
- Contracts and International Sale of Goods; and
- Transport and Maritime
A resource page has been prepared to provide greater accessibility to the work of UNCITRAL, and to assist the Communities of Interest, with links to databases, affiliated organisations and research material. The resource page can be found here.