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Sixty-sixth session

Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the work of its forty-fourth session (Agenda item 79)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/66/100)

The General Assembly established the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) at its twenty-first session, in 1966, to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade, and requested the Commission to submit an annual report to the Assembly (resolution 2205 (XXI)). The Commission began its work in 1968. It originally consisted of 29 Member States representing the various geographic regions and the principal legal systems of the world. At its twenty-eighth and fifty-seventh sessions, respectively, the General Assembly increased the membership of the Commission from 29 to 36 States (resolution 3108 (XXVIII)) and from 36 to 60 States (resolution 57/20).
For the current composition of the Commission, see decision 64/405.
At its sixty-fifth session, the General Assembly endorsed the efforts and initiatives of the Commission as the core legal body within the United Nations system in the field of international trade law (resolution 65/21).
At the same session, the General Assembly expressed its appreciation to the Commission for having formulated and adopted the revised provisions of the Arbitration Rules and recommended the use of the Arbitration Rules as revised in 2010 in the settlement of disputes arising in the context of international commercial relations (resolution 65/22).
Also at that session, the General Assembly expressed its appreciation to the Commission for the completion and adoption of the UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions: Supplement on Security Rights in Intellectual Property and recommended that all States utilize the Supplement to assess the economic efficiency of their intellectual property financing and give favourable consideration to the Supplement when revising or adopting relevant legislation (resolution 65/23).
Furthermore, the General Assembly expressed its appreciation to the Commission for developing and adopting part three of the UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law and recommended that all States utilize the Legislative Guide to assess the economic efficiency of their insolvency law regimes and give favourable consideration to the Guide when revising or adopting relevant legislation (resolution 65/24).

Consideration at the sixty-sixth session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 10th, 22nd, 25th and 30th meetings, on 10, 27 and 31 October and on 11 November 2011 (see A/C.6/66/SR.10, 22, 25 and 30).

At the 10th meeting, on 10 October 2011, the Chair of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law at its forty-fourth session introduced the report of the Commission on the work of its forty-fourth session.

Statements were made by the representatives of: Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Austria, Japan, Belarus, El Salvador, Cuba, Singapore, the Russian Federation, Canada, India, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, China, Trinidad and Tobago, Benin, Israel, Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States of America. 

In their general observations, delegations commended the Commission for its productive forty-fourth session and reiterated their strong support for the work of UNCITRAL as the core legal body within the United Nations system in the harmonization and unification of international trade law. Appreciation was expressed for the coordination efforts undertaken by UNCITRAL in order to maintain close cooperation with other international organizations active in the field of trade law. Delegations welcomed the finalization and adoption by the Commission of (a) the UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement, and (b) Judicial Materials on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-border Insolvency. It was also pointed out that the Guide to Enactment on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement would greatly enhance the text and some delegations called for its early completion. In this context, it was stressed that the social and economic conditions of developing countries must be born in mind in the preparation of the Guide.

While welcoming the progress made, the delays in the deliberation of legal texts was noted with concern, and it was hoped that UNCITRAL and its working groups would bear in mind the need to work efficiently and to optimize its limited resources. The delay in the issuance of the report of UNCITRAL was noted with regret, as well as the arbitrary cuts to the text undertaken with the aim of reducing the page limits.

Some delegations reaffirmed their support for the work of Working Group II on Arbitration and Conciliation on transparency in treaty-based investor-State arbitration. While the view was expressed that the efforts of the Working Group would result in practical legal standards in this field, the importance of consent of the parties as an underlying principle was also pointed out. Furthermore, it was observed that confidentiality was an important subject in commercial arbitration and should be part of the future task of Working Group II.

The progress of Working Group III on Online Dispute Resolution was noted by several delegations. While the Commission’s decision to consider consumer-to-consumer relationships received support by some delegations, the point was also made that these should not replace consumer protection laws. The view was further expressed cautioning the Commission not to introduce a new online dispute resolution mechanism prior to a thorough evaluation of States.

Concerning the work of Working Group IV on Electronic Commerce, while some delegations supported the formulation of uniform legal standards in the field of electronic transferable records, the Commission was also urged to keep in mind the vast digital divide between developed and developing countries in order for the rules to be balanced and fair.

Some delegations expressed support for the work undertaken by Working Group V on Insolvency. The work undertaken so far by Working Group VI on Security Interests on the issue of registration of security rights in movable assets was also noted.

Several delegations referred to microfinance as an important tool for reducing poverty and the view was expressed that it should be part of the future work of the Commission. The need for a harmonized legal framework in this area was highlighted.

The important role of UNCITRAL in strengthening the rule of law was emphasized by a number of delegations who were of the view that it should be part of the broader United Nations rule of law efforts.

Several delegations emphasized the importance of technical assistance from the Secretariat to developing countries, which was particularly important in post-conflict societies. It was stressed that technical assistance aimed at implementing already adopted legal texts was equally important as the drafting of such texts and, in this regard, the Secretariat was encouraged to further promote the Commission’s work in developing countries in particular. The establishment of regional centers as a means to further the Commission’s technical assistance work was welcomed.

The need of ensuring more effective participation of developing countries in the work of UNICTRAL was stressed by some delegations and, in this context, attention was drawn to the need for voluntary contributions to the trust fund established to provide travel assistance to developing countries to participate in UNICTRAL meetings.

Several delegations expressed concern over the proposal by the Secretary-General to reconsider the tradition of alternating the meetings of the Commission and its working groups between New York and Vienna as a cost-saving measure. Alternating the meetings between New York and Vienna ensured greater participation in the Commission’s work among all stake-holders and in particular of smaller delegations without representation in Vienna, which in turn rendered the instruments elaborated by the Commission truly universal. 

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 22nd meeting, on 27 October 2011, the representative of Austria, on behalf of Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), subsequently joined by Liechtenstein and Uganda, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the work of its forty-fourth session” (A/C.6/66/L.10). At the same meeting, the representative of Austria, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced two draft resolutions entitled “UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement” (A/C.6/66/L.11) and “UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency: The Judicial Perspective” (A/C.6/66/L.12).

At the 25th meeting, on 31 October 2011, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Turkey and the United States America were joined to the list of sponsors of draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.10 and the Committee adopted draft resolutions A/C.6/66/L.10, A/C.6/66/L.11 and A/C.6/66/L.12, without a vote.

At its 30th meeting, on 11 November 2011, the Committee decided to reopen the agenda item. On behalf of the Bureau, the Chair orally proposed an amendment to draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.10, by which, in operative paragraph 20, the words “endorses the Commission’s agreement to achieve that result by reducing its allocation for conference services, and” would be deleted before the words “encourages Member States”. At the same meeting, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.10, as orally amended, without a vote. The representatives of France, Cuba, Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) made statements in explanation of position after the adoption of the draft resolution.

Under the terms of draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.10, the General Assembly would, inter alia, welcome the decisions of UNCITRAL to prepare a guide to enactment of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement, a study on possible future work in the area of public-private partnerships and privately financed infrastructure projects, to undertake work in the field of electronic transferable records, to prepare, in cooperation with the World Bank, draft principles on effective secured transactions regimes, and to include microfinance as an item for the future work of the Commission. It would further reaffirm the importance, in particular for developing countries, of the work of the Commission concerned with technical cooperation and assistance in the field of international trade law reform and development.

Under the terms of draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.11, the General Assembly would recommend that all States use the UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement in assessing their legal regimes for public procurement and give favourable consideration to the Model Law when they enact or revise their laws.

Under the terms of draft resolution A/C.6/66/L.12, the General Assembly would recommend that the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency: The Judicial Perspective be given due consideration, as appropriate, by judges, insolvency practitioners and other stakeholders involved in cross-border insolvency proceedings; and request the establishment of a mechanism for updating the Judicial Perspective on an ongoing basis.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-seventh session (2012).