SIXTH COMMITTEE COMPLETES CONSIDERATION OF UNCITRAL REPORT19960924 The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was in great need for increased human resources, its Chairman told the Sixth Committee (Legal) this afternoon, as the Committee concluded its consideration of the report on UNCITRAL's 1996 session.
In concluding remarks, Ana Isabel Piaggi de Vanossi said she hoped the General Assembly would include the Trust Fund for Symposia and the Trust Fund for Granting Travel Assistance to Developing States Members of UNCITRAL on the agenda of the United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities.
The representative from Austria said UNCITRAL had been an efficient small unit in charge of a host of activities, but its staff size should not be allowed to fall below the break-even point. The representative of Ukraine said that, in view of the Commission's limited resources, it was important that it maintained close cooperation with other international bodies engaged in international trade law. The representative of Australia expressed regret at the reduced funding for UNCITRAL and urged it to give priority to promoting its texts and servicing ongoing projects.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Egypt, Finland, China, Canada, Hungary, France, Czech Republic, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Russian Federation, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Italy, Cameroon, Republic of Korea, Belarus, Pakistan, Nigeria and India.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 26 September, to begin its discussion on the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization.
Committee Work Programme
The Sixth Committee (Legal) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) on the work of its 1996 session. (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3000 of 23 September.)
HUSSEIN MUBARAK (Egypt) expressed his support for the UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings but cautioned against going beyond any of its rules. The Commission's work regarding electronic data interchange was a noteworthy achievement. One aim of the Model Law on Electronic Commerce was to assist States in upgrading their legislation to account for electronic communications, while not changing the usual rules governing communication.
MARJA'LIISA LEHTO (Finland) said the legal status of electronic documents in some States was almost equal to those on paper, whereas in others, the legal situation was uncertain. The Model Law should help remove obstacles to the use of electronic data interchange in international business and facilitate international trade. It was also hoped that the UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings, would be useful for arbitration practitioners, especially when the parties came from different legal backgrounds.
FERDINAND TRAUTTMANSDORFF (Austria) said small offices, particularly those which fell under close scrutiny, were usually more resistant to the inefficient use of resources than larger units. That principle applied to the secretariat of UNCITRAL, a small unit which was called on to handle such a host of activities in the harmonization and progressive development of international trade law. However, if the size of UNCITRAL staff fell below the break-even point, the efficiency of smallness would be lost.
The harmonization of trade law, through such model rules as the Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings and other non-binding instruments, required a high degree of involvement by the secretariat in spreading information and giving advice, he said. That applied, not only to the instruments as such, but also to the practical experiences of Member States in making the best use of them in their own domestic law-making efforts. Since resources were limited, Member States must be careful about placing any additional workload on the secretariat.
WANG XUEXIAN (China) congratulated the Commission on its achievements, including its conventions and model laws. However, he expressed dissatisfaction with its work concerning developing countries, urging it to facilitate participation by them in its work. The Commission's agenda should include such items as "build-operate-transfer" projects, which addressed the
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vital interest of developing countries. The United Nations and relevant countries should attach greater importance to the work of UNCITRAL.
ANDRE GIROUX (Canada) said that the Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings were a further step in the development of a uniform approach to arbitration. He congratulated the Commission on completing its Model Law on Electronic Commerce, a timely text which plays a significant role in establishing a uniform legal framework for electronic commerce. Canada looked forward to participating actively in the Commission's work on digital signatures and certification authorities. It was hoped the Commission's working group would complete its work on legislative provisions dealing with cross-border insolvency, so they might be considered by the Commission at its next session in 1997.
CSABA SZ. NAGY (Hungary) said the Commission had reached its first significant results with respect to the use of electronic data in international commercial deals. It had presented those results to the General Assembly, inviting Member States to consider the Model Law. "In a global age, the use of electronic media in international trade made reliable and binding rules essential." One of the most important issues facing UNCITRAL, not mentioned in its report, concerned the productivity of relocating its secretariat from Vienna to New York. His Government was pleased that the idea had been abandoned.
MARKIYAN Z. KULYK (Ukraine) said UNCITRAL must continue its work on the preparation of legal standards to bring predictability to electronic commerce, thus enhancing trade in all regions. His Government supported the Commission's work on harmonization in the area of "build-operate-transfer" projects. It welcomed the decision of UNCITRAL to prepare the first draft chapter of a legislative guide for States preparing or modernizing their legislation concerning such projects. Many States, especially those in the process of privatization and structural adjustment, had demonstrated great interest in such guidance.
HUBERT LEGAL (France) said he welcomed the decision to keep the UNCITRAL secretariat in Vienna, reflecting the essential role that European capital plays in the United Nations. He commended the Commission's accomplishments including its Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings and its Model Law on Electronic Commerce, but expressed concern that no new conventions or instruments on the subject should be created. France supported the organizing of regional seminars for training in international law, particularly in developing countries.
MARTIN SMEJKAL (Czech Republic) drew attention to the concrete results produced by UNCITRAL, including its Model Law on Electronic Commerce and its Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings. Those Notes met the need to retain flexibility and contractual freedom; they would prove to be a valuable tool. In UNCITRAL's future work, priority should be given to its work on cross- border insolvency.
SILVIA A. FERNANDEZ DE GURMENDI (Argentina) praised UNCITRAL's efficient work, which was possible because its debates were not politicized and it enjoyed the contribution of governmental experts. It was hoped that the drastic financial cuts would not affect the Commission's efficiency. "We
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need to continue the publication of the UNCITRAL Yearbook", she stressed. In addition, since UNCITRAL texts were usually specialized and complex, it was imperative to ensure their clarity to promote their universal use.
SOCORRO FLORES LIERA (Mexico) said over the years, the arbitration process had proven to be a valid instrument for parties involved in commercial transactions. Her Government was therefore pleased with UNCITRAL's adoption of legal guidelines on arbitral proceedings. States must also give more attention to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Such a focus would make the goal of standardizing international trade law possible. The Model Law on Electronic Commerce filled an important gap in the global legal system.
CRAIG J. DANIELL (South Africa) said the UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings should greatly assist both local and international practitioners in preparing for such proceedings. That was particularly true in international arbitrations, where the participants could have different legal backgrounds and expectations. Since the Notes addressed such complex matters as documentary evidence, hearings, witnesses and settlement negotiations, they could greatly enhance the practice of arbitration and save time as well as money.
He said the Model Law on Electronic Commerce could help remedy disadvantages faced by many countries whose national legislation was inadequate. In South Africa, adoption of the Model Law was particularly important, since the question of computer evidence and related matters had recently been referred to the Rules Board for the Courts of Law for its consideration. "No doubt, the Model Law and Guide will be extensively consulted in ensuring that South Africa keeps abreast of developing trends in this field."
VICTOR A. TRASHCHENKO (Russian Federation) said the UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings would be useful for a broad range of applications. It would eliminate gaps in current arbitration practice, especially for countries with economies in transition. He cited the Model Law for Electronic Commerce, which established an international legal basis for such commerce, and drew attention to "build-operate-transfer" projects, which could help create a more favorable investment environment.
ARIZAL EFFENDI (Indonesia) said the Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings were very helpful to developing countries. However, they should
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not undermine flexibility in arbitration. Neither could they be used to establish any requirements beyond existing laws, regulations and practices.
The Commission's work regarding "build-operate-transfer" projects could play a significant role in advancing a State's economic policy, he said. Since such projects often involved major expenditures by States, foreign investors and contractors, the codification of rules and guidelines was particularly beneficial to developing countries, as the implementation of such projects would substantially increase savings. States would then be able to invest in their infrastructures. A legal framework governing such projects, which would promote confidence between States, investors and other foreign countries, was necessary.
JILL M. BARRETT (United Kingdom) said that although her country was an enthusiastic supporter of UNCITRAL's work on electronic digital interchange, it was regrettable that there had been insufficient time to perfect its text on the matter, particularly on the provisions of transport documents. The successful conclusion of the Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings was a welcome development; they would be particularly valuable to arbitrators involved in different jurisdictions. In its future work, the Commission should take a cautious approach towards further reviews of the law on international carriage of goods by sea.
MAURO POLITI (Italy) commended the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce and its Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings. The Notes would be invaluable in solving international disputes without imposing any new rules or regulations. The Model Law would greatly facilitate electronic means of trade. The Commission should continue its work concerning digital signatures and service providers.
PASCALINE BOUM (Cameroon) expressed satisfaction that issues related to the carriage of goods by sea had not been dealt with by UNCITRAL. The Commission needed to focus on eliminating the existing obstacles which kept States from effective international trade. She supported the Commission's
request that the Sixth Committee recommend to the General Assembly that it put the Trust Fund for Symposia on the agenda of the United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities.
MYUNG CHUL HAHM (Republic of Korea) acknowledged the Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings and the Model Law on Electronic Commerce would help to harmonize international trade law. He congratulated the Committee for its important work on those matters.
MARK GRAY (Australia) said UNCITRAL played a central role in facilitating international trade. Both the Model Law on Electronic Commerce and the Notes on Arbitrary Proceedings reflected this role. The promotion of electronic commerce throughout the global trading community was now considered
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to be of the highest priority on the international trade agenda. Such trade was overcoming traditional barriers and should continue to be a major focus of UNCITRAL's work in the coming years.
SYARGEI SYARGEEU (Belarus) said UNCITRAL's adoption of legal guidelines on both arbitral proceedings and electronic commerce would help in the predictability and improvement of international trade. His Government supported the holding of UNCITRAL symposia, especially at the regional level. Countries with economies in transition badly needed them and were counting on UNCITRAL for its support. It was hoped the General Assembly would include on the agenda of the United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities: the UNCITRAL Trust Fund for Symposia; and the Trust Fund for Granting Travel Assistance to Developing States Members of UNCITRAL.
ABDUL RAZZAK A. THAHIM (Pakistan) said Member States who were not members of UNCITRAL should be given an opportunity to associate themselves with its work by contributing to elaboration of the Model Law on Electronic Commerce. Since the Model Law was new, it needed further discussion by Member States and concerned international organizations before being recommended by the General Assembly for adoption.
ROSEMARY N. EKEMEZIE (Nigeria) cited the pragmatic nature of the Model Law on Electronic Commerce, which would allow for the growth of paperless forms of trade. The Commission's Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings would help in the harmonization of international trade.
S. RAMA RAO (India) said that the highlight of UNCITRAL's work at its recent session was adoption of its Model Law on Electronic Commerce, which would assist States in modernizing their legislation to accommodate the use of electronic data. In its future work, the Commission should continue to focus on new developments in electronic commerce.
ANA ISABEL PIAGGI DE VANOSSI (Argentina), Chairman of UNCITRAL, welcomed the support expressed by Member States for its work and assured them that their concerns would be taken into account. The financing of UNCITRAL projects was essential. As the legal body at the United Nations dealing with international trade, the Commission was making great efforts to unify international trade law.
She said the Commission was in great need of increased human resources. However, further limitations had been put in place. Realism was needed. It had been difficult to send its limited staff to its Symposia. For that reason it was hoped that the General Assembly would give due consideration to the Trust Fund for Symposia. In addition, the granting of travel assistance to developing States was essential, or many would not be able to attend. The Commission's work was essential in unifying international trade law.
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