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United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)


The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly that specializes in commercial law reform worldwide. Established in 1966, its mission is to promote the progressive unification and harmonization of international trade law. UNCITRAL achieves this by formulating modern, fair, and harmonized rules on commercial transactions.


The phonetic pronunciation for “United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)” is as follows:United Nations Commission on International Trade Law: yoo-nai-ted nay-shuhns kuh-mish-uhn on in-ter-nash-uh-nuhl trayd law UNCITRAL:uhn-sit-ruhl

Key Takeaways

Here are the three main takeaways about the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL):

  1. Promotion of Harmonized International Trade Laws: One of the main takeaways about UNCITRAL is that its primary objective is to promote the harmonization and unification of international trade law. It does this by preparing and promoting the use of legislative and non-legislative instruments in a number of key areas of commercial law.
  2. Diverse Membership: UNCITRAL is made up of a diverse range of member states from various regions and legal systems. This ensures that all perspectives of international trade law are taken into account when formulating and promoting instruments. It consists of 60 member states that are elected by the UN General Assembly.
  3. Addressing Disputes: UNCITRAL also plays a pivotal role in settling disputes related to international trade. It uses a variety of methods, such as arbitration and conciliation to help businesses and governments resolve disputes efficiently and without the need for lengthy court proceedings.


The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is important because it provides a framework for facilitating international trade and commerce, serving as a central legal body for formulating international trade laws. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, UNCITRAL plays a crucial role in progressively harmonizing and unifying the law of international trade. This helps to reduce legal obstacles and uncertainties faced by businesses engaging in cross-border transactions, thereby promoting smoother and more efficient global trade. Additionally, UNCITRAL’s work in arbitration law is instrumental in providing an accessible and efficient platform to resolve business disputes. Thus, UNCITRAL is a key player in shaping the regulatory landscape of international trade and enhancing global economic cooperation.


The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is a critical entity that was established to foster the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law. Its primary purpose is to accommodate a legal framework that empowers the seamless conduct of international business. UNCITRAL aims to reduce the complexities that might be encountered in international legal activities, such as those related to contract formation, dispute resolution or commercial fraud. It helps in formulating model laws, providing legal guides, and elaborating on international conventions to facilitate a compatible legal infrastructure for international trade.UNCITRAL also plays a massive role in promoting international trade by forging a dynamic symbiosis between business entities and countries with differing legal systems. It undertakes the careful drafting of treaties and model laws to be adopted universally, thereby bridging the gaps among variant legal systems. Consequently, it makes trade more predictable and fair, reducing legal obstacles to international commerce, and encouraging economic development. UNCITRAL’s work is key to facilitating international trade and commerce, which is instrumental in fostering economic growth and development worldwide.


1. Cross-Border Insolvency Case: Lehman Brothers Collapse (2008): When the Lehman Brothers Holdings, a global financial services firm in the United States, filed for bankruptcy in 2008, it became the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S history. This led to complex cross-border insolvency issues involving billions of dollars. The UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency was utilized to provide a legal framework for effectively coordinating and resolving these insolvency issues involving multiple countries.2. Investment Arbitration Case: Naftogaz vs. Russia (2017): The Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz initiated a case against Russia over the expropriation of its assets in Crimea following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The proceedings under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules were presided over by an international arbitration tribunal, which ultimately awarded Naftogaz $5 billion in damages in 2020.3. Modernizing Trade Procedures Case: Single Window Initiative (2005 – Present): The UNCITRAL has been heavily involved in the creation and promotion of “Single Window” systems, an effort to simplify, harmonize and standardize international trade procedures by providing a single point where all trade-related information and documents can be submitted. Several countries, including Sweden, Singapore, and Ghana, have since adopted Single Window systems significantly streamlining their import/export procedures improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)?

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly. Its mandate is to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law.

When was UNCITRAL established?

UNCITRAL was established by the United Nations General Assembly by its Resolution 2205 (XXI) of 17 December 1966.

What is the primary function of UNCITRAL?

The primary function of UNCITRAL is to prepare and promote the use and adoption of legislative and non-legislative instruments in a number of key areas of commercial law.

How does UNCITRAL carry out its work?

UNCITRAL carries out its work at annual sessions held alternately in New York City and Vienna, with the help of intersessional working groups.

What are some key areas of work for UNCITRAL?

Key areas of work for UNCITRAL include dispute resolution, procurement and infrastructure development, international transport of goods, insolvency law, electronic commerce, and security interests.

How many member states are there in UNCITRAL?

UNCITRAL is composed of sixty member States elected by the General Assembly for a term of six years.

What types of laws does UNCITRAL develop and promote?

UNCITRAL develops and promote model laws, rules, legal guides, legislative guides, conventions, and other instruments in the field of international trade law.

Can non-member states participate in UNCITRAL’s work?

Yes, all the member States of the United Nations may participate in the annual sessions of the Commission as observers and contribute to the drafting of texts.

What is the impact of UNCITRAL on international trade?

By striving to increase certainty in international trade law, UNCITRAL helps reduce obstacles to international trade, particularly those for the developing economies, thus promoting international peace and cooperation.

: Where can I find UNCITRAL’s legislative texts?

: All of UNCITRAL’s legislative texts— conventions, model laws, and rules— are available on the UNCITRAL’s official website.

Related Finance Terms

  • Arbitration Rules
  • Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration
  • UNCITRAL Secretariat
  • International Trade Laws
  • United Nations General Assembly Resolution

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