The UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)
The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) is a multilateral treaty that establishes a uniform legal regime for contracts for the cross-border sale of goods. Such sales contracts operate as the backbone of international trade, and uniform rules for sales contracts provide traders with an efficient, modern and comprehensive legal framework to support their commercial activities. Its uniform rules, specifically designed to meet the needs of cross border commerce, increase certainty in commercial transactions and decrease their costs. The CISG thus supports sustainable economic development in general, and because risks and costs are disproportionately felt by small and medium-sized enterprises, is of particular benefit in promoting cross-border commercial activities on their part.
The CISG has been adopted by 94 States from all legal traditions and levels of economic development and that together represent over two-thirds of the global economy. The UNCITRAL Secretariat is organising a series of awareness-raising events and technical assistance activities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the CISG in 2020 (“CISG@40”). The CISG@40 activities pursue several goals. One of them is to identify potential new States parties to the CISG, to support and promote the treaty adoption process, namely to accelerate the achievement of the symbolic number of 100 States parties, and to broaden CISG coverage by supporting the withdrawal of declarations and the territorial extensions for existing States parties. Secondly, as regards use in practice, the challenge is to raise awareness of the CISG’s benefits in the commercial environment and among the judiciary on its uniform interpretation. One important component of this line of activity is broadening and deepening contributors’ commitment to the Case law on UNCITRAL Texts (“CLOUT”) system and to involve new partners in the CLOUT network. In this framework, the publication in 2020 of a Guide on International Commercial Contracts (with a focus on sales) (prepared jointly by UNCITRAL, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit) and the Hague Conference on Private International Law) stands out. Additional topics relevant for CISG@40 include the use of the CISG as a model for national law reform, the broader adoption and use of closely-related treaties such as the Limitation Convention and the Electronic Communications Convention, and matters relating to the use of the CISG in the digital economy such as the relationship between the CISG and smart contracts.
The Department of Justice of Hong Kong SAR maintains a featured webpage on the CISG. The webpage lists consultation and legislative documents and other resources related to the CISG, including information on forthcoming events.
The Legal Guide to Uniform Instruments in the Area of International Commercial Contracts, with a Focus on Sales, jointly developed with the Hague Conference on Private International Law and UNIDROIT, is now available for viewing here. The Legal Guide is a user-friendly resource for those interested in the adoption, application and interpretation of uniform contract law, it provides an overview of key legislative texts prepared by the three sister organisations. More specifically, it features the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG), the HCCH Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts and the UNIDROIT Principles on International Commercial Contracts, illustrating how these texts interact to achieve a predictable yet flexible legal framework for international trade. You are also invited to watch a video from the heads of the three organisations celebrating the launch of this wonderful resource.
The Journal of Law & Commerce has published a special issue containing the papers presented at a conference held in March 2019 celebrating “The CISG at Middle Age” as well as professor Harry Flechtner. Professor Flechtner is a globally-recognised CISG scholar who has worked with the UNCITRAL Secretariat on important projects such as the CISG Digest. He is also an acclaimed music composer, his most famous hit being the “CISG Song”.
The authoritative status of the CISG is available in the United Nations Treaty Collection.
The Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts (CLOUT) system contains about 1000 cases on the CISG and related texts. They are available in the CLOUT database. Moreover, the UNCITRAL Digest of Case Law on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods presents judicial and arbitral decisions in a clear, consolidated and comprehensive manner.
The UNCITRAL Library Online Catalogue contains more than 1000 citations of books, articles and other materials discussing the CISG and related texts. Materials available online include the publication “Thirty-five Years of Uniform Sales Law: Trends and Perspectives, Proceedings of the High-Level Panel held during the Forty-eighth Session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, Vienna, 6 July 2015”.
UNCITRAL has prepared other texts in the field of international sales of goods and related transactions. Among them, the Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods (New York, 1974) and the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (New York, 2005) are particularly significant.
Upcoming CISG@40 Events
Event held by the Permanent Mission of Indonesia in Vienna, in collaboration with the Law Faculty of Unversitas Padjadjaran. The webinar introduced participants to the work of UNCITRAL progressively from an overview of UNCITRAL’s mandate and its work from the legislative and technical assistance aspects, to a more specific focus on the CISG’s principles, benefits, and policies.
The CISG@40: A Celebration
Pretoria, South Africa
3 December 2021
The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) is a multilateral treaty that establishes a uniform legal regime for contracts for the cross-border sale of goods. Such sales contracts operate as the backbone of international trade, and uniform rules for sales contracts provide traders with an efficient, modern and comprehensive legal framework to support their commercial activities. A recording of the event is available for viewing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBp8kqlp53U.