Frequently Asked Questions - UNCITRAL and Public Law Issues

Does participation in UNCITRAL diminish state sovereignty?

No. State participation in UNCITRAL, either as an elected member State of the Commission or as an observer State is entirely voluntary. By customary practice, all decisions of the Commission, including its work programme, the progress of designated projects, and the adoption of texts, are made by consensus. The choice of whether to use an UNCITRAL legislative text is a matter for the lawmakers of individual States.

Does the work of UNCITRAL affect consumer protection legislation?

No. UNCITRAL texts apply to commercial transactions between businesses, rather than between businesses and consumers. For example, the United Nations Convention for the International Sale of Goods ("CISG") does not apply to transactions in goods that the seller knows are bought for "personal, family or household use" and is also inapplicable to personal injuries caused by the goods (see CISG arts. 2(a); 5). Similarly, the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce ("MLEC") is drafted so that it will "not override any rule of law intended for the protection of consumers" (see MLEC art. 1, fn. **). In any event, States that choose to enact UNCITRAL legislative texts as domestic law may make them subject to the level of consumer protection that they consider appropriate.

Does the work of UNCITRAL take environmental issues into account?

Most UNCITRAL texts are not directly relevant to environmental concerns. However, where environmental concerns are relevant to a particular topic, due recognition is given to environmental protection. The UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Privately Financed Infrastructure Projects, a legislative text intended to acquaint domestic legislators with issues to be considered when drafting laws governing private infrastructure investment, makes it clear that "It is widely recognized that environmental protection legislation is a critical prerequisite to sustainable development." PFIP chap. VII, para. 42.

The Legislative Guide discusses the practice recognized in some States of public participation in environmental licensing, and states:

"Adhering to treaties relating to the protection of the environment may help to strengthen the international regime of environmental protection. A large number of international instruments have been developed in the past decades to establish common international standards. These include the following: Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992; the World Charter for Nature (General Assembly resolution 37/7, annex); the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal of 1989; the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context of 1991; and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes of 1992." Id. para. 44.