Sustainable Development Goals
UNCITRAL supports the Sustainable Development Goals. In the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, States endorsed "the efforts and initiatives of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, as the core legal body within the United Nations system in the field of international trade law, aimed at increasing coordination of and cooperation on legal activities of international and regional organizations active in the field of international trade law and at promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels in this field."
UNCITRAL's contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals proceeds on several fronts and touches upon a number of different and interrelated areas. This page lists only the goals and targets that are most relevant to the work of UNCITRAL, along with an explanation of how UNCITRAL contributes to their achievement.
1. No Poverty
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Target 1.a: Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions.
Resources for development come from a variety of sources, including public budgets, donors (e.g. loans or grants from international institutions), the private sector (e.g. domestic or foreign investment, philanthropic activities) or a combination of these sources. An important factor for mobilizing those resources is the creation of an enabling environment that attracts potential donors and investors and provides the means for businesses of all sizes to establish and to thrive. UNCITRAL standards help to establish such an environment, in particular by removing obstacles to the flow of international trade, thus helping to generate resources in the public and private sectors, including through donor finance. See also targets 10.b, 17.1, 17.3 and 17.5 for discussion of related issues.
4. Quality Education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Target 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
Skills for entrepreneurship must include those necessary to conduct basic commercial transactions, establish businesses, resolve business disputes (off- or online), assist businesses to compete in domestic and international markets and implement strategies for addressing financial distress and insolvency. Moreover, a competitive business advantage may be gained from an understanding of the public procurement market, e-commerce and the identification and prevention of commercial fraud. UNCITRAL standards are of direct relevance to these and other issues.
5. Gender Equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Target 5.c: Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
UNCITRAL standards are gender-neutral. However, some standards may be of particular relevance to achieving gender equality, such as those aimed at reducing the legal obstacles faced by micro and small enterprises during their life cycle, since many such businesses are run by women. In addition, UNCITRAL work in the area of e-commerce contributes to diversification and the achievement of more inclusive access to economic, educational and other opportunities and thus to the reduction or removal of obstacles that women and girls often face with regard to access to education, business opportunities, credit and justice.
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Target 8.3: Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
An important segment of such policies is a sound judicial and legal framework. The work of UNCITRAL on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) specifically aims at facilitating the formalization and operation of such enterprises, while the work on security interests aims at increasing their access to credit at affordable rates. That work is supplemented by UNCITRAL standards and its continuing work in other areas that aim at assisting MSMEs to expand their businesses and survive in times of financial distress. By creating legal standards that foster the establishment and growth of MSMEs, UNCITRAL contributes to job creation and the preservation of employment, and to income generation in households. See also targets 8.10 and 9.3 for discussion of related issues.
Target 8.10: Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all
Inclusive and equitable finance is at the heart of UNCITRAL's work in the area of security interests. The secured financing law of many countries is out of date or uncoordinated with other laws, such as civil procedure, insolvency law and intellectual property law. As a result, secured credit is either not available or is available only to a limited extent and at a cost that is unaffordable to many (e.g. against real estate as security). UNCITRAL seeks to address these problems by creating standards to level the playing field by promoting competition among credit providers and by diversifying the assets that may be used as security, which in turn should have a beneficial impact on the availability and cost of credit to all and in particular to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). See targets 8.3 and 9.3 for discussion of related issues.
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Target 9.3: Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets
The work of UNCITRAL on commercial dispute resolution, security interests, insolvency law, e-commerce, public procurement and privately financed infrastructure projects, contract law and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are all relevant in this context. This work aims at simplifying the establishment and operation of small-scale enterprises, including by facilitating access to secured credit and dispute resolution mechanisms, providing legal frameworks for international sales and simplifying the procedures available to address financial distress and insolvency. See targets 8.3 and 8.10 for discussion of related issues.
Target 9.a: Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
Infrastructure is the cornerstone of the economy in any society, and a prerequisite to the achievement of all SDGs. Financing infrastructure projects often requires a mixture of domestic resources, foreign investment and international aid. UNCITRAL instruments on privately financed infrastructure projects - widely recognized to be the only comprehensive set of international legal standards in this area - may assist in establishing a legal environment attractive to investors in infrastructure development. Their provisions with respect to cost recovery structures are particularly relevant for low-income countries where recovery of costs through tariffs and user fees is not feasible. UNCITRAL's most recent transport convention establishes the rules necessary for a global approach to modern door-to-door container transport, thus facilitating supply chain management for all States, including those that are landlocked and least developed. UNCITRAL, through its secretariat, assists States to understand these standards and enact legislation based upon them to form a modern and transparent legal framework that would be acceptable to States with different legal, social and economic systems, potential international donors and private investors.
10. Reduced Inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Target 10.3: Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard
Internationally recognized standards elaborated by UNCITRAL promote equal opportunity, reducing inequalities of outcome and addressing issues of discrimination. UNCITRAL’s work on security interests, for example, aims at creating a level playing field for all with respect to access to and cost of credit. The General Assembly has emphasized the relevance of UNCITRAL standards to "generating inclusive, sustainable and equitable development, economic growth and employment, generating investment and facilitating entrepreneurship", to "peace, stability and the well‑being of all peoples," to "universal economic cooperation among all States on a basis of equality, equity, common interest and respect for the rule of law" and to "advancing good governance, sustained economic development and the eradication of poverty and hunger." It encourages States to use UNCITRAL standards in implementing commercial law reform. UNCITRAL, through its secretariat, assists States to understand, use, enact, interpret and apply its standards. See also target 16.b for discussion of related issues.
Target 10.6: Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions
The General Assembly and UNCITRAL have underscored the importance of the work of UNCITRAL for developing countries and expressed a desire to support developing States to increase their representation through "persons of eminence in the field of the law of international trade," with a view to their contributing more actively to the creation of uniform trade law. Achieving broader, more expert representation is considered important not only for preparing internationally acceptable commercial law standards, but also for building local expertise and capacity "to put in place a regulatory and enabling environment for business, trade and investment". See also target 16.8 for discussion of related issues and details of the trust fund established to provide travel assistance to developing countries that are members of UNCITRAL.
Target 10.b: Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programmes
One of the sources of finance for development is multilateral and international aid. Donors, where concerned about a lack of transparency and accountability, complicated and high cost procurement practices and mismanagement of public funds, will be reluctant to disburse funds. Under the aid effectiveness framework, recipient countries have undertaken to implement reforms in these sectors of their economies. In response, donors have committed to progressively rely on partner country systems when the country has implemented mutually agreed standards. See also targets 1.a, 17.1, 17.3 and 17.5 for discussion of related issues.
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Target 12.7: Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities
The UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement provides legal mechanisms for States to promote best practice in public procurement, thus ensuring the sustainability of procurement practices, and allows States to pursue sustainable policy objectives through public procurement. The Guide to Enactment of the Model Law discusses considerations that should be taken into account if a State decides to pursue such policy objectives as supporting disadvantaged groups and environmental policies through public procurement, including compliance with applicable international obligations and possible tradeoffs with the primary objectives of public procurement systems (economy, efficiency, competition, transparency, fairness and objectivity).
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Target 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
The General Assembly has recognized that the rule of law is not only about criminal law and transitional justice. It is also about mature rule-based commerce, which UNCITRAL facilitates and which has long been recognized as a stabilizing factor and a factor important for mobilizing resources for development, including for such rule-of-law fundamentals as due process and a strong judicial and legal infrastructure, in addition to access to well-trained lawyers and judges. UNCITRAL’s work is also relevant to all dimensions of access to justice (normative protection, capacity to seek remedy, and capacity to provide effective remedies) and to legal and procedural transparency.
Target 16.5: Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
Anti-corruption and anti-bribery measures have long figured in UNCITRAL's legal standards, including the UNCITRAL standard in the area of public procurement. Since the mid-80s UNCITRAL has also been engaged in the area of e-commerce, which is characterized by increased transparency, traceability of actions and the elimination or reduction of human interaction/personal contacts, cited as major factors in anti-corruption/anti-bribery initiatives. Increased transparency in government dealings with investors is an aspiration that guides UNCITRAL's work in investor-State dispute resolution, various commercial means to reduce bribery and corruption are outlined in work on commercial fraud, and UNCITRAL standards on security interest registries aim at minimizing the potential for registry staff corruption.
Target 16.6: Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
UNCITRAL's work in general highlights the importance of effective, accountable and transparent rules and institutions. Areas of focus, which have included e-commerce, transparency in investor-State treaty-based arbitration, public procurement (in particular e-procurement) security interests, and transport, are relevant to developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. In addition, judicial training held for the purpose of promoting uniform interpretation and application of UNCITRAL standards is an important measure in effective institution building, assisting to increase the capacity of judges to properly understand and enforce legal frameworks based on UNCITRAL standards.
Target 16.8: Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
Active participation of domestic governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in UNCITRAL can significantly contribute to understanding of the benefits of using international legal instruments to facilitate commercial law reform. Such participation can allow stakeholders to become familiar with the drafting of international commercial law and the different modalities that can later be used domestically. It can also serve as a platform for exchange of best practices with counterparts from diverse professional and geographical backgrounds. Measures to facilitate expert representation of developing countries in the work of UNCITRAL should therefore remain an ongoing concern. See also target 10.6 for discussion of related issues.
Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
Public access to information is promoted and regulated in particular by UNCITRAL texts in the areas of security interest registries, public procurement and transparency in treaty-based investor-State arbitration. Work to establish best practices in business registration also supports this target, as does the promotion of due process, a feature of many UNCITRAL texts.
Target 16.b: Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development
Internationally recognized standards, such as those elaborated by UNCITRAL, promote equal opportunity, reducing inequalities of outcome and addressing issues of discrimination. Compliance of the local framework with those international standards at the enactment, implementation and enforcement stages should therefore be promoted. See also target 10.3 for discussion of related issues.
17. Partnership for the Goals
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Target 17.1: Strengthen domestic resource mobilization, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection
Resources for development come from various sources, including private investment and international trade. To stimulate access to such resources, the local policy/legal/regulatory and enforcement framework should be built on internationally recognized commercial law standards. The use of UNCITRAL standards helps to ensure recognition and enforcement of property rights and binding commitments, create legal certainty, decrease the level of risk and transactional costs and build confidence in doing business domestically and across borders, which in turn stimulates commerce and the flow of investment (domestic and cross-border). UNCITRAL standards also facilitate sub-regional, regional and international economic integration and cooperation and seek to create new commercial opportunities, for example through e-commerce or harmonized rules to provide for modern transport needs. See also targets 1.a, 10.b, 17.3 and 17.5 for discussion of related issues.
Target 17.3: Mobilize additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources
A modern and harmonized international commercial law framework is the basis for rule-based commercial relations and an indispensable part of international trade. UNCITRAL standards represent what the international community considers, at a given time, to be the best international practices for regulating certain commercial transactions. They equip States with models and guidance to support sound commercial law reform at lower cost. Reliance on such standards enhances the quality of enacted legislation in the long run and builds confidence in the ease of doing business in a country that adheres to them. They thus assist States to put in place the legal framework that would facilitate mobilization of financial resources from multiple sources, including foreign investors, donors and the domestic private sector. See also targets 1.a, 10.b, 17.1 and 17.5 for discussion of related issues.
Target 17.5: Adopt and implement investment promotion regimes for least developed countries
The establishment of sound rules furthering commercial relations is an important factor in economic development. This is because commercial decisions are taken not in isolation but in the context of relevant factors, including the applicable legal framework. To be investment-friendly, investment promotion regimes should therefore be adopted and implemented on the basis of internationally recognized commercial law standards. The harmonization of local legal frameworks with those standards would: (a) facilitate recognition, protection and enforcement of contracts and other commercial legal relations; (b) make commercial law more easily understandable to commercial parties; (c) promote uniform interpretation and application of international commercial law frameworks; and (d) provide legal certainty and predictability in order to assist parties to commercial transactions to take commercially reasonable decisions. See also targets 1.a, 10.b, 17.1 and 17.3 for discussion of related issues.
Target 17.9: Enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the sustainable development goals, including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation
In many States, policymaking and legislative work has not kept pace with international developments in finance and commerce. Some States may have effective laws to regulate commerce, but their economic impact can be limited when there is no local capacity for their proper interpretation or application. To overcome those deficiencies and for accrual of the expected benefits of rule-based commercial relations and international trade, local capacity to develop and implement commercial law reform should not only be built, but regularly reviewed in response to evolving business practices. The effective way to build that local capacity is through technical cooperation, training and capacity-building assistance aimed at strengthening local expertise to draw on readily available international standards, tools and expertise for carrying out commercial law reform at the country level. Coordinated participation of local experts in policy-setting and rule-formulating activities of regional and international bodies is also important for building local capacity. See targets 10.6 and 16.8 for discussion of related issues, and the Guidance Note endorsed by UNCITRAL that aims to address those challenges.
Systemic issues Policy and institutional coherence
Target 17.14: Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development
The experience of UNCITRAL technical assistance and cooperation activities demonstrates that, amid pressure to address other priorities, local needs in commercial law reform are systematically overlooked, with the result that resources are allocated to other areas and the local capacity of countries to engage in commercial law reform is weakened. There are often insufficient people in Governments with expertise in commercial law reform with whom UNCITRAL could establish a sustainable dialogue. For policy coherence for sustainable development, an excessive or exclusive focus on some areas to the detriment of other areas that are less visible should be avoided; reforms should be of an inclusive and comprehensive nature; and institutional reforms should not be undertaken at the expense of legislative reforms or without any necessary legislative underpinning. See also target 17.9 for discussion of related issues.
Target 17.16: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries
UNCITRAL has built strong partnerships with many organizations active in the field of international trade law and related fields. It continues to explore different approaches to the use of partnerships with various stakeholders in the implementation of its mandate, in particular in the area of training and technical assistance. Conducting outreach to United Nations country teams with the goal of increasing their awareness about the work of UNCITRAL and its relevance to their work is necessary, as are fund-raising activities in relation to UNCITRAL trust funds and regional presence. See targets 10.6 and 10.8, 17.9 and 17.17 for discussion of related issues, and the Guidance Note endorsed by UNCITRAL that aims to address those challenges.
Target 17.17: Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships
UNCITRAL is open to suggestions for building effective partnerships with Governments, UN bodies, other institutions and individuals related to the UNCITRAL mandate of modernizing, harmonizing and unifying the law of international trade. In particular, UNCITRAL is interested in achieving: (a) closer cooperation with United Nations country and regional teams on the use of its standards and needs for commercial law reform generally (see the Guidance Note endorsed by UNCITRAL that aims to address those challenges); (b) partnerships with civil society representatives to monitor the effectiveness of UNCITRAL standards; (c) partnerships with academia for UNCITRAL-related research, including on possible topics for future work; and (d) fund-raising for UNCITRAL trust funds and expanding UNCITRAL’s regional and country presence.