Technical Assistance and Coordination

UNCITRAL texts address legal obstacles to international trade and cross-border commercial transactions by establishing substantive private law rules governing cross-border commercial relations. The texts, which provide tools to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, cover commercial transactions, such as the international sale and transport of goods, and aspects of related legal frameworks such as those dealing with international payments, electronic commerce, public procurement and infrastructure development, security interests, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, insolvency of enterprises, and commercial dispute settlement through arbitration and mediation. The texts are designed to provide legal certainty for commercial parties, whether traders, transport companies, e-commerce operators, secured lenders and borrowers, or parties to insolvency proceedings, and for government agencies engaging with commercial parties (e.g., in public procurement or investor-State disputes). While UNCITRAL texts are primarily addressed to States, other organizations, including international development agencies, such as the World Bank, use UNCITRAL texts as a benchmark in their law reform activities. The texts are also used by professional associations, chambers of commerce and arbitration institutions for developing rules and practices.

UNCITRAL texts include:

  • treaties (drafted by UNCITRAL and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly);
  • legislative texts such as model laws (for adoption by individual States), legislative guides and recommendations; and
  • non-legislative texts, such as the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, for adoption by commercial parties in their contracts.

Technical Assistance to Law Reform

States take steps to accede to UNCITRAL texts, whether Conventions, enact national legislation based on Model Laws or other non-binding UNCITRAL texts, and they and other users use UNCITRAL texts to issue rules governing commercial transactions and disputes.  

To assist States and other users in these steps and to support the use of UNCITRAL texts, the UNCITRAL secretariat engages in three main areas of technical assistance:

  • Raising awareness and promoting the adoption of UNCITRAL texts;
  • Providing assistance and advisory services to States, such as providing gap analyses to assess needs for commercial law reform and legislative drafting; and
  • Building capacity to use and implement UNCITRAL texts through activities such as training legal practitioners and the judiciary.

Additional supporting tools include, first, CLOUT, which stands for “Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts”, a system administered by the UNCITRAL secretariat for collecting and disseminating information on court decisions and arbitral awards relating to UNCITRAL texts. The UNCITRAL secretariat is assisted in this task by the national correspondents who comprise the CLOUT network. The UNCITRAL secretariat also operates a Repository of published information on treaty-based investor-State arbitrations, and prepares Digests of Case Law. Finally, the UNCITRAL secretariat curates Library and Research resources. These supporting tools and activities are designed to allow users to reach a common understanding of UNCITRAL texts and to promote consistent legal interpretations of their provisions. 

Through its secretariat, UNCITRAL is represented at meetings of those organizations and actively follows and participates in their work where it relates to topics on UNCITRAL's work programme.

The UNCITRAL secretariat cooperates with a range of partners to expand its ability to provide technical assistance, including organizations within the United Nations system and international development agencies, such as the World Bank and regional development banks.  These partnerships also reflect that UNCITRAL texts can play a positive role in partners’ efforts to support progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNCITRAL texts are freely available from the UNCITRAL website. States are encouraged to advise the Secretariat when they seek to adopt or apply an UNCITRAL text so as to enable UNCITRAL to appreciate the extent of harmonization of international trade law in practice. Such contacts also provide a channel of communication through which users may request technical assistance and can bring to UNCITRAL’s attention any difficulties they may encounter in using the texts.

The UNCITRAL secretariat provides technical assistance at no cost to the user. Some activities are delivered remotely (such as desk-based reviews of draft legislation), while in other cases, the Secretariat may travel to provide in-person briefings, to speak at events, and to engage in dialogue with users to ensure that the texts are implemented in a manner that reflects local circumstances and needs. Where travel is needed, the Secretariat seeks financial support to meet the expenses concerned, which may come from users, partners or its Trust Funds. Requests for technical assistance should be sent to the UNCITRAL secretariat.  

Integration with United Nations operations

With the aim of better integrating UNCITRAL work with the United Nations operations on development, conflict-prevention and post-conflict-reconstruction and in other appropriate contexts, UNCITRAL endorsed the Guidance Note on Strengthening United Nations Support to States, Upon Their Request, to Implement Sound Commercial Law Reforms. The General Assembly, in its resolution 71/135 , paragraph 8 (e), requested the Secretary-General to circulate the Guidance Note as broadly as possible to its intended users.

While endorsing the Guidance Note, the Commission agreed that illustrative indicators relevant in the assessment of the state of the commercial law framework and the need for commercial law reforms in a particular country should be used at working level, as an internal document of the UNCITRAL secretariat, when needed in the negotiation of specific projects with relevant stakeholders, donors and possible partners of UNCITRAL in technical cooperation and assistance projects.

UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific

The UNCITRAL secretariat is located at the United Nations Offices in Vienna. The Secretariat’s technical assistance activities are also undertaken by its UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific, based in Incheon, the Republic of Korea.

The main objectives of the Regional Centre are to (a) enhance international trade and development in the Asia-Pacific region by promoting certainty in international commercial transactions through the dissemination of international trade norms and standards, in particular, those elaborated by UNCITRAL; (b) provide bilateral and multilateral technical assistance to States with respect to the adoption and uniform interpretation of UNCITRAL texts through workshops and seminars; (c) engage in coordination activities with international and regional organizations active in trade law reform projects in the region; and (d) function as a channel of communication between States in the region and UNCITRAL.