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What Is UNCITRAL?

The United Nations, which is headquarted in New York City, created UNCITRAL to promote international trade.
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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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The United Nations is an international organization that was founded in 1945 after World War II with the goal or promoting world peace and helping to facilitate the implementation of international law and economic and social development. The United Nations has a number of committees and commissions within the organization that work on specialized issues, such as the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, or UNCITRAL. Formed in 1996, the purpose of UNCITRAL is to "promote the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law."

With the rapid advancement in technology that followed the World War II, international trade began to increase and the need for an international body to help both promote and regulate it became apparent. As of 2002, UNCITRAL membership included representatives of 60 nations. Because nations around the world have varying levels of advancement as well as diverse legal systems and traditions, membership is intended to be a representative collection of nations. Representatives are elected to a six-year term, with terms staggered so that approximately half the memberships expire every three years.

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The members of UNCITRAL devote much of their time to conducting research into international trade relations and analyzing the research to look for ways to simplify and unify international trade. The committees within create drafts that are submitted to the entire membership at its annual meetings for adoption. If the entire membership of UNCITRAL adopts a text at one of its annual conventions, then the member states must ratify the agreement. If a state signs the agreement, or ratifies the agreement, then the terms are binding on the nation. Examples of agreements that have been ratified by UNCITRAL include The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, and The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea.

The members of UNCITRAL also draft model laws that are intended to be incorporated into national laws of the member nations. These laws are not laws in and of themselves, as there is no legal system to enforce the laws. The idea is to give member nations a model text to use that they may then make a part of their own legal system. The UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures, Model Law on International Credit Transfers, and the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration are examples of model laws created by the members of UNCITRAL.

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