Round-up of Session

17 July 2001


Discusses Draft Convention on Assignment of Receivables in International Trade
And Model Law on Electronic Signatures

VIENNA, 17 July (UN Information Service) – The draft Convention on assignment of receivables in international trade and the draft Model Law on Electronic Signatures were among the topics discussed at the thirty-fourth session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) which finished its work in Vienna on Friday.

The Commission also considered the ongoing and future work. Among other topics, the Commission looked at proposals for future work in the field of electronic commerce, which were discussed at the thirty-third session, in 2000. It was agreed that, in 2002, work should be initiated by the Working Group on Electronic Commerce on the preparation of an international instrument dealing with the issues of electronic contracting. It was also agreed that work should be carried out with a view to removing obstacles to electronic commerce in existing international conventions and other international instruments (such as requirements for "written", "signed" and "original" documents).

The Draft Convention

The draft Convention was prepared by the Working Group on International Contract Practices after eight sessions, from November 1995 to October 1999. At its thirty-third session, in 2000, the Commission adopted articles 1 through 17 of the draft Convention. The remaining articles were reviewed by the Working Group in December 2000. The draft Convention as a whole was finalized by the Commission at its thirty-fourth session.

The main purpose of the draft Convention is to increase the availability of credit at more affordable rates for traders, consumers and public entities. In the context of transactions covered by the draft Convention, such as factoring, forfeiting, securitization, asset based lending, refinancing and project financing, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers of goods and services, may obtain more lower-cost credit by using their good business record and their future cash flow to obtain credit.

The Model Law on Electronic Signatures and Draft Guide to Enactment

The Commission discussed the report of the Working Group on Electronic Commerce on the preparation of uniform rules on the legal issues of digital signatures and certification authorities. The Commission had before it the text of the draft Guide to Enactment, which was completed and adopted by the Working Group at its thirty-eighth session, and a compilation of comments on the draft Model Law received from member States and observers. The Commission reviewed and adopted the draft Model Law and its draft Guide to Enactment.

This Law adopted at this session of the Commission is to apply where electronic signatures are used in the context of commercial activities (although it will not override any consumer protection laws). The new instrument builds on the principles embodied in the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce adopted in 1996 (a particularly successful instrument that has been described as a "landmark in cyberspace"). The newly adopted UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures is intended to provide certainty as to the legal effectiveness of certain electronic authentication techniques and to provide a standard as to the conduct to be observed by the various parties involved in an electronic signature process (the signatory and any relying party, as well as any certification service provider that might intervene in the process). The new Model Law is based on a technologically neutral approach that is not intended to favour any given product on the market. It also provides appropriate recognition of the principle of party autonomy, under which parties to commercial transactions may agree as to the authentication techniques to be used in the context of their commercial relationships.


During its thirty-fourth session it was agreed that the Commission recommend to the General Assembly that the Commission’s membership be increased so as to ensure that the Commission remained representative of all legal traditions and economic systems, in particular in view of the substantial membership of the United Nations. It was agreed that the Commission would recommend to the General Assembly that the Commission’s membership be increased from 36 member states to 72 member states and that the current proportion between regional groups be maintained.


The Commission agreed to embark on work drafting core model legislative provisions in the field of privately financed infrastructure projects; examining possible solutions for a future legislative instrument on transport law and developing an efficient legal regime for security rights in goods involved in a commercial activity.

The Commission also agreed to new working methods to increase its efficiency.

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