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    UNIS/L/315
    19 July 2021

    The UNCITRAL Secretariat holds series of events to highlight technical assistance to States in commercial law reform and COVID-19 economic recovery

    VIENNA, 19 July (UN Information Service) – The Secretariat of United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) hosted a series of events to support States in commercial law reform and to highlight the importance of resilience in that framework to facilitate COVID-19 economic recovery during the Commission’s 54th session. Over 400 participants took part in the events during the Commission session.

    On 30th June 2021, the Africa Forum brought together approximately 50 representatives from African States and beyond to share their perspectives on areas of commercial law that have particular resonance in the region, including digitization of the economy and the establishment of a harmonized legal framework for a fair and efficient settlement of international investment disputes. Discussions also highlighted the critical importance of transparency, accountability and good governance in the commercial law framework, and of harmonization of commercial law in the region (which, it was noted, had received a considerable boost with the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement). The Forum highlighted the benefits of enhancing participation of African countries in UNCITRAL’s work in terms of ensuring that this work took account of regional interests, and the need to deploy technical assistance and capacity-building tools to enhance the effective understanding and use of UNCITRAL texts throughout the region.

    On 7th July, a roundtable on Investor-State Mediation, jointly organized with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) (https://icsid.worldbank.org/), explored how mediation could be promoted in the context of Investor State dispute settlement (ISDS), a topic also discussed in the context of UNCITRAL Working Group III’s ongoing work on ISDS reform. The roundtable also discussed the necessary institutional capacity of States to engage constructively in mediation, the applicable legal framework for mediation, the ICISD Mediation rules currently under adoption and treaty practice. Good practice examples from States from different regions and the possible role of an advisory centre on investment law in fostering mediation were also considered. Speakers agreed on the momentum in favour of mediation coming from the Singapore Convention on Mediation, but that building capacity remained a key need.

    On 8th July, the Swiss Arbitration Association gave a presentation on the Swiss Arbitration Association Toolbox (https://toolbox.swissarbitration.org/toolbox/home), a free-to-use electronic platform that provides practical advice on the various stages of an arbitration and complements the UNCITRAL Notes on Organizing Arbitral Proceedings. The guidance in the toolbox accommodates the need for flexibility in arbitration, the diversity of rules and approaches in arbitral proceedings, and the varying levels of arbitrator experience, without promoting any specific practices or notion of best practice. The utilization of an interactive questionnaire to guide users to relevant information was highlighted as being especially useful.

    On 9th July, participants listened to a proposal to initiate a “Net Zero Legislative Project”, through collaboration among the Net Zero Lawyers’ Alliance, the Oxford Sustainable Law Programme, the Climate Law and Governance Initiative and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. A roundtable discussion considered a stocktaking of UNCITRAL’s existing texts to identify provisions that may offer legal tools to assist both States and non-State actors in moving towards net zero emissions by 2050, and the possibility of additional texts to address issues in global energy, infrastructure, industrial and land use markets and systems. UNCITRAL texts in public-private partnerships, international contracts for the sale of goods, dispute resolution and legal frameworks to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) were considered particularly relevant. The roundtable concluded that a feasibility study would help UNCITRAL’s Member States consider UNCITRAL’s role in addressing these critical issues.

    On 12th July, UNCITRAL launched its first e-learning course “Introduction to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law” developed in partnership with the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (available at https://ecampus.itcilo.org/course/view.php?id=1637). The interactive and “self-paced” course introduces users to legal harmonization and promoting international trade; UNCITRAL’s methods of work and how UNCITRAL texts contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. The three modules are the first of a series and are intended to supplement the secretariat’s face-to-face training activities and to increase its knowledge-sharing capacity. The primary audience of the course are government officials working with UNCITRAL as delegates or users of UNCITRAL texts, but the course also serves as a good introduction to anyone who is interested in international trade law reform.

    On 16th July, the Commission held two panel discussions on technical assistance activities supporting the use of its texts. The first focussed on recovery from the economic shock induced by COVID-19 from the context of MSMEs. Representatives from Africa, Asia and Latin America (Cote d’Ivoire, Thailand, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Chile, Dominican Republic) and donor agencies shared their views on the various strategies and means available to assist MSMEs in growth and development, as well as addressing financial distress. Tools included a mediation-based dispute resolution for MSMEs facing financial difficulties, other support such as access to public procurement and debt relief, simplified and streamlined insolvency procedures, and sectoral support. Participants stressed the contributions of informal sectors of the economy, and the importance of simple business registration of MSMEs as formal businesses to ensure support measures are made available to them in an efficient and quick manner. The World Bank and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) emphasized the overall contribution of MSMEs to the economic growth of a country, their importance for attaining the development goals, and the benefits of collaboration with UNCITRAL and use of its texts in technical assistance to States. A key takeaway was the importance of a modern and innovative legal framework for MSMEs to support progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and UNCITRAL texts on the business cycle of MSMEs were said to be highly relevant in that respect.

    The second panel celebrated the UNCITRAL Days in Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean – a flagship annual academic series that the UNCITRAL Secretariat co-hosts with institutions of higher learning and public agencies aimed at promoting awareness, study and discussion of UNCITRAL texts by legal scholars and students. Following the secretariat overview of the 2020 UNCITRAL Days, which totalled 49 events in 26 jurisdictions and a live online audience of many thousands, representatives from Peru and the Republic of Korea delivered keynote speeches on their respective UNCITRAL Days experiences, with representatives from Argentina and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), North Asia, sharing their perspectives as UNCITRAL Days co-organizers. The celebration concluded with an open invitation for interested institutions and agencies in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean to submit proposals to co-host an UNCITRAL Day 2021 event. The Chairman of UNCITRAL, Philibert Abaka Johnson, the Permanent Representative of Ghana, called for an inaugural UNCITRAL Africa Day in 2022.

    Video recordings, together with the programme, speaker details and summaries of their remarks, where applicable, are available at the UNCITRAL website: https://uncitral.un.org/en/content/side-events-54th-commission-session.

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    The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law. Its mandate is to remove legal obstacles to international trade by progressively modernizing and harmonizing trade law. It prepares legal texts in a number of key areas such as international commercial dispute settlement, electronic commerce, insolvency, international payments, sale of goods, transport law, procurement and infrastructure development. UNCITRAL also provides technical assistance to law reform activities, including assisting Member States to review and assess their law reform needs and to draft the legislation required to implement UNCITRAL texts. The UNCITRAL Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria, and maintains a website at https://uncitral.un.org/

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    For more information please contact:

    José Angelo Estrella Faria
    Principal Legal Officer and Head, Legislative Branch
    UNCITRAL Secretariat
    Email: joseangelo.estrella-faria[at]un.org