International Organisations in Vienna: What is the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law?

OrganizationsInternational Organizations ♦ Published: August 3, 2022; 17:02 ♦ (Vindobona)

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is based in Vienna and aims to unify and actively promote international trade law. Learn more about this international organisation in Vienna!

UNCITRAL is based in the Vienna International Centre. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Herbert Ortner, Vienna, Austria [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]

Vienna is known for being home to many international organisations. This is not without reason. As one of the four headquarters of the United Nations (UN), many UN-related organisations are also based in Vienna.

One of them is the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), whose goal is to actively promote the standardisation of international trade law.

Due to increasing globalisation and the ever-advancing economic interdependence of the world, the development and maintenance of a sound and cross-border legal framework to facilitate international trade and investment is of enormous importance and widely recognised.

To promote world trade, UNCITRAL seeks to provide timely, fair and harmonised rules for economic transactions such as globally workable conventions, model laws and rules, guidelines and recommendations on law and legislation, and up-to-date information on legal decisions. It also provides technical assistance on legal reforms and organises regional as well as national seminars for further education.

Since 2004, the Commission has been composed of 60 member states elected geographically by the General Assembly. The members are elected for six years at a time; Austria was a member from 2004 to 2010.

The preparatory work is done in six working groups, among others in the field of arbitration and mediation, for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, for electronic commerce or for insolvency law.

Foundation of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

The Commission was founded in the course of the UN General Assembly on 17 December 1966 with Resolution 2205(XXI). This was a recognition by the UN General Assembly that international trade is hampered by inequalities in national laws.

The Commission has therefore always been mandated to "promote the progressive harmonisation and unification of international trade law" and sees it as its task to identify barriers to international trade, such as outdated laws that no longer reflect practice, and to devise solutions that are acceptable to states with different legal systems and different levels of economic and social development.

The Commission was originally headquartered in New York City (UN Headquarters) and moved to Vienna's UN City in September 1979. It meets alternately in Vienna and New York. The Commission is supported in its work by the International Trade Law Division of the Office of Legal Affairs of the UN Secretariat.

UNCITRAL United Nations Commission on International Trade Law