Author: Bette E. Shifman*
Published: June 1990
Description: On December 11, 1985, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved the text of a Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (Model Law) and recommended that states give it “due consideration.” The Model Law was the result of several years of intensive effort by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL or the Commission) to strengthen and improve the international framework for commercial arbitration. It joins UNCITRAL’s other efforts — for example, the widely-used Arbitration Rules produced in 19764 and the 1980 Conciliation Rules — to develop uniform standards for dispute settlement in international transactions.
In 1979, UNCITRAL undertook preliminary work on the Model Law, in consultation with such international entities as the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) and the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA). Moreover, UNCITRAL rejected the AALCC’s suggestion to adopt a protocol revising and supplementing the 1958 United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention), favoring instead a model law format. The Commission felt that a model law would assist states in reforming and modernizing their arbitration law, promoting a uniform interpretation of the New York Convention and reducing conflicts between national laws and arbitration rules.
The UNCITRAL effort was not the first attempt to unify arbitration legislation. In the mid-1930s, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law in Rome (UNIDROIT) began work on a uniform law on arbitration. Interrupted by World War II, UNIDROIT in 1954 produced a draft law that formed the basis of the 1966 European Convention Providing a Uniform Law on Arbitration. The Convention, however, was signed by only two countries and adopted by just one; its failure may have contributed to UNCITRAL’s decision to propose a model law rather than a multilateral convention.
*Member, New York Bar. Attorney, Stibbe, Blaisse & de Jong, Amsterdam. Former member of the research faculty, Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law, Columbia University.