UNLAWS 2016: UNCITRAL Working Group II, Vienna, Austria
By Tracy Albin
The UNLAWS program for UNCITRAL Working Group II in Vienna, Austria was an inspiring and amazingly educational experience. The Working Group are currently pursuing their mandate to develop an instrument for the enforceability of settlement agreements arising from mediation and conciliation procedures, similar to the 1958 New York Convention. The meetings were attended by distinguished delegates from around the world, who aimed to achieve significant progress in coordination with the UNCITRAL Secretariat.
The Working Group addressed several issues in Vienna including the suggested form of the instrument, the scope of its application and the definition of several terms including “international”, “settlement agreement” and “conciliation”. Witnessing these discussions stimulated my understanding of the practical operation of these instruments and the way that terms can be interpreted differently by various jurisdictions as well as how the form of the document can have different ramifications, particularly between those States who have a working knowledge of conciliation and mediation processes and those who don’t.
It was also interesting to see the debate concerning what form the instrument should take. Given the mandate of the Working Group is to develop an instrument that will facilitate the harmonisation of laws, it seems peculiar that a Model Law might be more appealing to some States. This was a popular choice amongst States with less experience with mediation and conciliation so that they might have some time to experience the practical operations of the instrument and perhaps implement changes to their domestic legislation rather than adopt an international law.
The divergence of views, the professionalism of the delegates and the respect in the room amongst States, observers and guests provided an all-round enjoyable experience. I have made some professional contacts through this program, experienced Austria for the first time, improved my understanding of the workings of UNCITRAL and furthered my drive for a career in international alternative dispute resolution.
Tracy Albin is an LLB student at Curtin University, Perth