UNCITRAL Working Group I: Personal Experience by James Keir

 

It was one of those ‘pinch me moments’ wandering down the streets of New York into the United Nations Secretariat Building as a delegate to an international trade law conference. While the 30th session of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Working Group I (Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) did not involve wholesale legal discussions, it was absolutely critical to the continued existence of the Working Group and an absolute privilege to attend- as part of the LAWASIA delegation and the UNCITRAL National Coordination Committee for Australia (UNCCA).

As a student with an interest in corporate and commercial law, Working Group I was well suited to my future career ambitions. Listening in on the discussions, I gained a fantastic insight into international diplomacy, the negotiations that underpin international law making and the process by which delegates from different legal traditions determine international best practice. There was also time for diplomacy of my own, with the opportunity to meet the incredibly gracious and welcoming students of the European Law Students Association (ELSA) and delegates from all over the world. The Canadian and Israeli delegations were especially generous with their time and expertise.

The spirit of diplomacy and compromise was critical to the progress achieved by the Working Group in this session. There was tremendous pressure to settle and submit the draft legislative guide (to the UNCITRAL Commission for adoption) and you could feel the urgency in the room. With tight time constraints imposed by the translators (who were forced to work very hard to keep up with the Spanish language speaking delegations), tensions were high and the Chairperson was forced to keep a firm check on issues that had been debated in previous sessions. In the midst of a particularly passionate debate on the role of notaries in the business registration process, the Chairperson (with typical good humour) was forced to ‘postpone’ the comments of the Council of the Notariats of the EU (CNUE). However, in line with the inclusive spirit fostered by UNCITRAL, the CNUE was given the opportunity to speak the very next day (despite the need to finalize the draft and the minutes of the meeting). This chain of events was emblematic of the Working Group session.

Aside from the formal sessions, I loved the opportunity to experience all that the United Nations had to offer. We were lucky enough to attend the Working Group sessions at the same time as meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women. Over 6,000 women descended on the United Nations Secretariat Building and fostered an energy and purpose that permeated throughout the building.

Having now moved past the administratively difficult (and at times drawn-out) discussions on business registration, this Working Group can pursue its true mandate- the United Nations Limited Liability Organisation. This was an experience I will not forget and one I would recommend to anyone!

James Keir

11 April 2018