At a new Delhi function marking the 50th anniversary of UNCITRAL, Cherie Blair QC gave a keynote speech on global standards for rules-based commerce. Here she has adapted her thoughts for our readers

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) celebrated its 50th anniversary recently. As the core legal body of the UN for international trade, for five decades UNCITRAL has focused on the modernization and harmonization of the rules of international business. Its considerable impact on international dispute resolution sees countries fashioning their arbitration legislation on its Model Law, and organizations globally relying on its rules and procedures to regulate their trading relationships and to settle disputes.

With the founding of the first regional office of UNCITRAL – the Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific – in 2012, the region has seen a 47% increase in the number of states basing their arbitration legislation on the Model Law, from 15 to 22.


UNCITRAL was founded in 1966, a tumultuous year that also saw nine military coups d’état and four former British colonies gain independence. The world was divided between East and West, the Cold War raised the spectre of nuclear strikes and Vietnam served as a literal battleground between capitalism and communism. Trade with the Soviet Bloc was centrally controlled, with much of the region essentially closed off.

Elsewhere in the world, the revolution which overthrew Fulgencio Batista earlier in the decade now entrenched a socialist economy in Cuba, with coups d’état throughout Latin America orchestrated to prevent the communist threat spreading to other countries. ASEAN’s founding in 1967 was understood by many as a demonstration of cooperation and amity in a region torn between communist insurgency and state expansion.

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This article is an adaptation of a keynote speech given by Cherie Blair QC, chair of law firm Omnia Strategy, at a UNCITRAL conference in New Delhi in November 2016, entitled Celebrating UNCITRAL’s 50 Years – Global Standards for Rules-based Commerce. Blair and Claire Kerschensteiner, an associate at Omnia Strategy, adapted the speech specifically for our readers. subscripton ad red 2022