John Honnold -- UNCITRAL Documents... Go to Database Directory || Go to CISG Table of Contents

Reproduced with permission from 27 American Journal of Comparative Law (1979) 217-221

UNCITRAL Documents: Research Sources, Style, Citation

John Honnold

  1. The UNCITRAL Yearbooks
         Citation Form
  2. The Reports on UNCITRAL's Annual Sessions
         Citation Form
  3. Working Group Reports; Reports by the Secretary General
         UN Citation System
         Other Material
  4. Register of Trade Law Texts

I. The UNCITRAL Yearbooks


The most convenient reference tool for access to the U.N. documentation on the work of UNCITRAL is the series of UNCITRAL Yearbooks. The Yearbooks include the reports by UNCITRAL on its annual sessions; these annual reports by UNCITRAL provide an overview of current work in process and summaries of debates on important issues, and set forth the legislative texts approved by the Commission. The Yearbooks also include action by the General Assembly and other U.N. organs on the Commission's reports, and set forth the final texts of international conventions emanating from UNCITRAL.

Also included is material which is often difficult to obtain in its documentary form: The reports of Working Groups and of the Secretary-General. These latter reports include intensive studies and drafts of legislative texts that provided the basis for the Commission's action. The Yearbooks also include bibliographies on the various topics in the Commission's program.

It should be assumed that any library for legal research has copies of the Yearbooks.

Citation Form

In this Symposium the Yearbooks are usually cited in the following abbreviated manner: I Yearbook 65, (1968-70, the only volume that covers more than one year); II Yearbook 232, and so on. Eight volumes are now available. Each volume, in general, includes documents issued within the year the volume covers. The time required for editing and printing results in a delay of about a year between the period covered and the date of publication.

The full titles of the Yearbooks, and U.N. document numbers that may be useful in ordering copies, are as follows:

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, Yearbook Volume I: 1968-1970 (United Nations, New York 1971; Doc. A/CN.9/SER.A/1970; U.N. Publication Sales Number E.71.V.1). In the Sales Number, "E" refers to the English version; the French, Spanish and Russian language versions have the reference letters "F," "S" and "R," respectively. The significance of the versions in these languages should not be overlooked by one engaged in [page 217] research that includes the international implementation and interpretation of the UNCITRAL texts.

The succeeding volumes of the Yearbook have the same title, except for the year. For these volumes the document and publication numbers (for the English version) are as follows:

Volume II: 1971 (1972; A/CN.9/SER.A/1971; E.72.V.4)
Volume III: 1972 (1973; A/CN.9/SER.A/1972; E.73.V.6)
Volume IV: 1973 (1974; A/CN.9/SER.A/1973; E.74.V.3)
Volume V: 1974 (1975; A/CN.9/SER.A/1974; E.75.V.2)
Volume VI: 1975 (1976; A/CN.9/SER.A/1975; E.76.V.5)
Volume VII: 1976 (1977; A/CN.9/SER.A/1976; E.77.V.1)
Volume VIII: 1977 (1978; A/CN.9/SER.A/1977; E.78.V.7).

II. The Reports on UNCITRAL's Annual Sessions


As was noted above, the Commission's annual reports and other documents issued within the year will be available only in the separate U.N. Documents. These are available in U.N. Depository Libraries; individual documents may be ordered from U.N. Publications, Sales Section, Room A-3315, United Nations, N.Y. 10017, or U.N. Publications, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. In view of the wide range of U.N. documentation, reference to the document number will often be necessary.

Citation Form

The key to the citation system can best be seen with the help of an example. UNCITRAL's report on its 1978 session has the following cumbersome title and citation: Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the Work of its eleventh session, 30 May -- 16 June 1978, General Assembly, Official Records: Thirty-Third Session, Supplement No. 17 (A/33/17). (This last reference (A/33/17) completely identifies the report for one familiar with U.N. documentation). In this Symposium, the above report is cited: UNCTIRAL, Report on Eleventh Session (1978).

In view of the availability and convenience of the Yearbooks, one will rarely need to obtain the original documents for past years. In any event, the following table gives the operative document number for the First (1968) through Eleventh (l978) sessions of UNCITRAL; the third column gives the reference to the Volume and page of the Yearbook where the Report is reproduced.

UNCITRAL's Annual Reports
UNCITRAL Session Document No. Yearbook (Vol. & Page)
First (1968) A/7216
I, 71
Second (1969) A/7618
I, 95
Third (1970) A/8017
I, 129
Fourth (1971) A/8417
II, 9
Fifth (1972) A/8717
III, 9 [page 218]
Sixth (1973) A/9017
IV, 11
Seventh (1974) A/9617
V, 13
Eighth (1975) A/10017
VI, 9
Ninth (1976) A/31/17
VII, 9
Tenth (1977) A/32/17
VIII, 11
Eleventh (1978) A/33/17

III. Working Group Reports; Reports by the Secretary General

The most detailed and helpful research material on the comparative law and commercial background and the legislative history of UNCITRAL's projects can be found in the reports of UNCITRAL's Working Groups (cross-sections of the Commission) and in reports of the Secretary-General to these Working Groups.

As mentioned above, all except the most recent of these reports are reproduced in the Yearbooks. However, books and articles often fail to give the citations to the Yearbook. Consequently, attention needs to be given to the U.N.'s system for designating documents.

UN Citation System

The document numbers will be more comprehensible with the help of a key. The U.N. General Assembly has the designation "A". Accordingly, reports to the General Assembly by constituent bodies like UNCITRAL bear the designation "A" followed by a number identifying the report. (The pattern can be seen from the table "UNCITRAL's Annual Reports" in Part II, above). UNCITRAL is the ninth commission that reports to the General Assembly; accordingly, reports to UNCITRAL are designated "A/CN.9," followed by a further number that identifies the report in question.

The principal bodies that report to UNCITRAL are its Working Groups. The following tables will provide a key for the principal reports.

Reports of the Working Group on the International Sale of Goods

Session Document No. Yearbook (Vol. & Page)
First (Jan. 1970) A/CN.9/35
I, 176
Second (Dec. 1970) A/CN.9/52
II, 50
Third (Jan. 1972) A/CN.9/62
III, 77
Fourth (Jan. 1973) A/CN.9/75
IV, 61
Fifth (Jan. 1974) A/CN.9/87
V, 29
Sixth (Jan. 1975) A/CN.9/100
VI, 49
Seventh (Jan. 1976) A/CN.9/116
VII, 87
Eighth (Jan. 1977) A/CN.9/128
VIII, 73
Ninth (Sept. 1977) A/CN.9/142

Reports of the Secretary-General (i.e., reports by the Secretariat of the Commission -- the International Trade Law Branch of U.N. Office of Legal Affairs) setting forth studies and draft texts on specific topics are usually addressed to a Working Group; in this case the [page 219] Working Group's report will refer to the Secretary-General's report and set forth a reference number. The reference number for such if a report builds on the reference system described above. The Working Group on the International Sale of Goods, as the second such working group, bears the designation "WG.2." A report to this working group is designated "A/CN.9/WG.2" plus an identifying number. For example, the Report of the Secretary-General "'Delivery' in ULIS" is number A/CN.9/WG.2/WP.8. This report appears in the Yearbook, Vol. III at p. 31. Succeeding reports by the Secretary-General dealing with the revision of ULIS appear in the Yearbook at the following volumes and pages: III, 41; IV, 36; V, 80; VI, 88, 110. See also VII, 96 (Commentary on draft Convention on the International Sale of Goods).

Reports of the Working Group on International Legislation on Shipping

Session Document No. Yearbook (Vol. & Page)
First/Second (1970/71) A/CN.9/55
II, 133
Third (Jan. 1972) A/CN.9/63
III, 251
Fourth (Sept. 1972) A/CN.9/74
IV, 137
Fifth (Feb. 1973) A/CN.9/76
IV, 200
Sixth (Feb. 1974) A/CN.9/88
V, 113
Seventh (Sept. 1974) A/CN.9/96
VI, 187
Eighth (Feb. 1975) A/CN.9/105
VI, 222

Reports by the Secretary-General setting forth studies and recommendations on international shipping legislation appear in the Yearbook at the following volumes and pages: III, 159; IV, 263; V,140; VI, 203; VII, 263, 299.

Reports of the Working Group on International Negotiable Instruments

Session Document No. Yearbook (Vol. & Page)
First (Jan. 1973) A/CN.9/77
IV, 101
Second (Jan. 1974) A/CN.9/86
V, 97
Third (Jan. 1975) A/CN.9/99
VI, 121
Fourth (Feb. 1976) A/CN.9/117
VII, 143
Fifth (July 1977) A/CN.9/141
Sixth (Jan 1978) A/CN.9/147
Seventh (Jan. 1979) A/CN.9/157

Reports of the Secretary-General with respect to international negotiable instruments appear in the Yearbook at the following volumes and pages: II, 113, 114; III, 145 (draft uniform law and commentary); IV, 117 (revised draft uniform law); VI, 136.

Reports of the Working Group on Time-Limits and Limitations (Prescription)

Session Document No. Yearbook (Vol. & Page)
First (Aug. 1969) A/CN.9/30
I, 218
Second (Aug. 1970) A/CN.9/50
II, 87
Third (Aug. 1971) A/CN.9/70
III, 109 [page 220]

Reports dealing with the above topic appear in the Yearbook at I, 74; III, 96. The draft provisions developed by the working group provided the basis for a Convention adopted at a diplomatic conference: The Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods, signed at the United Nations, N.Y., 14 June 1974. (A/CONF. 63/15). The Final Act of the Conference and the Convention are set forth in V Yearbook 209. The Proceedings of the Conference appear in a separate volume.

Other Material

It is possible here only to illustrate the material on international trade law in the yearbooks. In addition, there are important studies and reports (inter alia) on arbitration (I, 260; III, 193) (Study by Special Rapporteur); (VI, 163-186; VII 157-192); security interests (VIII, 171, 222); products liability (VI, 255, VIII, 235-288); general conditions (standard contracts) of sale (I, 207, 216, II, 66; IV, 80); documentary credits (I, 256; VI, 143); and background studies on the development of the law of international trade (I, 18).

IV. Register of Trade Law Texts

UNCITRAL has built on a substantial body of international conventions, international trade terms and other instruments relating to international trade law. These pre-UNCITRAL texts were published, under UNCITRAL auspices, in two volumes:

Register of Texts of Conventions and other Instruments Concerning International Trade Law, Vol. I (United Nations, 1971; E.71.V.3);Vol. II (United Nations, 1973; E.73.V.3). Volume I includes international conventions on the international sale of goods and other instruments in this field (e.g., ULIS; General Conditions of COMECON; INCOTERMS). This volume also includes conventions and other instruments in the field of international payments (e.g. the Geneva Conventions of 1930 and 1931; ICC Rules on Documentary Credits). Volume II sets forth conventions and uniform rules on Arbitration and Shipping.


In this Symposium these volumes are cited as U.N. Register of Trade Law Texts. [page 221]

Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated October 9, 2008
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