Contractual Dispute Resolution in International Trade: The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1976) and the UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules (1980)

17 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2007

See all articles by Gavan Griffith

Gavan Griffith


Andrew D. Mitchell

University of Melbourne - Law School


Over the past few decades, international commercial dispute resolution has witnessed substantial change and improvement. A notable feature has been a move away from the traditional court-based litigation model, allowing exploration of other methods and techniques. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law ('UNCITRAL') has played an important role in this development of alternative dispute resolution. Since its establishment in 1966 UNCITRAL has made improving international commercial dispute resolution one of its priorities. Two important achievements arising from its efforts are the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1976) ('Arbitration Rules') and the UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules (1980) ('Conciliation Rules'). The products of active participation of international experts from various legal, economic and social backgrounds, both have made a significant contribution to the more efficient resolution of international commercial disputes.

Both sets of Rules are based on agreement between the parties, operating on a private contractual rather than public statutory level. This is an important point which distinguishes the Rules from UNCITRAL's other major achievement in dispute resolution: the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration ('Model Law'). The Rules are a form of contractual trade law dispute resolution. Since the expectations of the private parties to an arbitration or conciliation under the Rules risk being frustrated by the domestic laws of different countries, the Model Law provides countries with a template that they can adopt for their national laws in order to 'provide a hospitable legal climate for international commercial arbitration.'

This article intends to serve as an introduction to the Rules. We begin by distinguishing conciliation from arbitration and explaining the comparative strengths and weaknesses of these two forms of dispute resolution. We then give an outline of the Arbitration Rules in the context of ad hoc and institutional arbitration generally, followed by an assessment of the influence and acceptance of the Arbitration Rules. We provide a similar analysis of the Conciliation Rules, before concluding with a look at the likely development of the two sets of Rules in the future.

Keywords: dispute resolution, UNCITRAL, rules, arbitration, coniliation

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Griffith, Gavan and Mitchell, Andrew D., Contractual Dispute Resolution in International Trade: The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (1976) and the UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules (1980). Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 3, p. 184, 2002; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 217. Available at SSRN:

Gavan Griffith (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

9225 7658, Own Dixon West

Andrew D. Mitchell

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
+61383441098 (Phone)
+61393472392 (Fax)


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