The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Days, a series of events on International Commercial Law, has been launched in Accra.
UNCITRAL Days, established in 2014, seeks to, among other objectives, raise awareness of UNCITRAL instruments and the importance of legal harmonisation amongst the new generations of legal thinkers and policymakers.
The launch was to kick-off the UNCITRAL Days project and to encourage wide participation from as many African universities as possible by organising an event on their campuses or online in the last quarter of 2022 focused on an overarching theme: “the development of the legal infrastructure to implement AfCFTA commitments in international trade.”
The UNCITRAL Days project was first launched as a regional event in 2014 by the UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific, and in 2020 the inaugural Latin America and Caribbean UNCITRAL Days was held.
In 2020, there were 19 events in the Asia-Pacific region, with 35 partnering universities and institutions in 10 jurisdictions, 30 events in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 34 participating universities and institutions in 16 jurisdictions.
The “UNCITRAL Days” event will be held in Accra in October 2022, with the support of the UNCITRAL Secretariat under a general UNCITRAL-related theme.
Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, speaking at the inaugural ceremony, said the Government of Ghana believed that Africa could integrate its economies in the international trading system when its citizens were equipped with the requisite capacity necessary for a better appreciation and effective application of the rules that govern international trade in its interest.
Most importantly, she explained that capacity development in the field of international commercial law would help African negotiators to contribute effectively to the development and evolution of the rules governing global trade and hence ensure that such rules took into consideration Africa’s peculiar circumstances.
“It is only when we have achieved this task that we can effectively apply the rules in our international trade to our advantage.” Madam Ayorkor Botchwey said.
The Minister said current global economic disruptions emanating from the COVID-19 Pandemic, including its consequential supply chain challenges, climate change as well as food insecurity, demanded that African countries deployed utmost and calculated efforts to all international commercial matters in order to attain its aspirations for development.
Ghana, she noted, therefore endorsed UNCITRAL Days in Africa and called on all African States, Regional Economic Communities and the African Union to deploy deliberate and collective efforts to sustain the yearly awareness and capacity development event on International Commercial Law within the remit of UNCITRAL in Africa.
At the 54th Session in July 2021, UNCITRAL welcomed the successes of the 2020 annual UNCITRAL Days and embraced the forthcoming 2021 series with the potential benefits for other regions to host UNCITRAL Day events.
In that regard, Ambassador Philbert Abaka Johnson, Chairman of UNCITRAL, called for the expansion of the project to Africa and expressed optimism to see the UNCITRAL Days project expanded to Africa in 2022.
Amb. Abaka Johnson, also the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations in Vienna, said many African States collectively endorsed the initiative and that Ghana’s decision to host the inaugural event would yield manifold benefits.
He said the annual flagship academic series were aimed at engendering enhancing discussions on UNCITRAL text by legal scholars, students and public officials with the objective of stimulating interest and bringing to the fore the relevance of international commercial law for sustainable development.
Mr John Ntim Fordjour, Deputy Minister of Education, encouraged such dialogue on critical issues which offered great potential for commercial and inclusive development throughout Africa.
He said developing an awareness of comparative approaches to commercial law and international law in its broad sense would strengthen academic institutions by building an understanding of “international” commercial law to avoid viewing it uniquely through a particular national lens.