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UNCITRAL Working Group V

The Ian Fletcher Moot is proud to be supported by UNCITRAL Working Group V (WGV). Each year UNCITRAL offers a prize for our Best Mooter in the finals to attend a session of WGV, either in Vienna or New York. 

What is UNCITRAL Working Group V?

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law. A legal body with universal membership specializing in commercial law reform worldwide for over 50 years, UNCITRAL's business is the modernization and harmonization of rules on international business.

Working Group V specialises in Insolvency Law. The 63rd session, held in December 2023 in Vienna, continued deliberations on civil asset tracing and recovery in insolvency proceedings (ATR), and applicable law in insolvency proceedings (APL). This session was attended by the winner of the 2022 Best Mooter, William Liu, Monash University, Australia.

Report from William Liu on WGV December 2023

After being awarded best oralist in the 2022 Fletcher Moot, INSOL International generously granted me a stipend to observe the UNCITRAL Working Group V on Insolvency in Vienna, from 11–15 December 2023. INSOL sponsored my flights and accommodation, and arranged for me to have access to the Vienna International Centre. It was incredible being inside the UN building, seeing the famous flags, the snow, and the exhibits. I’m grateful to Samira Musayeva, the Secretary of Working Group V, for hosting me; and to Anne Mostad-Jensen, the UNCITRAL Legal Librarian, for being my guide throughout the five days.

Once I stepped into the conference room, I saw hundreds of representatives from States and organisations all around the world. Everyone was deeply experienced in insolvency law, both from a legal and a policy perspective. There were two key items of discussion. The first was a ‘toolbox’ to guide States in their efforts to trace and recover assets disposed of by insolvent debtors. The second was draft legislation, with commentary, on applicable law in insolvency proceedings. I was impressed by how closely the Working Group scrutinised both texts, paragraph by paragraph, often descending into the implications of a specific word.

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William Liu with the team from Monash University 2022.

I learned a lot about substantive insolvency law. For instance, I learned about the various ways in which different jurisdictions provide for asset recovery: from avoidance (as distinct from actio pauliana), to a familiar device in my own common law jurisdiction, the constructive trust. Other topics of interest included cooperation between judiciaries, registers of assets and security interests, and interim orders to preserve assets.

I also learned a lot about the policy imperatives motivating insolvency law. It became clear to me that a coherent and predictable insolvency law made lending safer, and thereby had the potential to lead to a more efficient and productive economy. This was particularly pronounced during the choice of law discussions.

A third thing I learned about was the cooperation needed in a cross-border context. States and observers were respectful, and always listened closely to what others had to say before responding in a considered manner. It was also impressive how they transcended linguistic borders. On the final day, a delegate suggested that the French version of a text would result in an inconsistent outcome as compared to, say, the English version. He was invited to re-draft the relevant passage, and shortly after, his draft was incorporated. To have people working in six languages at once, and for them all to understand each other, thanks to real-time interpretation, was extraordinary.

I was also grateful to the care shown to me by INSOL. I had thought that I would be wandering the streets of Vienna at night by myself (which would have been nothing to complain about!), but instead I was invited by INSOL’s President (who was also Australia’s representative in the Working Group), Scott Atkins, to various social events: from drinks evenings where I had the chance to meet States’ representatives, to more intimate dinners where I got to speak to INSOL practitioners from all around the world. Thankfully I did get to explore the Christmas Markets and have a mug of Glühwein in the end! With a few palaces and museums in between.

Participating in the Fletcher Moot, and visiting the Working Group in Vienna, have been incredible experiences I won’t forget. I express my deep gratitude to INSOL International, UNCITRAL, and the Fletcher Moot, and its sponsors and supporters, for making this all possible. And I recommend any student thinking about participating to dive straight in! Before I did the moot I had never encountered insolvency law. Now I am hoping to practice in it.

Foundation Sponsors

It is with great appreciation that we acknowledge the foundation sponsors for the Ian Fletcher International Insolvency Law Moot.

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