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Keywords:

  • delegates;
  • delegations;
  • global governance;
  • global lawmaking;
  • international organizations;
  • international trade law.

Abstract

Who governs in the international organizations (IOs) that promulgate global norms on trade and commercial law? Using a new analytic approach, this paper focuses on previously invisible attributes of a global legislature – the state and non-state delegations and delegates that create universal norms for international trade and commercial law through the most prominent trade law legislature, the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Based on ten years of fieldwork, extensive interviews, and unique data on delegation and delegate attendance and participation in UNCITRAL's Working Group on Insolvency, we find that the inner core of global trade lawmakers at UNCITRAL represent a tiny and unrepresentative subset of state and non-state actors. This disjunction between UNCITRAL's public face, which accords with a global norm of democratic governance, and its private face, where dominant states and private interests prevail, raises fundamental questions about legitimacy and efficacy of representation in global lawmaking.