In 1929 Ernst Rabel, member of the Governing Council, proposed that UNIDROIT should consider working on international sales. The Council accepted this proposal, deciding that the necessary preparatory studies should be undertaken and that the preparation of a future uniform law should be entrusted to a Committee. This Committee was chaired by Cecil J.B. Hurst with E. Rabel, A. Bagge, H. Capitant, M. Fehr, H.C. Gutteridge and J. Hamel as members. A preliminary draft of an international law on the sale of goods was submitted by the Committee to the Council in 1934. After having been approved by the UNIDROIT Council, the draft international law was transmitted, together with an Explanatory Report, to the League of Nations, with a view to soliciting comments from the member States of the League.

The Committee revised the text in the light of the comments received and in 1939 the Governing Council adopted a revised version of the draft. However, the Second World War interrupted work, which was resumed only in 1951, when the Government of the Netherlands convened a Conference to adopt the text.

The time that had passed made a revision of the text necessary, for which reason it was decided that a Special Commission should be appointed to further elaborate the text. The Special Commission produced two separate drafts, the first in 1956, the second in 1963. In the meantime UNIDROIT produced a separate draft uniform law dealing with the formation of international sales contracts.

The two draft instruments were favourably received, leading to the Government of the Netherlands convening a Diplomatic Conference for their final adoption. The Diplomatic Conference was held in The Hague from 2 to 25 April 1964, the instruments adopted being the Convention relating to a Uniform Law on the International Sale of Goods (ULIS), and the Convention relating to a Uniform Law on the Formation of Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (ULFC). Both entered into force in 1972.

Also UNCITRAL started to look at international sales early on in its history. It was only four years after the adoption of the 1964 Hague Conventions that UNCITRAL requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to transmit to all Member States of the UN the text of both the Hague Conventions to ask them if they intended to adhere and what their position was as regards the two Conventions.

The analysis of the replies revealed that the two instruments were considered to be too Euro-centric and that this was the reason States did not consider them favourably. UNICTRAL consequently began to work on what was to become the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG), which has a broader basis even if it was prepared on the basis of the two 1964 Conventions. To all intents and purposes the 1980 Convention has replaced the two Hague Conventions.

The Commentary to the two Hague Conventions was written by Prof. André Tunc, Professor, Faculty of Law and Economic Science, Paris, and published by the Ministry of Justice of the Netherlands. It is reproduced on this site.