Nearing its centenary, UNIDROIT pivots to Africa

As the celebration of its 100th anniversary nears, UNIDROIT is committing itself to contributing towards reaching Agenda 2030’s goals for sustainable development.

At present, UNIDROIT counts 65 Member States, but that tally does not reflect the fact that, “together, UNIDROIT’s 65 Member States represent three-quarters of world population and 90 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of our planet”, underlines Secretary-General Ignacio Tirado. While each of UNIDROIT’s current  Member States from Africa enjoys great economic, demographic and historical importance, they are only four in number: Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tunisia.

With this very point, Secretary-General Tirado opened the second edition of the International Programme for Law and Development, which just finished its three-week in-person module at the seat of UNIDROIT in Rome, hosting 22 jurists from 17 African countries. The participants were judges, state lawyers, and legislative drafters, hailing from diverse regions and backgrounds across the African continent. What emerged from their observations was the great potential of UNIDROIT’s instruments.

According to Diana Nkatha Kanyuithia, a lawyer with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Farming, “growth of opportunities and contracts in the agricultural sector represent a challenge” that must be faced with the necessary expertise. She added, “These three weeks together have been a pan-African dialogue. Participants exchanged views and experiences on situations and problems from their own countries.”

Salid Said Salim, Director of Somalia’s Institute for Development and Analysis of Research and a legal consultant for his Government on projects financed by the World Bank, declared, “There are new opportunities, including regarding infrastructure projects, that our country cannot miss, especially after a civil conflict”. Additionally, Trudie Nichols, a South African lawyer, highlighted the potential of the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts: “Training projects like this are very important – they provide jurists with new instruments in support of choices that could bring benefits to their countries”.

The idea, according to UNIDROIT, is that the unification of private (and especially commercial) law at the international level, as a way to harmonise and modernise countries’ legislation, can play a role in development. “The 100th  anniversary of Institute’s foundation, in 2026, will be a stride towards Agenda 2030”, continued Secretary-General Tirado. “As an international community, we will be called upon to verify what has been done and what still has to be done – for instance, in terms of access to credit and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses that have social value, starting from the field of agriculture is a priority for UNIDROIT”.

The courses were also enriched by the additional participation of jurists connecting remotely from Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya and Algeria – in the words of Marco Nicoli, Director of the IPLD, “a way to expand and multiply participation”. Indeed, Nicoli concluded at the closing ceremony of the course: “Certainly, this is only the beginning of the journey”.

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