A few years after its establishment, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) began, through a Working Party on Legal Questions which was a subsidiary body of the Inland Transport Committee, to consider problems of private law arising from contracts for the international carriage of goods by road. In this area, ECE was able to make use of the studies which had already been undertaken, pursuant to a suggestion made by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) on 29 March 1948, in a committee - at first tripartite (UNIDROIT, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and the International Road Transport Union (IRU)), and later quadripartite (as a result of the participation of the International Union of Marine Insurance as well); - which worked under the chairmanship of the representative of Sweden, Mr. Bagge, and with the collaboration of many experts from different countries.
At its fifth session (4 to 7 February 1952), the ECE Working Party on Legal Questions established a small committee of legal experts (Mr. Hostie, Mr. de Sydow and Mr. Kopelmanas) which, on 21 December 1953, submitted a report to which a preliminary draft (TRANS/WP9/22) was annexed. This preliminary draft, together with the many comments on it received from Governments, constituted the basis for negotiations during the two sessions of an ECE Ad Hoc Working Party in which the final text of the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR) was established.
The first of the two sessions of the Ad Hoc Working Party was held from 12 to 28 April 1955, under the chairmanship of the representative of Sweden, Mr. G. de Sydow (TRANS/152 - TRANS/WP9/32). This session was attended by representatives of 11 States, as well as observers from UNIDROIT, ICC and IRU. The second session of the Ad Hoc Working Party was held from 12 to 19 May 1956, again under the chairmanship of Mr. G. de Sydow (TRANS/168 - TRANS/WP9/35). This second session was attended by representatives of 15 States, as well as observers from UNIDROIT, ICC, IRU, the Central Office for International Railway Transport (OCTIC) and the International Union of Railways (UIC). The Convention was opened for signature on 19 May 1956 at a special session of the ECE Inland Transport Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Mátyássi (Hungary), and was signed on that day by representatives of Austria, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia (E/ECE/TRANS/490). The CMR entered into force on 2 July 1961, following the deposit of the first five instruments of ratification (Austria, France, Italy, Netherlands and Yugoslavia).
(Excerpt from Roland LOEWE, Commentary on the Convention of 19 May 1956 on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR), in: European Transport Law 1976, 311 – 405.)
For the documents relating to this project issued by UNIDROIT, see Preparatory Work.