United Nations General Assembly

United Nations General Assembly

Overview
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:
  • General Assembly members
  • General Assembly observers
    United Nations General Assembly observers
    In addition to the current 193 member states, the United Nations welcomes many international organizations, entities, and non-member states as observers. Observer status is granted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution...




The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA/GA) is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations
United Nations System
The United Nations system consists of the United Nations, its subsidiary organs , the specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations...

 and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

, receive reports from other parts of the United Nations and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions
United Nations General Assembly Resolution
A United Nations General Assembly Resolution is voted on by all member states of the United Nations in the General Assembly.General Assembly resolutions usually require a simple majority to pass...

.
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Encyclopedia
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:
  • General Assembly members
  • General Assembly observers
    United Nations General Assembly observers
    In addition to the current 193 member states, the United Nations welcomes many international organizations, entities, and non-member states as observers. Observer status is granted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution...




The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA/GA) is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations
United Nations System
The United Nations system consists of the United Nations, its subsidiary organs , the specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations...

 and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

, receive reports from other parts of the United Nations and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions
United Nations General Assembly Resolution
A United Nations General Assembly Resolution is voted on by all member states of the United Nations in the General Assembly.General Assembly resolutions usually require a simple majority to pass...

. It has also established a wide number of subsidiary organs.

The General Assembly meets under its president
President of the United Nations General Assembly
The President of the United Nations General Assembly is a position voted for by representatives in the United Nations General Assembly on a yearly basis.- Election :...

 or Secretary-General in regular yearly sessions the main part of which lasts from September to December and resumed part from January until all issues are addressed (which often is just before the next session's start). It can also reconvene for special and emergency special sessions. Its composition, functions, powers, voting, and procedures are set out in Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter
Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter
Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter contains the Charter's provisions dealing with the UN General Assembly, specifically its composition, functions, powers, voting, and procedures.-Primacy of the General Assembly:...

.

The first session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Westminster Central Hall
Westminster Central Hall
The Westminster Central Hall or Methodist Central Hall is a Methodist church in the City of Westminster. It occupies the corner of Tothill Street and Storeys Gate just off Victoria Street in London, near the junction with The Sanctuary next to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre and facing...

 in London and included representatives of 51 nations.

Voting in the General Assembly on important questions – recommendations on peace and security; election of members to organs; admission, suspension, and expulsion of members; budgetary matters – is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Other questions are decided by majority vote. Each member country has one vote. Apart from approval of budgetary matters, including adoption of a scale of assessment, Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except matters of peace and security under Security Council consideration. The one state, one vote power structure theoretically allows states comprising just eight percent of the world population to pass a resolution by a two-thirds vote.

During the 1980s, the Assembly became a forum for the North-South dialogue – the discussion of issues between industrialized nations and developing countries. These issues came to the fore because of the phenomenal growth and changing makeup of the UN membership. In 1945, the UN had 51 members. It now has 193, of which more than two-thirds are developing countries
Developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly (using coordinating groups like the G77
Group of 77
The Group of 77 at the United Nations is a loose coalition of developing nations, designed to promote its members' collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations. There were 77 founding members of the organization, but the organization has...

), the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal outlet for their foreign relations initiatives.

Agenda


The agenda for each session is planned up to seven months in advance and begins with the release of a preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda. This is refined into a provisional agenda 60 days before the opening of the session. After the session begins, the final agenda is adopted in a plenary meeting which allocates the work to the various Main Committees who later submit reports back to the Assembly for adoption by consensus or by vote.
Items on the agenda are numbered. Regular plenary sessions of the General Assembly in recent years have initially been scheduled to be held over the course of just three months, however additional work loads have extended these sessions to last on through just short of the next session. The routinely scheduled portions of the sessions are normally scheduled to commence on "the Tuesday of the third week in September, counting from the first week that contains at least one working day," as per the UN Rules of Procedure. The last two of these Regular sessions were routinely scheduled to recess exactly three months afterwards in early December, but were resumed in January and extended on until just before the beginning of the following sessions.

Resolutions


The General Assembly votes on many resolutions brought forth by sponsoring states. These are generally statements symbolizing the sense of the international community about an array of world issues. Most General Assembly resolutions are not enforceable as a legal or practical matter, because the General Assembly lacks enforcement powers with respect to most issues. The General Assembly has authority to make final decisions in some areas such as the United Nations budget.

General Assembly Resolutions are generally non-binding on member states, but carry considerable political weight, and are legally binding towards the operations of the General Assembly. The General Assembly can also refer an issue to the Security Council to put in place a binding resolution.

UN budget


The General Assembly also approves the budget of the United Nations, and decides how much money each member state must pay to run the organization.

Resolution numbering scheme


From the First to the Thirtieth General Assembly sessions, all General Assembly resolutions were numbered consecutively, with the resolution number followed by the session number in Roman numbers (for example, Resolution 1514 (XV), which was the 1514th numbered resolution adopted by the Assembly, and was adopted at the Fifteenth Regular Session (1960)). Beginning in the Thirty-First Session, resolutions are numbered by individual session (for example Resolution 41/10 represents the 10th resolution adopted at the Forty-First Session).

Elections


The General Assembly votes in elections for the ten non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

. These elections take place every two years, and member states serve two year terms, with five replaced each year. The candidates are selected by their regional groups. The General Assembly also elects members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council
United Nations Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations constitutes one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and it is responsible for the coordination of the economic, social and related work of 14 UN specialized agencies, its functional commissions and five regional commissions...

. It also elects members of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization , French/Spanish acronym ONUDI, is a specialized agency in the United Nations system, headquartered in Vienna, Austria...

, and some members of the United Nations Trusteeship Council
United Nations Trusteeship Council
The United Nations Trusteeship Council, one of the principal organs of the United Nations, was established to help ensure that trust territories were administered in the best interests of their inhabitants and of international peace and security...

. The General Assembly appoints the Secretary-General of the United Nations on recommendation of the Security Council, and adopts rules governing the administration of the Secretariat. Along with the Security Council, the General Assembly elects Judges for the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

 in The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

.

Special sessions



Special sessions may be convened at the request of the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

, or a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, of a single member. A special session was held on October 1995 at the head of government level to commemorate the UN's 50th anniversary. Another special session was held in September 2000 to celebrate the millennium; it put forward the Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

. A further special session (2005 World Summit
2005 World Summit
The 2005 World Summit, 14–16 September 2005, was a follow-up summit meeting to the United Nations' 2000 Millennium Summit, which led to the Millennium Declaration of the Millennium Development Goals...

) was held in September 2005 to commemorate the UN's 60th anniversary; it assessed progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and discussed Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

's In Larger Freedom proposals.

At the first Special Session of the UN General Assembly held in 1947, Osvaldo Aranha, then president of the Special Session, began a tradition that has remained until today whereby the first speaker at this major international forum is always a Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

ian.

If the Security Council fails to act to maintain international peace and security due to a disagreement between its permanent members, the General Assembly has the power to convene an emergency special session and act to ensure peace and security under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 377.

Emergency special sessions


The General Assembly may take action on maintaining international peace and security if the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 is unable, usually due to disagreement among the permanent members, to exercise its primary responsibility. If not in session at the time, the General Assembly may meet in emergency special session within 24 hours of the request. Such emergency special sessions are to be called if requested by the UN Security Council on the vote of any seven members, or by a majority of the Members of the United Nations.

The "Uniting for Peace" resolution, adopted 3 November 1950, empowered the Assembly to convene in emergency special session in order to recommend collective measures including the use of armed force — in the event of a breach of the peace or act of aggression. As with all Assembly resolutions, two-thirds of UN Members 'present and voting' must approve any such recommendation before it can be formally adopted by the Assembly. Emergency special sessions have been convened under this procedure on ten occasions. The two most recent, in 1982 and 1997 through 2003 respectively, have both been about the State of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

.

Subsidiary organs



The General Assembly subsidiary organs are divided into five categories: committees (30 total, six main), commissions (seven), boards (six), councils and panels (five), working groups, and "other".

Main committees


The main committees are ordinally numbered
Ordinal number
In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

, 1–6:
  • The First Committee: Disarmament and International Security
    General Assembly First Committee
    The First Committee is one of six main committees at the General Assembly of the United Nations which deals with matters concerning world peace. The First Committee handles all matters on Disarmament and International Security ....

     (DISEC)
  • The Second Committee: Economic and Financial
    Economic and Financial Committee
    The Economic and Finance Committee is a committee within the United Nations that solves problems in the area of global finances and economics. It is one of the six standing committees of the General Assembly, and also referred to as the "Second Committee".-External links:*, UN...

     (ECOFIN)
  • The Third Committee: Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian (SOCHUM)
  • The Fourth Committee: Special Political and Decolonisation (SPECPOL)
  • The Fifth Committee: Administrative and Budgetary
  • The Sixth Committee: Legal.


The roles of many of the main committees have changed over time. Until the late 1970s, the First Committee was the Political and Security Committee (POLISEC) and there was also a sufficient number of additional "political" matters that an additional, unnumbered main committee, called the Special Political Committee, also sat. The Fourth Committee formerly handled Trusteeship and Decolonization matters. With the decreasing number of such matters to be addressed as the trust territories attained independence and the decolonization
Decolonization
Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory over another...

 movement progressed, the functions of the Special Political Committee were merged into the Fourth Committee during the 1990s.

Each main committee consists of all the members of the General Assembly. Each elects a chairman, three vice chairmen, and a rapporteur
Rapporteur
Rapporteur is used in international and European legal and political contexts to refer to a person appointed by a deliberative body to investigate an issue or a situation....

 at the outset of each regular General Assembly session.

Other committees


These are not numbered. According to the General Assembly website, the most important are:
  • Credentials Committee This committee is charged with ensuring that the diplomatic credentials of all UN representatives are in order. The Credentials Committee consists of nine Member States elected early in each regular General Assembly session.
  • General Committee This is a supervisory committee entrusted with ensuring that the whole meeting of the Assembly goes smoothly. The General Committee consists of the president and vice presidents of the current General Assembly session and the chairman of each of the six Main Committees.


Other committees of the General Assembly are enumerated
Enumeration
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

.

Commissions


There are six commissions:
  • Disarmament Commission, established by GA Resolution 502 (VI) and S-10/2
  • International Civil Service Commission, established by GA Resolution 3357 (XXIX)
  • International Law Commission
    International Law Commission
    The International Law Commission was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 for the "promotion of the progressive development of international law and its codification."It holds an annual session at the United Nations Office at Geneva....

    , established by GA Resolution 174 (II)
  • United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), established by GA Resolution 2205 (XXI)
  • United Nations Conciliation Commission
    United Nations Conciliation Commission
    The United Nations Conciliation Commission was created by UN General Assembly Resolution 194, in order to conclude the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.On December 11, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the proposal to set up the committee with delegates of three nations. France, Turkey and the United...

     for Palestine, established by GA Resolution 194 (III)
  • United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, established by GA Resolution 60/180 and UN Security Council Resolutions 1645
    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1645
    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1645, adopted unanimously on December 20, 2005, acting concurrently with the United Nations General Assembly, the Council established the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission to advise on post-conflict situations, in accordance with the declaration of...

     (2005) and 1646 (2005)]


Despite its name, the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights
United Nations Commission on Human Rights
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights was a functional commission within the overall framework of the United Nations from 1946 until it was replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006...

 (UNCHR) was actually a subsidiary body of ECOSOC
United Nations Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations constitutes one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and it is responsible for the coordination of the economic, social and related work of 14 UN specialized agencies, its functional commissions and five regional commissions...

.

Councils and panels


The newest council is the United Nations Human Rights Council
United Nations Human Rights Council
The United Nations Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations System. The UNHRC is the successor to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights , and is a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly...

, which replaced the aforementioned UNCHR in March 2006.

There are a total of four councils and one panel.

Working Groups and other


There is a varied group of working groups and other subsidiary bodies.

Seating in the General Assembly


Countries are seated alphabetically in the General Assembly according to English translations of the countries' names. However, the country which occupies the front-most left position (and hence the countries' seating position in the Assembly) is rotated annually by ballot. One country is balloted each year to sit in the front-most left position, and the remaining countries follow alphabetically behind it.

General Assembly reform and UNPA


On 21 March 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

 presented a report, In Larger Freedom, that criticized the General Assembly for focusing so much on consensus that it was passing watered-down resolutions reflecting "the lowest common denominator of widely different opinions." He also criticized the Assembly for trying to address too broad an agenda, instead of focusing on "the major substantive issues of the day, such as international migration
Human migration
Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

 and the long-debated comprehensive convention on terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

". Annan recommended streamlining the General Assembly's agenda, committee structure, and procedures; strengthening the role and authority of its president
President of the United Nations General Assembly
The President of the United Nations General Assembly is a position voted for by representatives in the United Nations General Assembly on a yearly basis.- Election :...

; enhancing the role of civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

; and establishing a mechanism to review the decisions of its committees, in order to minimize unfunded mandate
Unfunded mandate
In United States law and politics, unfunded mandates are regulations or conditions for receiving grants that impose costs on state or local governments or private entities for which they are not reimbursed by the federal government....

s and micromanagement
Micromanagement
In business management, micromanagement is a management style where a manager closely observes or controls the work of her or his subordinates or employees...

 of the United Nations Secretariat
United Nations Secretariat
The United Nations Secretariat is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and it is headed by the United Nations Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by United Nations bodies for...

. Annan reminded UN members of their responsibility to implement reforms, if they expect to realize improvements in UN effectiveness.

The reform proposals were not taken up by the United Nations World Summit in September 2005. Instead, the Summit solely affirmed the central position of the General Assembly as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations, as well as the role of the Assembly in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Summit also called for strengthening the relationship between the General Assembly and the other principal organs to ensure better coordination on topical issues that required coordinated action by the United Nations, in accordance with their respective mandates.

A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, or United Nations People's Assembly (UNPA), is a proposed addition to the United Nations System that eventually could allow for direct election of UN parliament members by citizens all over the world.

In the General Debate of the 65th General Assembly, Jorge Valero Briceño, representing Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, said "The United Nations has exhausted its model and it is not simply a matter of proceeding with reform, the twenty-first century demands deep changes that are only possible with a rebuilding of this organisation." He pointed to the futility of resolutions concerning the Cuban embargo and the Middle East conflict as reasons for the UN model having failed. Venezuela also called for the suspension of veto rights because it was a "remnant of the Second World War [it] is incompatible with the principle of sovereign equality of States."

See also


  • President of the United Nations General Assembly
    President of the United Nations General Assembly
    The President of the United Nations General Assembly is a position voted for by representatives in the United Nations General Assembly on a yearly basis.- Election :...

  • List of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations
  • UN Parliamentary Assembly
  • United Nations Headquarters
    United Nations headquarters
    The headquarters of the United Nations is a complex in New York City. The complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1952. It is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River...

  • United Nations Interpretation Service
    United Nations Interpretation Service
    The United Nations Interpretation Service is a part of the Meetings and Publishing Division of the UN's Department for General Assembly and Conference Management...

  • United Nations System
    United Nations System
    The United Nations system consists of the United Nations, its subsidiary organs , the specialized agencies, and affiliated organizations...

  • Reform of the United Nations
    Reform of the United Nations
    Since the late 1990s there have been many calls for reform of the United Nations . However, there is little clarity or consensus about what reform might mean in practice. Both those who want the UN to play a greater role in world affairs and those who want its role confined to humanitarian work or...

  • Music for UNICEF Concert
    Music for UNICEF Concert
    The Music for UNICEF Concert: A Gift of Song was a benefit concert of popular music held in the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on January 9, 1979. It was intended to raise money for UNICEF world hunger programs and to mark the beginning of the International Year of the Child. The...


External links