For two articles dealing with membership of and participation in the
General Assembly, see:
General Assembly members
General Assembly observers
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; French: Assemblée
Générale "AG") is one of the six principal organs of the United
Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal
representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making and
representative organ of the UN. Its powers are to oversee the budget
of the UN, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council,
receive reports from other parts of the UN and make recommendations in
the form of General Assembly Resolutions. It has also established
numerous subsidiary organs.
The General Assembly currently meets under its president or
secretary-general in annual sessions at the headquarters of the United
Nations in New York City, 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. The first
session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Methodist Central Hall
London and included representatives of 51 nations.
Voting in the General Assembly on important questions, namely,
recommendations on peace and security, budgetary concerns, and the
election, admission, suspension or expulsion of members is by a
two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Other questions are
decided by a straightforward majority. 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 potentially allows states comprising just five 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. Because of their numbers, developing
countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly
(using coordinating groups like the G77), 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.
Although the resolutions passed by the General Assembly do not have
the binding forces over the member nations (apart from budgetary
measures), pursuant to its Uniting for Peace resolution of November
1950 (resolution 377 (V)), the Assembly may also take action if the
Security Council fails to act, owing to the negative vote of a
permanent member, in a case where there appears to be a threat to the
peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The Assembly can
consider the matter immediately with a view to making recommendations
to Members for collective measures to maintain or restore
international peace and security.
4.1 Resolution numbering scheme
5 UN budget
7.1 UNGASS 2016
7.2 Other special sessions
7.3 General Debates
8 Emergency special sessions
9 Subsidiary organs
9.1.1 Main committees
9.1.2 Other committees
9.3.1 Executive Boards
9.4 Councils and panels
9.5 Working Groups and other
11 Reform and UNPA
12 Sidelines of the General Assembly
13 See also
15 External links
Methodist Central Hall, London, the location of the first meeting of
United Nations General Assembly in 1946.
The first session of the UN General Assembly was convened on 10
January 1946 in the Methodist Central Hall in
London and included
representatives of 51 nations. The next few annual sessions were held
in different cities: the second session in New York City, and the
third in Paris. It moved to the permanent Headquarters of the United
New York City
New York City at the start of its seventh regular annual
session, on 14 October 1952. In December 1988, in order to hear Yasser
Arafat, the General Assembly organised its 29th session in the Palace
of Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Main article: Member states of the United Nations
All 193 members states of the
United Nations are members of the
General Assembly. Further, the
United Nations General Assembly may
grant observer status to an international organization, entity or
non-member state, which entitles the entity to participate in the work
United Nations General Assembly, though with limitations.
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
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 until just short of the next
session. The routinely scheduled portions of the sessions normally
commence on "the Tuesday of the third week in September, counting from
the first week that contains at least one working day," 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 until just
before the beginning of the following sessions.
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United Nations General Assembly resolution and United
Nations Document Codes
Dmitry Medvedev addresses the 64th session of the UN
General Assembly on 24 September 2009
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
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.
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).
The General Assembly also approves the budget of the United Nations,
and decides how much money each member state must pay to run the
The Charter of the
United Nations gives responsibility for approving
the budget to the General Assembly (Chapter IV, Article 17) and for
preparing the budget to the Secretary-General, as "chief
administrative officer" (Chapter XV, Article 97). The Charter also
addresses the non-payment of assessed contributions (Chapter IV,
Article 19). The planning, programming, budgeting, monitoring and
evaluation cycle of the
United Nations has evolved over the years;
major resolutions on the process include General Assembly resolutions:
41/213 of 19 December 1986, 42/211 of 21 December 1987, and 45/248 of
21 December 1990.
The budget covers the costs of
United Nations programmes in areas such
as political affairs, international justice and law, international
cooperation for development, public information, human rights, and
The main source of funds for the regular budget is the contributions
of member states. The scale of assessments is based on the capacity of
countries to pay. This is determined by considering their relative
shares of total gross national product, adjusted to take into account
a number of factors, including their per capita incomes.
In addition to the regular budget, member states are assessed for the
costs of the international tribunals and, in accordance with a
modified version of the basic scale, for the costs of peacekeeping
Division of the General Assembly by membership in the five United
Nations Regional Groups.
The African Group
The Asia-Pacific Group
The Middle and Eastern European Group
The Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC)
The Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
The General Assembly votes in elections for the ten non-permanent
members of the
United Nations Security Council; the most recent
such election was on 2 June 2017. These elections take place every
year, 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. It also elects members of the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization, and some members of the United
Nations Trusteeship Council. 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 in The Hague.
Spanish Prime Minister
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero addressing the
General Assembly in New York, 20 September 2005
Special sessions may be convened at the request of the United Nations
Security Council, 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. A special session was again held to discuss and admit proposals
HIV/AIDS crisis in 2001. A further special session (2005
World Summit) was held in September 2005 to commemorate the UN's 60th
anniversary; it assessed progress on the Millennium Development Goals,
and discussed Kofi Annan's In Larger Freedom proposals. Another
special session was held in 2014 to discuss Population and
Development, following the International Conference on Population and
Development Programme of Action.
A special session was held in 2016 to discuss the
War on Drugs
War on Drugs and
proposals to reconsider international drug treaties like the Single
Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as well as how to deal with drug
treatment, rehabilitation, and related matters. This was the first
UN gathering on the subject in 20 years. In 2016, while "some European
and South American countries as well as the U.S. favored softer
approaches[,] ... countries such as China and Russia and most Muslim
nations like Iran, Indonesia and Pakistan remained staunchly opposed"
to any move beyond prohibition. One group favoring reform, the Global
Commission on Drug Policy, and some attendees, expressed
disappointment with the "status quo" outcome.
Presenters included Russel Simmons, Michael Skolnik, Che Rhymefest
Smith, who screened the film WARonUS, directed by Queen Muhammad Ali
and Hakeem Khaaliq.
Dilma Rousseff delivers the opening speech at the
66th Session of the General Assembly on September 21, 2011, marking
the first time a woman opened a
United Nations session.
Other special sessions
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 Brazilian.
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.
Annually, Heads of State, Government or heads of delegations speak at
the opening of the new session of the General Assembly during the
Emergency special sessions
The General Assembly may take action on maintaining international
peace and security if the
United Nations Security Council 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 an 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 1997–2017, were about the status of the territories occupied
by the State of Israel.
United Nations General Assembly building
Panorama of the UNGA
The General Assembly subsidiary organs are divided into five
categories: committees (30 total, six main), commissions (six), boards
(seven), councils and panels 卌, working groups, and "other".
The main committees are ordinally numbered, 1–6:
The First Committee: Disarmament and International Security (DISEC) is
concerned with disarmament and related international security
The Second Committee: Economic and Financial (ECOFIN) is concerned
with economic questions
The Third Committee: Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian (SOCHUM) deals
with social and humanitarian issues
The Fourth Committee:
Special Political and Decolonisation (SPECPOL)
deals with a variety of political subjects not dealt with by the First
Committee, as well as with decolonization
The Fifth Committee: Administrative and Budgetary and general deals
with the administration and budget of the United Nations
The Sixth Committee: Legal deals with legal matters
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
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 at the outset of each regular General Assembly session.
Soviet general secretary
Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the UN General
Assembly in December 1988
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.
There are six commissions:
Disarmament Commission, established by GA Resolution 502 (VI) and
International Civil Service Commission, established by GA Resolution
International Law Commission, established by GA Resolution 174 (II)
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL),
established by GA Resolution 2205 (XXI)
United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, established by
GA Resolution 194 (III)
United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, established by GA Resolution
60/180 and UN Security Council Resolutions 1645 (2005) and 1646 (2005)
Despite its name, the former
United Nations Commission on Human Rights
(UNCHR) was actually a subsidiary body of ECOSOC.
There are seven boards which are categorized into two groups: a)
Executive Boards and b) Boards
Executive Board of the
United Nations Children's Fund, established by
GA Resolution 57 (I) and 48/162
Executive Board of the
United Nations Development Programme and of the
United Nations Population Fund, established by GA Resolution 2029 (XX)
Executive Board of the World Food Programme, established by GA
Board of Auditors, established by GA Resolution 74 (I)
Trade and Development Board, established by GA Resolution 1995 (XIX)
United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board, established by GA Resolution
Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, established by GA Resolution
Councils and panels
The newest council is the
United Nations Human Rights Council, 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
Countries are seated alphabetically in the General Assembly according
to English translations of the countries' names. The country which
occupies the front-most left position is determined annually by the
Secretary-General via ballot draw. The remaining countries follow
alphabetically after it.
Reform and UNPA
Main article: Reform of the United Nations
United Nations Parliamentary Assembly
On 21 March 2005, Secretary-General
Kofi Annan 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 and the
long-debated comprehensive convention on terrorism". Annan recommended
streamlining the General Assembly's agenda, committee structure, and
procedures; strengthening the role and authority of its president;
enhancing the role of civil society; and establishing a mechanism to
review the decisions of its committees, in order to minimize unfunded
mandates and micromanagement of the
United Nations Secretariat. 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.
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,
representing Venezuela, 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 in the Security Council because it was a
"remnant of the Second World War [it] is incompatible with the
principle of sovereign equality of States."
Reform of the
United Nations General Assembly includes proposals to
change the powers and composition of the U.N. General Assembly. This
could include, for example, tasking the Assembly with evaluating how
well member states implement UNGA resolutions, increasing the
power of the assembly vis-à-vis the
United Nations Security Council,
or making debates more constructive and less repetitive.
Sidelines of the General Assembly
The annual session of the
United Nations General Assembly is
accompanied by independent meetings between world leaders, better
known as meetings taking place on the sidelines of the Assembly
meeting. The diplomatic congregation has also since evolved into a
week attracting wealthy and influential individuals from around the
New York City
New York City to address various agendas, ranging from
humanitarian and environmental to business and political.
History of the United Nations
List of current Permanent Representatives to the United Nations
Reform of the United Nations
United Nations Interpretation Service
United Nations System
^ CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS: Chapter IV Archived 12 October 2007
at the Wayback Machine.. UN.org.
^ General Assembly: Subsidiary organs at UN.org.
^ The annual session convenes on Tuesday of the third week in
September per Resolution 57/301, Para. 1. The opening debate begins
the following Tuesday.
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^ a b Population, total Data Table. Data.worldbank.org. Retrieved
on 12 July 2013.
^ "History of
United Nations 1941 - 1950". United Nations. Archived
from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
^ (in French) "Genève renoue avec sa tradition de ville de paix", Le
Temps, Thursday 16 January 2014.
^ "Research Guide: General Assembly". United Nations. Archived from
the original on 21 October 2013.
^ "General Assembly of the United Nations".
^ General Assembly Adopts Work Programme for Sixty-Fourth Session, UN
General Assembly Adopts Work Programme for Sixty-Fourth Session
^ UN Plenary Meetings of the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly,
General Assembly of the UN
^ "Article 17 (1) of Charter of the United Nations".
^ "Articles 11 (2) and 11 (3) of Charter of the United Nations".
^ UN Security Council : Resolutions, Presidential Statements,
Meeting Records, SC Press Releases Archived 2 December 2012 at the
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^ "Articles 18 (2) and 23 (1) of Charter of the United Nations".
^ Grolier: The New Book of Knowledge (Encyclopedia), book U/V,
United Nations (pg. 65), article by Leland Goodrich
^ "Article 20 of Charter of the United Nations".
^ "UN GA
Special Session on HIV/AIDS". www.un.org. Retrieved
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the Programme of Action of the ICPD Sustainable Development Policy
& Practice IISD Reporting Services". sd.iisd.org. Retrieved
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^ Fassihi, Farnaz, "U.N. Conference on Drugs Ends Without Shift in
Policy", Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
^ Belk, Joey (2016-03-19). "How to travel in one of the most dangerous
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^ "The Museum of Drug Policy Wants You to Speak Your Truth Mass
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^ "Brazil's President Rousseff to be First Woman to Open United
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^ "Historical Personalities and Diplomats: Oswaldo Aranha". Brazilian
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Assembly session". United Nations. 2 August 2005.
^ "UN: King Felipe VI of Spain and Ban Ki-moon Discuss Western
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^ "In U.N. Speech, Obama Vows to Fight ISIS 'Network of Death'". New
York Times. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
^ UNGA Emergency
Special Sessions. UN.org.
^ Tenth Emergency
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^ The PGA Handbook: A practical guide to the
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^ "Report of the Secretary-General in Larger Freedom towards
development, security and human rights for all".
^ "In Larger Freedom, Chapter 5". United Nations.
^ "Statement by Ambassador
Jorge Valero Deputy-Minister for North
America and Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela to the
United Nations at the 65th Session of the Plenary of
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^ David Gelles (September 21, 2017). "It's the U.N.'s Week, but
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