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Backgrounder: UN General Assembly

Updated: 2009-09-16 17:50

Established in 1945 under the UN Charter, the General Assembly (GA) occupies a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN.

Comprising all 192 members of the UN, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter.

It also plays a significant role in standard-setting and international law codifying. The Assembly meets in regular session under its president from September to December each year. The first session was convened on 10 January 1946 in London. Altogether, 63 GA sessions have been convened since its inception.

The GA presidency rotates annually between five geographic blocs. The current president of the GA is Dr Ali Abdussalam Treki from Libya, who was inaugurated as the 64th GA sessions opened.

According to the UN Charter, the GA has the powers of overseeing the budget of UN, appointing the Secretary General, electing the non-permanent members of the Security Council, and making recommendations on the form of GA Resolutions.

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It may also consider and make recommendations of cooperation for maintaining peace and security, realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as international efforts in the economic, social, humanitarian, and health fields.

Voting in the GA on important questions like recommendations on peace and security, expulsion of members and budgetary matters is by a two-thirds majority, while other issues are decided by a simple majority. Each member country has one vote.

Special sessions may be convened at the request of the UN Security Council, or a majority of UN members, or, if the majority concurs, of a single member. A special session was held in September 2000 to celebrate the millennium and put forward the Millennium Development Goals.

The GA subsidiary organs are divided into five categories, including 30 committees, seven commissions, six boards, five councils and panels and several working groups.

In March 2005, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for reform of the GA. He criticized the Assembly for foucsing too much on consensus and trying to address too broad an agenda.

These reforms include streamlining its agenda, committee structures and procedures, strengthening the role and authority of the president, and enhancing the role of civil society.

Europe views itself as the world leader and wants to limit climate change to 2 C above pre-industrial levels by 2050. It has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020, and to raise this to 30 percent if there is agreement at Copenhagen.
In the past few years while adhering to the Scientific Outlook on Development Hu promotes, China has been working towards rigorous targets - which it had set for itself - to promote clean energy, push for energy efficiency and cut greenhouse emissions.
I hope China will categorically outline her stance on vital international issues. I would be totally disappointed if deliberations after this UN summits turn out to be "the same old wine in old cups."
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