Here’s what you should know about the UN General Assembly. | ET REALITY


The UN General Assembly meets Tuesday in New York City for its annual meeting, where it sets its agenda for the coming year and addresses some of the most pressing social and diplomatic issues around the world.

The Assembly, currently in its 78th session, has undergone tremendous changes as its influence has waned and global politics has changed.

This is how the Assembly works.

The General Assembly is one of the six organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

The organization was established in 1945 as “the main deliberative, policy-making and representative body” of the UN, and is the only one within the UN and the wider world of international alliances (NATO, BRICS and the Group of 20, for example) in which all 193 member states have equal representation. As a condition of membership, each state must pay a “prorated contribution” to UN operations.

“It’s where every country has a seat,” said Peter J. Hoffman, associate professor of international affairs at the New School and director of its United Nations Summer Study. “It’s hard to herd the cats, but the fact that everyone is in the room together and everyone has a chance, that in itself creates a kind of credibility for it.”

At the New York meeting, representatives from each member state discuss international issues as part of the General Debate and vote on hundreds of resolutions.

Unlike the UN Security Council, which can impose sanctions or authorize the use of force, the General Assembly is purely deliberative. Much of its power derives from its ability to address issues and make recommendations on matters of international importance.

“In terms of actual resolutions, that will never happen because when the Security Council issues a resolution, it says: You will do this,” Dr. Hoffman said. “When the General Assembly does it, it’s a recommendation: They should do this.”

For example, a resolution that the Assembly passed in November 2022 allowed the United Nations to celebrate for the first time in May this year the displacement of Palestinians during the creation of Israel.

The General Assembly also appoints the UN Secretary General, currently António Guterres, for five-year terms and the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council. A new president of the Assembly is elected each year, and the position rotates among representatives of five geographic regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Europe and others.

The Assembly meeting offers leaders a global platform. During the General Debate, each Member State is allotted 15 minutes to speak on the year’s theme, but that limit is generally not respected. Last year, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered a sharp rebuke of the Russian invasion of his country in a recorded speech to the General Assembly.

The complete theme for 2023 is “Rebuilding trust and rekindling global solidarity: accelerating action on the 2030 agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all.” But the key words are “2030 agenda” and “Sustainable Development Goals”.

In 2015, the General Assembly adopted 17 objectives, known collectively as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as part of “a shared plan for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future.” They include “no poverty,” “zero hunger,” “climate action,” and “gender equality,” among others.

The SDGs were formally adopted under a resolution known as Agenda 2030, a reference to when some of them must be achieved, although some goals have no deadline. In 2017, a resolution A document was approved to formalize specific indicators of progress on these objectives.

“The real story is that only 15 percent of the SDGs have been met and about half of them are off track.Dr. Hoffman said.

In an effort to give the body a boost, Guterres issued “A wake-up call to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. Member States have been given until 2024 to find a way to get the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda back on track.

Since its creation, the UN General Assembly has grown to 193 member states as of 2011, when South Sudan was admitted, from 51 nations based primarily in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.

The founding of the UN largely coincided with the advent of the Cold War, which then created a rift between West and East, primarily in the Security Council. But Assembly policy has long been dictated by tensions between the wealthy nations of the “global north” (broadly including Australia, Europe, North America, Israel, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand). and the “global south.” “Largely represented by former colonies of the global north in Africa, Asia and Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“In the ’60s and ’70s, you really start to see political change and particularly the emergence of what was called the new international economic order in the ’70s,” Dr. Hoffman said, “with a proposal basically between the South global and “Non-aligned countries say: Oh, the terms of trade are really unfair between the north and the south.”

At the same time, pressure on the global south to begin addressing environmental destruction provoked a fierce response in a 1972 speech by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India at a UN conference in which she asked: “Aren’t poverty and need the biggest problems? Polluters?” as a statement about what she saw as the hypocrisy of the global north in dictating terms to developing countries.

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