The General Assembly (GA) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations, and that only organ where every member state may participate. The GA meets annually in the UN Headquarter in New York City from September to December to address all the matters on its agenda.
The President of the General Assembly or the Secretary-General of the United Nations proceeds over the General Assembly. The GA elects a new president in September for one year.
The General Assembly meets to pass Resolutions, internationally agreed upon statement meant to be guidelines and common ground for all member states. UN General Assembly Resolutions are not binding, with the exception of budgetary resolutions, which must pass by an affirmative vote of 2/3 of present and voting member states.
In addition to passing Resolutions, the General Assembly also elect states to other UN organs and bodies, such as the UN Security Council and Economic and Social Council, as well as electing the Secretary-General and judges of the International Court of Justice.
The five regional groups play an important role in General Assembly elections. For example, the Secretary-General position rotates around the five regional groups: African Group, Asia-Pacific Group, Middle and Eastern European Group, Latin American and Caribbean Group, and the Western Europe and Others Group.
In Model United Nations, most conferences simulate the General Assembly permanent committees, numbered one through six:
- The First Committee: Disarmament and International Security (DISEC) is concerned with disarmament and related international security questions
- 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 Decolonization (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
Unlike in most Model UN conferences, General Assembly debate does not follow “parliamentary procedure,” because most of Robert’s Rules would violate the principle of “one state, one vote,” or national sovereignty. We’ll discuss the difference between Model UN procedure and the procedure the UN follows in a later episode.
For right now, it’s important to note that almost all UN General Assembly resolutions are passed by consensus, and not by vote, and most are authored by the Group of 77 + 1, a caucusing group of 134 developing states and the People’s Republic of China, which does not consider itself a member of the G77 even though the G77 does consider China a member.