1 July 2004 The United Nations General Assembly today took steps to pare down its complex agenda, sharpen the focus of its six committees and begin to reduce its extensive documentation.
By a unanimously adopted resolution, the Assembly took what delegations hailed as a significant step in following up the passage last December of a set of sweeping changes set to take effect over the next two years.
Under the new format, all issues considered by the Assembly will be grouped under nine headings: maintenance of international peace and security; promotion of sustained economic growth and sustainable development; development of Africa; promotion of human rights; effective coordination of humanitarian assistance efforts; promotion of justice and international law; disarmament; drug control, crime prevention and combating international terrorism; and organizational, administrative and other matters.
Other provisions of the resolution call for the Assembly's committees to institute the practice of "question time," a dialogue format aimed at fostering "a dynamic and candid exchange" with officials.
A number of items were slotted for consideration every other year, such as "building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal." Still other issues were marked for consideration only every three years, including "elimination of unilateral extraterritorial coercive economic measures as a means of political and economic compulsion."
Assembly President Julian R. Hunte of Saint Lucia hailed the resolution but said more work remained. He pointed out that the wide-ranging agenda would now be better organized, and formerly rote debates would turn interactive. At the same time, he called for action on a proposal that would spread the Assembly's work over two substantive sessions each year, instead of the current September to December format.
During that four-month period last year, 276 items and sub-items were considered, 347 reports totalling 5,500 pages were submitted and 287 resolutions were adopted. "It is not clear to me why we should continue to operate in this fashion," Mr. Hunte said.
Video of meeting [1hr 2mins]