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Opening of the session

Background

1. Opening of the session by the President of the General Assembly

In accordance with rule 1 of the rules of procedure (A/520/Rev.16), the General Assembly shall meet every year in regular session commencing on the Tuesday of the third week in September, counting from the first week that contains at least one working day. [The 62nd session of the General Assembly opened on Tuesday, 18 September 2007].

Rule 31 of the rules of procedure provides that if, at the opening of a session of the General Assembly, the President for that session has not yet been elected, in accordance with rule 30, the President of the previous session, or the chairman of that delegation from which the President of the previous session was elected, shall preside until the Assembly has elected a President. Accordingly, the temporary President is not necessarily the individual who presided at the preceding session.

The 62nd session of the General Assembly was opened by the President for that session. (For the election of the President, see item 4.)

2. Minute of silent prayer or meditation

Rule 62 of the rules of procedure provides that, immediately after the opening of the 1st plenary meeting and immediately preceding the closing of the final plenary meeting of each session of the General Assembly, the President shall invite the representatives to observe one minute of silence dedicated to prayer or meditation. This provision was incorporated in the rules of procedure at the fourth session (resolution 362 (IV), annex I).

3. Credentials of representatives to the sixty-second session of the General Assembly

(a) Appointment of the members of the Credentials Committee
(b) Report of the Credentials Committee

In accordance with rule 27 of the rules of procedure, the credentials of representatives and the names of members of a delegation are to be submitted to the Secretary-General, if possible not less than one week before the opening of the session. The credentials must be issued either by the Head of State or Government or by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Under rule 28 of the rules of procedure, a Credentials Committee consisting of nine members is appointed by the General Assembly at the beginning of each session on the proposal of the President. The members of the Committee are traditionally appointed at the 1st plenary meeting, on the proposal of the President. The Committee elects a Chairman, but no Vice-Chairman or Rapporteur.

On completion of its work, the Committee submits a report to the General Assembly.

At its sixty-first session, the General Assembly appointed the following States members of the Credentials Committee: China, Guyana, Kenya, Madagascar, Monaco, Peru, Russian Federation, Tonga and United States of America (decision 61/401 [page 8]). At that session, the Assembly approved the report of the Committee (resolution 61/227).

Document
References for the sixty-first session (agenda item 3)

4. Election of the President of the General Assembly

Under rule 30 of the rules of procedure, the General Assembly shall elect a President at least three months before the opening of the session over which the President is to preside. The President so elected will assume the functions only at the beginning of that session for which the President is elected and shall hold office until the close of that session.

On 24 May 2007, the General Assembly elected by acclamation Mr. Srgjan Kerim (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) as its President for the sixty-second session (decision 61/418).

In accordance with rule 92 of the rules of procedure, the election is held by secret ballot and there are no nominations. The President is elected by a simple majority. It should be noted, however, that since the thirty-second session, with the exception of the thirty-sixth, thirty-eighth, forty-third and forty-sixth sessions, the President has been elected by acclamation.

At its thirty-third session, in 1978, the General Assembly decided (resolution 33/138, annex, para. 1) that, in the election of the President, regard should be had for equitable geographical rotation of the office among the following States:

  1. African States
  2. Asian States
  3. Eastern European States
  4. Latin American States
  5. Western European or other States

At its thirty-fourth session, the General Assembly decided that the practice of dispensing with the secret ballot for elections to subsidiary organs when the number of candidates corresponded to the number of seats to be filled should become standard and the same practice should apply to the election of the President of the Assembly, unless a delegation specifically requested a vote on a given election (decision 34/401, para. 16).

The names of the past Presidents of the General Assembly are listed in annex I to the Annotated preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the sixty-second regular session of the General Assembly (A/62/100).

References for the sixty-first session (agenda item 4)

5. Election of the officers of the Main Committees

The General Assembly has six Main Committees. At its forty-seventh session, by its resolution 47/233 of 17 August 1993, the Assembly decided to amend rule 98 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly according to paragraph 1 of the resolution, which reads as follows:

  1. "Decides that the Main Committees of the General Assembly shall be as follows:
    1. Disarmament and International Security Committee (First Committee);
    2. Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee);
    3. Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee);
    4. Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (Third Committee);
    5. Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth Committee);
    6. Legal Committee (Sixth Committee)."

At its fifty-second session, the General Assembly decided to amend the first sentence of rule 103 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly to read: "Each Main Committee shall elect a Chairman, three Vice-Chairmen and a Rapporteur" (resolution 52/163, para. 1).

Rule 103 states that the elections shall be held by secret ballot unless the Committee decides otherwise in an election where only one candidate is standing. Since in the great majority of cases only one candidate is nominated, most officers of Main Committees are elected by acclamation.

In addition, rule 103 provides that the nomination of each candidate shall be limited to one speaker, after which the Committee shall immediately proceed to the election. Rule 99 (a) stipulates that all the Main Committees shall, at least three months before the opening of the session, elect a Chairman and that elections of the other officers provided for in rule 103 shall be held at the latest by the end of the first week of the session. In accordance with resolution 58/126 of 19 December 2003, the full Bureaux of the Main Committees shall also be elected three months in advance of the next session.

On 24 May 2007, the six Main Committees elected their chairs and, with the exception of the Second Committee, their other officers for the sixty-second session (decision 61/419). The elections of the officers of the Main Committees are held in consecutive meetings of the six Main Committees, immediately following the election of the President of the General Assembly in plenary meeting.

At its forty-eighth session, the General Assembly decided, on 29 July 1994 (resolution 48/264, annex II), that the six Chairmen of the Main Committees should be elected according to the following pattern:

  1. One representative from an African State;
  2. One representative from an Asian State;
  3. One representative from an Eastern European State;
  4. One representative from a Latin American or Caribbean State;
  5. One representative from a Western European or other State;
  6. The sixth chairmanship shall rotate over a period of 20 sessions according to the following pattern:
    1. One representative from an African State;
    2. One representative from an Asian State;
    3. One representative from a Latin American or Caribbean State;
    4. One representative from an African State;
    5. One representative from an Asian State;
    6. One representative from an African State;
    7. One representative from a Latin American or Caribbean State;
    8. One representative from an Asian State;
    9. One representative from an African State;
    10. One representative from an Asian State;
    11. One representative from a Latin American or Caribbean State;
    12. One representative from an African State;
    13. One representative from an Asian State;
    14. One representative from an African State;
    15. One representative from a Latin American or Caribbean State;
    16. One representative from an Asian State;
    17. One representative from an African State;
    18. One representative from an Asian State;
    19. One representative from a Latin American or Caribbean State;
    20. One representative from an African State.

The names of the officers of the Main Committees from the twentieth session onward are listed in annex II to the present document.

References for the sixty-first session (agenda item 5)

6. Election of the Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly

The President of the General Assembly is assisted by 21 Vice-Presidents. The duties involved are performed by heads of delegations of Member States, and not by individuals elected in their personal capacity. The Assembly decided on four occasions to increase the number of Vice-Presidents (resolutions 1104 (XI), 1192 (XII), 1990 (XVIII) and 33/138).

At its fifty-sixth session, by its resolution 56/509 of 8 July 2002, the General Assembly amended rule 30 of its rules of procedure. Under the amended rule 30, the General Assembly shall elect 21 Vice-Presidents at least three months before the opening of the session over which they are to preside. The Vice-Presidents so elected will assume the functions only at the beginning of the session for which they are elected and shall hold office until the close of that session.

On 24 July 2007, the General Assembly elected its Vice-Presidents for the sixty-second session (decision 61/420).

In accordance with rule 92 of the rules of procedure, the election is held by secret ballot and there are no nominations. Vice-Presidents are elected by a simple majority. It should be noted, however, that since the thirty-second session, with the exception of the thirty-sixth, thirty-eighth, forty-first and forty-second sessions in the case of one of the regional groups, the Vice-Presidents have been elected by acclamation.

The amended rule 30 provides that the Vice-Presidents shall be elected after the election of the Chairmen of the Main Committees (see item 5), in such a way as to ensure the representative character of the General Committee (see item 7). At its thirty-third session, in 1978, the General Assembly decided (resolution 33/138, annex, para. 2) that the 21 Vice-Presidents should be elected according to the following pattern:

  1. Six representatives from African States;
  2. Five representatives from Asian States;
  3. One representative from an Eastern European State;
  4. Three representatives from Latin American States;
  5. Two representatives from Western European or other States;
  6. Five representatives from the permanent members of the Security Council.

The election of the President of the Assembly has the effect, however, of reducing by one the number of vice-presidencies allocated to the region from which the President is elected (resolution 33/138, annex, para. 3).

At its thirty-fourth session, the General Assembly decided that the practice of dispensing with the secret ballot for elections to subsidiary organs when the number of candidates corresponded to the number of seats to be filled should become standard and the same practice should apply to the election of the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, unless a delegation specifically requested a vote on a given election (decision 34/401, para. 16).

The names of the States that have held the office of Vice-President of the General Assembly are listed in annex III of the annotated preliminary list (A/62/100).

References for the sixty-first session (agenda item 6)

7. Organization of work, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items: reports of the General Committee

Rules 12 to 15 of the rules of procedure deal with the agenda for regular sessions.

Provisional agenda

Under rule 12 of the rules of procedure, the provisional agenda is to be communicated to the Members of the United Nations at least 60 days before the opening of the session. The preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the sixty-first session (see sect. I, para. 1) was circulated on 14 February 2007 (A/62/50). The provisional agenda for the sixty-second session (A/62/150) will be issued on 20 July 2007.

Rule 13 of the rules of procedure indicates what items shall or may be included in the provisional agenda.

Supplementary items

Rule 14 of the rules of procedure provides that any Member or principal organ of the United Nations or the Secretary-General may, at least 30 days before the date fixed for the opening of a regular session, request the inclusion of supplementary items in the agenda. Such items shall be placed on a supplementary list, which shall be communicated to the Members of the United Nations at least 20 days before the opening of the session.

The supplementary list (A/62/200) was issued on 30 August 2007.

Additional items

Rule 15 of the rules of procedure stipulates, inter alia, that additional items of an important and urgent character, proposed for inclusion in the agenda less than 30 days before the opening of a regular session or during a regular session, may be placed on the agenda if the General Assembly so decides by a majority of the members present and voting.

Consideration of the draft agenda by the General Committee

Rules 38 to 44 of the rules of procedure deal with the composition, organization and functions of the General Committee. The Committee is composed of the President of the General Assembly, who presides (see item 4), the 21 Vice-Presidents of the Assembly (see item 6) and the Chairmen of the Main Committees (see item 5).

The General Committee usually meets on the second day of the session for the purpose of making recommendations to the General Assembly concerning the adoption of the agenda, the allocation of items and the organization of the work of the Assembly. For this purpose, it has before it a memorandum by the Secretary- General containing the draft agenda (provisional agenda, supplementary items and additional items), the proposed allocation of items and a number of recommendations concerning the organization of the session.

Document
Adoption of the agenda by the General Assembly

Rule 21 of the rules of procedure provides that at each session the provisional agenda and the supplementary list, together with the report of the General Committee thereon, shall be submitted to the General Assembly for approval as soon as possible after the opening of the session.

The final agenda, the allocation of items included in the agenda and arrangements for the organization of the session are adopted by the General Assembly by a simple majority.

Rule 23 of the rules of procedure provides, inter alia, that debate on the inclusion of an item in the agenda, when that item has been recommended for inclusion by the General Committee, shall be limited to three speakers in favour of, and three against, the inclusion.

References for the sixty-first session (agenda item 7)

8. General debate

At the beginning of the session, the General Assembly devotes a period of two weeks to the general debate, during which heads of delegations may state the views of their Governments on any item before the Assembly.

In accordance with resolution 58/126 of 19 December 2003, in June of each year, the President-elect of the General Assembly, after taking into account the views provided by Member States and following consultations with the incumbent President and the Secretary-General, will suggest an issue, or issues, of global concern upon which Member States will be invited to comment during the general debate.

By its resolution 57/301 of 13 March 2003, the General Assembly decided that the general debate should open on the Tuesday following the opening of the regular session of the General Assembly and should be held without interruption over a period of nine working days. However, for the sixty-second session, in the light of resolution 61/269 of 25 May 2007, by which the General Assembly decided to hold a High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace on 4 and 5 October 2007, the general debate will be held from Tuesday, 25 September, to Wednesday, 3 October 2007.

At the sixty-first session, 14 plenary meetings were devoted to the general debate (A/61/PV.10-23), during which 193 speakers took the floor.