Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly
Making its work more focused, efficient and relevant
Strengthening the work of the General Assembly can help ensure that this “chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations” (para. 149 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document) becomes a true, universal “parliament of nations”. Identified as a priority from the very outset of the Organization in 1946, (the outcomes of which are reflected, inter alia, in the annexes to the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure) the General Assembly, at its 60th session and continuously since its 62nd session, has annually established an Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (AHWG), in the context of which Member States consider the following broad thematic issues:
- Role and authority of the General Assembly
- Working methods
- Selection and appointment of the Secretary-General and other executive heads
- Strengthening the institutional memory of the Office of the President of the General Assembly
Starting at its 62nd session, the AHWG elaborated an Inventory Chart reflecting the status of implementation of General Assembly revitalization resolutions (A/62/952/Add.1). This chart has subsequently been updated at the 63rd, 67th, 68th and 69th sessions (see documents A/63/959, A/67/936, A/68/951 and A/69/1007 respectively) and continues to form a basis for the membership’s deliberations under this item.
Also based on the outcomes of the Assembly’s consideration of ways to revitalize its work, the Assembly encouraged the holding of informal interactive debates on current issues of critical importance to the international community and invited the President of the General Assembly to propose themes for these interactive debates.
During the 70th session, the President has announced the convening of three thematic interactive debates on the following themes:
- High-Level Thematic Debate on the implementation of commitments relating to sustainable development, climate change, and financing (April 2016)
- High-Level Thematic Debate on strengthening the UN’s role and performance in the area of peace and security (May 2016)
- High-Level Thematic Debate on on the UN’s role in the field of human rights including in relation to governance, the rule of law, gender equality and institution building (July 2016)
It has also become an established practice for the Secretary-General to brief Member States periodically, in informal meetings of the General Assembly, on his recent activities and travels. These briefings have provided a well-received opportunity for exchange between the Secretary-General and Member States. The General Assembly has also encouraged its Presidents to continue with the practice of periodically briefing Member States on their activities, including official travel.
As a result of the ongoing revitalization of its work, and pursuant to rule 30 of its rules of procedure, the General Assembly now elects its President, Vice Presidents and Chairs of the Main Committees at least three months in advance of the start of the new session in order to further strengthen coordination and preparation of work among the Main Committees and between the Committees and the Plenary. It has also come to adopt the proposed programme of work and timetable of five of its six Main Committees for the forthcoming session at the end of the main part of the session, thereby facilitating the planning and preparation of work for delegations, incoming chairs as well as the Secretariat.
During the 70th session, for the first time, the General Assembly will conduct the elections of the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of the Economic and Social Council, for the terms 2017-18 and 2017-2019 respectively, about six months before the elected members assume their responsibilities.