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Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly

Background

A dedicated item on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly was included in the agenda of the 46th session of the General Assembly (1991), having originally been proposed for inclusion in the draft agenda of that session by the President of the Assembly at its 45th session (decision 45/461), who in introducing the item recalled that “there is already in existence a body of General Assembly resolutions and decisions encouraging rationalization, revitalization and improvement of working procedures for the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness of the Assembly, its relevance and its capability to fulfil the role envisaged for it under the United Nations Charter”.

An item on the agenda since 1991

Improving its work through enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness, including by identifying measures aimed at further strengthening its working methods has been a matter of concern for the Assembly from the very beginning of its work in 1946, specific outcomes of which are reflected in the annexes to the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.

The General Assembly considered the new item at its 46th to 48th and 52nd and 53rd sessions (resolutions 46/77, 47/233 and 48/264 and decisions 52/479 and 53/491). Having decided to defer consideration of the item at its 54th session (decision 54/491), the General Assembly continued its consideration of the General Assembly revitalization item from its 55th to 67th sessions (resolutions 55/285, 56/509, 57/301, 58/126 and 58/316, 60/286, 61/292, 62/276, 63/309, 64/301, 65/315, 66/294 and 67/297).

Milestones

At its 58th session (2003), in particular, the General Assembly undertook extensive consultations, including on the basis of a series of Conference Room Papers as a result of which it adopted resolutions 58/126 and 58/316, which respectively contained a number of far-reaching provisions. These included:

Also at its 58th session, the Assembly decided that 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 of global concern upon which Member States will be invited to comment during the general debate at the forthcoming session of the Assembly.

At the 59th session (2004), the Assembly decided on additional measures, including “to convene and organize major thematic debates in order to establish broad international understanding on current substantive issues of importance to Member States.” Resolution 59/313 in this context authorized the President of the General Assembly “to propose interactive debates on current issues on the agenda of the Assembly, in consultation with Member States” which provided the basis for the evolution of the practice of informal interactive thematic debates at subsequent sessions, as also reaffirmed in later resolutions on General Assembly revitalization. The Assembly also provided two further additional posts at management and senior levels in support of the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

In September 2005, at the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the central position of the General Assembly as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations, as well as the role of the Assembly in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law and welcomed the measures adopted by the General Assembly with a view to strengthening its role and authority and the role and leadership of the President of the Assembly. To that end, they called for their full and speedy implementation and for strengthening the relationship between the General Assembly and the other principal organs to ensure better coordination on topical issues that require coordinated action by the United Nations, in accordance with their respective mandates.

Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly

In the aftermath of the 2005 World Summit, the UN membership continued to consider various aspects of the revitalization item in an Ad Hoc Working Group on the General Assembly revitalization (AHWG), whose work is structured under four thematic headings:

Outcomes