Office of the President of the Millennium Assembly
55th session of the United Nations General Assembly
 
 
 

Non-paper by the President of the General Assembly
Revitalization of the General Assembly
Improving the Efficiency of the General Assembly
20 April 2001

 

Note attached to the non-paper:

Please find enclosed my non-paper, including an Annex, prepared with the assistance of the facilitator, Permanent Representative of Chile, H.E. Mr. J. Gabriel Valdes on revitalization of the General Assembly; improving the efficiency of the General Assembly, dated April 20, 2001.

The first round of informal/informals of the Plenary is scheduled to take place on May 10 and May 11 (both days afternoon sessions in Trusteeship Council).

The aim of this exercise is to better enable the UN to fulfill the purposes and principles of the Charter and to meet the aspirations of its Members. It should focus on improving the capacity of the General Assembly to discharge effectively its functions to carry out effectively and efficiently the mandates of intergovernmental processes with the necessary transparency and accountability.

I look forward to a fruitful discussion.

Harri Holkeri
President of the General Assembly

1. INTRODUCTION

As a follow-up to the informal brainstorming meeting of the General Committee on the improvement of the working methods of the General Assembly open to the participation of all interested parties held on February 13 the facilitator, the Permanent Representative of Chile, Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes carried out informal consultations with a view to moving the process forward.

When discussing how to proceed, some delegations pointed out that a conceptual distinction had to be made between improvements of procedures and working methods ("reform") and substantive improvements in its role and impact ("revitalization"). A number of delegations called for a precise determination of the objective and scope of the current exercise. Several mentioned the need for a realistic and practical list of priorities to guarantee manageable and action-oriented implementation.

The general contention among Member States was that General Assembly (GA) working methods have not improved, as verified by the increase in the number and/or length of agenda items, resolutions, plenary items, Reports of the Secretary-General, and speakers' interventions. This had led to fatigue with the GA's work, overtaxing of small delegations, empty halls, non-punctual and non-interactive sessions, rubber-stamping of resolutions, marginalisation, lack of responsiveness, lack of representation, and encroachment by the Security Council and other organs on the GA's domain.

Thus, many delegations expressed the need to center this process on the implementation of those provisions contained in existing resolutions, which has not been done, and to focus it for the time being on the Plenary of the General Assembly.

Resolution 51/241, that was the outcome of the Open-Ended High-Level Working Group on the Strengthening on the United Nations System, is the most complete. Therefore, it would seem appropriate to take this text as a basis and use the others resolutions as needed.

Resolution 51/241 raises a number of issues that require more specific measures to improve their implementation. The current non-paper will focus on the following:
- Agenda;
- Consideration of reports by the General Assembly;
- The General Committee;
- Strengthening the office of the President;
- Enhancing the use of modern technology

2. THE AGENDA

How to implement provisions of 51/241 regarding the agenda has emerged as one of the more complicated aspects of this process. While the majority of delegations are in agreement with the need to streamline, cluster, biannualize and triannualize items, a clear criteria as to how to do this has not emerged from the informal consultations.

Therefore what is contained in this paper should taken as examples of possible approaches for consideration by delegations rather than specific proposals from the President and the facilitator. Thus, the mandate of 51/241 regarding the agenda could be addressed in the following manner (based on items allocated to Plenary for the 55th session of the General Assembly):

-On grouping of items see Annex 1.

For biannualization or triannualization: here are some examples to be considered:

i) Cooperation between the U.N. and other observer institutions (items 21 to 29,65,69) ;

ii) United Nations Reform (item 60a; 61; 62)

iii) Restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social; and related fields (item 63)

iv) Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (item 20a)

v) Support of the U.N. for new or restored democracies (item 39);

vi) The role of the United Nations in promoting a new global order (item 174)

vii) The situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti (item 48)

viii) Zone of peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic (Item 38)

ix) Elimination of coercive measures as a means of political and economic compulsion (item 31 -already biannual);

ITEMS THAT COULD BE ADDRESSED AT THE COMMITTEE LEVEL COULD INCLUDE
:

-Item 47:Assistance in mine action.(3rd. Committee)

-Item 37: Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and the Special Session of the General Assembly in this regard (3rd. Committee);

-Items 52 and 53:Reports of the International Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia. (3rd. Committee);

-Item 58: Launching of Global Negotiations on international economic cooperation for development (2nd. Committee)

3. CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS

One issue that was considered to be very important by many delegations is the more structured consideration of reports by the General Assembly, in particular the Report of the Secretary General on the work of the Organization and the Report of the Security Council, as contained in Resolution 51/241, paragraphs 7 and 12.

Paragraph 7 states:

"The report of the Secretary General on the work of the Organization shall be considered in Plenary meetings of the General Assembly inmediately after the general debate. The President of the Assembly should assess the debate on this item. In the light of that assesment, informal consultations shall be held, under the chairmanship of the President or one of the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, to discuss action that may be required by the Assembly on the basis of the debate on the report".

Paragraph 12 states:

"The President of the General Assembly shall assess the debate on this item and consider the need for further consideration of the report of the Security Council. In the light of tha assessment, informal consultations shall be held after the debate in Plenary meetings under the chairmanship of the President or one of the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, to discuss the need and content of any action by the Assembly based on the debates".

The President, after consideration of the reports by the General Assembly, shall inform the General Assembly of his assessment of the debate in order to determine the need for further action.

Also, he should remit his assessment of the debate to the Secretary General and the President of the Security Council, as appropriate, for their consideration and feedback.

4. ORGANIZATION OF WORK

Paragraph 28 of Resolution 51/241 addresses the issue of action to be taken on items considered directly in plenary. This shall be done on the basis of an assessment by the President of discussions of the particular item and after informal consultations by the President or a Vice-President on the need for action. The implementation of this provision may require some additional measures.

5. THE GENERAL COMMITTEE

Some delegations suggested a review of the role and composition of the General Committee (GC) in order to enhance its capacity to assist the President in the conduct of the General Assembly and to improve the continuity between different sessions of the GA. The composition of the General Committee, which combines individuals (Committee Chairpersons) and countries may not be conducive to facilitating the role of the GC as a Bureau to the President.

6. STRENGTHENING THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT


To contribute in a meaningful and consistent manner to many of the tasks discussed above as well as in other parts the 51/241 it is essential that the office of the President will be strengthened. This provision of Resolution 51/241 has been partially implemented but requires additional measures, particularly in the area of substantive support for the President. In this regard, at least two professional level posts on a permanent basis should be established in the office of the President without delay. This would also enhance the capacity of the Office to liaise with the Members States and to coordinate better with the different divisions of the Organization the substantive work of the Presidency.

7. ENHANCING THE USE OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY

The need to increase the use of modern technology and information technology within the UN, including in the negotiating process of the United Nations has been mentioned by many delegations. In this regard, it has been suggested that the main meeting rooms of the UN should be wired to provide delegations and the secretariat with access the Optical Disc System and other databases of the Organization and the internet.


ANNEX 1


AGENDA ITEMS ALLOCATED TO THE PLENARY OF THE 55TH SESSION
OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY


( Source: A/55/252 & Add.1, 2, 4, 5)

NOTE: The items allocated to the Plenary of the General Assembly at its 55th regular session have been grouped under the following headings solely for the purpose of providing a better sense of the substantive contents of the agenda of the Plenary.

A: ORGANIZATIONAL

Item Freq.
1. Opening of the session by the Chairman of the delegation of Namibia (item1).  
2. Minute of silent prayer or meditation (item 2).  
3. Credentials of representatives to the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly (item 3):
(a) Appointment of the members of the Credentials Committee;
(b) Report of the Credentials Committee.
 
7. Notification by the Secretary-General under Article 12, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations (item 7).  
8. Adoption of the agenda and organization of work: reports of the General Committee (item 8).  
19. Admission of new Members to the United Nations (item 19).
 

B: ELECTIONS & APPOINTMENTS

Item Freq.
4. Election of the President of the General Assembly (item 4).  
5. Election of the officers of the Main Committees (item 5).  
6. Election of the Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly (rule 31).  
15. Elections to fill vacancies in principal organs:
(a) Election of five non-permanent members of the Security Council (rule 142; decision 55/305 of 10 October 2000);
(b) Election of eighteen members of the Economic and Social Council (rule 145; decisions 55/306 A of 12 October 2000 and 55/306 B of 1 November 2000).
 
16. Elections to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other elections (item 16):
(a) Election of seven members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination;
(b) Election of seventeen members of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law;
(c) Election of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
 
17. Appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other appointments (item 17):
(h) Appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences;
(i) Appointment of the members of the Consultative Committee on the United Nations Development Fund for Women;
(j) Approval of the appointment of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
 
64. Election of judges of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 (item 166).  
77. Election of judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994 (item 185).  

C: GENERAL DEBATE & REPORTS

Item Freq.
9. General debate.  
10. Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (item 10).  
11. Report of the Security Council (item 11).  
12. Report of the Economic and Social Council [chaps. I-VI, VII (sects. A-C), VIII and IX] (item 12).  
13. Report of the International Court of Justice (item 13).  
14. Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (item 14).  

D: SYSTEMIC

Item Freq.
18. Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (item 18).  
32. United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (item 32).  
33. Culture of peace (item 33).  
36. Bethlehem 2000 (item 36).  
39. Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies (item 39).  
57. Implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations (item 57).  
59. Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters (item 59).  
60. United Nations reform: measures and proposals (item 60):
(a) United Nations reform: measures and proposals;
(b) The Millennium Assembly of the United Nations.
 
61. Strengthening of the United Nations system (item 61).  
62. Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (item 62).  
66. Towards global partnerships (item 173).  
67. The role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order (item 174).  
75. Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit (item 182).  

E: PEACE & SECURITY

Item Freq.
38. Zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic (item 38).  
45. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (item 45).  
46. The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (item 46).  
47. Assistance in mine action (item 47).  
49. The situation in East Timor during its transition to independence (item 49).  
51. Question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (item 51).  
68. The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict (item 175).  
76. Peace, security and reunification on the Korean peninsula (item 183).  

F: ECONOMIC & SOCIAL

Item Freq.
31. Elimination of coercive economic measures as a means of political and economic compulsion (item 31).  
37. Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the special session of the General Assembly in this regard (item 37).  
42. Special session of the General Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children (item 42).59. The situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti.  
48. The situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti.  
58. Launching of global negotiations on international economic cooperation for development (item 58).  
63. Restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields (item 63).
 
71. Review of the problem of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in all its aspects (item 179).  

G: LEGAL

Item Freq.
34. Oceans and the law of the sea (item 34):
(a) Consideration of elements relating to oceans and seas, including improvement of coordination and cooperation;
(b) Large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing, unauthorized fishing in zones of national jurisdiction and on the high seas, fisheries by-catch and discards, and other developments.
 
52. Report of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991.  
53. Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994 (item 53).  
73. Crime prevention and criminal justice (item 105).  

H: COOPERATION

Item Freq.
21. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of American States (item 21).  
22. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (item 22).  
23. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Caribbean Community (item 23).  
24. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (item 24).  
25. Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States (item 25).  
26. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (item 26).  
27. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (item 27).  
28. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation Organization (item 28).  
29. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (item 29).  
65. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe (item 170).  
69. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (item 177).  
72. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Community of Central African States (item 180).  
74. Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (item 181).  

I: HUMANITARIAN

Item Freq.
20. Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance (item 20):
(a) Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations;
(b) Special economic assistance to individual countries or regions;
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people;
(d) Emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan.
 
47. Assistance in mine action (item 47).  

J: AFRICA

Item Freq.
30. Implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s, including measures and recommendations agreed upon at its mid-term review (item 30).  
50. Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa (item 50).  
54. Declaration of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity on the aerial and naval military attack against the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya by the present United States Administration in April 1986 (item 54).  
70. Armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo (item 178).  
78. 2001-2010 Decade: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Africa (item 186).  

K: MIDDLE EAST

Item Freq.
40. The situation in the Middle East (item 40).  
41. Question of Palestine (item 41).  
55. Armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and international peace and security (item 55).  
56. Consequences of the Iraqi occupation of and aggression against Kuwait (item 56).  

L: LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN

Item Freq.
35. Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba (item 35).  
43. The situation in Central America: procedures for the establishment of a firm and lasting peace and progress in fashioning a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development (item 43).  
48. The situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti (item 48).