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

Improving the working methods of the General Assembly
talking points for the informal brainstorming meeting of the General Committee

13 February 2001


The purpose of this meeting is to launch a discussion on the ways and means to improve the working methods of the General Assembly, so that it can be more efficient in its use of resources and more effective in its outcomes.

These Talking Points serve the purpose of assisting that initial exchange of views and should serve as an input for further exchanges of views on this matter. It must be recalled that the last time the General Assembly addressed these issues was during the 51st. session and the time before was during the 48th.session. On both occasions significant resolutions were adopted.

Most recently, The Millennium Declaration stated in paragraph 30 that the General Assembly is "the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations", Thus, the time may have come again to assess how the General Assembly is performing its duties.

In order to focus the exchange of views, resolutions 48/264, Annex I and 51/241 and its Annex adopted by the General Assembly on its working methods, have been circulated and are used as a basis for these talking points. Other ideas and suggestions that could be useful are also included.



Paragraph 1 (48/264/Annex I) states " the Plenary meetings of the General Assembly should constitute a forum for high-level policy statements as well as for the consideration, inter alia, of agenda items of special political importance and/or urgency.

Paragraph 3 (48/264/Annex I) states "Substantive items initially allocated directly to a Plenary meeting of the General Assembly could be reviewed for allocation to a Main Committee, in accordance with the rules of procedure of the Assembly, in particular, with Assembly decision 34/401, which is reproduced in Annex 6 to the rules of procedure.

Paragraph 4 (48/264/Annex I) states " there shall be periodic reviews of the agenda, taking into account the views of concerned Member-States, in order to ascertain whether it is possible to delete any item on which no resolution or decision has been adopted for a period of time.

Paragraph 24 ( 51/241 Annex) states "The General Assembly shall take further steps to rationalise and streamline the agenda, based on the Guidelines on the Rationalisation of the Agenda of the General Assembly agreed to by the Assembly in Annex 1 to its Resolution 48/264 of 29, July 1994, and in particular, shall make greater use of clustering, biennialization or triennialization of agenda items."

Paragraph 27 ( 51/241 Annex)
states that consideration of items shall be reserved to for urgent issues or issues of major political importance.

As can be seen, there are a variety of already agreed measures to improve the working methods of the General Assembly. Therefore, the question arises as to what procedures should be put in place to implement these agreed matters.

For example, how could we agree to cluster biannualize and triannualize items on the agenda? Could we agree on criteria how to do this?

Could items for example referring to cooperation of the United Nations and different agencies and organisation be clustered, so that time wise they could all be discussed jointly ('co-operation days/week')

Is this the manner how the Plenary can focus on items of especial political importance and/or urgency, or can additional practical measures be set up?

Could the General Committee be entrusted with a general review of the agenda, say every five years , and submit recommendations for action to the General Assembly?


Paras 4 and 5 of resolution 48/264 refer to efforts to make reporting more useful to Member States.

Para 32 of resolution resolution 51/241 states that the number of reports requested shall be rationalized where possible so as to permit more focused discussion consideration of issues. The consideration to integrating reports was also agreed.

How could we make more rigorous the procedures in practice to request the preparation of reports and integrating them where appropriate?

General Committee

Chapter XI of resolution 51/241 suggests ways on how the General Committee could be helpful in improving the work of the Assembly

How could the Committee fulfil these tasks in practice in a more coherent and systematic way? Such as the mandate it has to give suggestions prior to the closure of the Session and suggestions in streamlining its work?

How could we benefit more of the experiences of the Chairpersons of the Main Committees, as members of the General Committee, in relation to the committee work, And how could we forward these experiences in a useful for the future chairpersons?

Role of the President of the General Assembly ( refer Chapter XIV of 52/241)

How could we make the consultations among the President of the General Assembly and the Presidents of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council more useful and productive?

And what would be the best way to inform the Membership of their outcome? Using the channel of regional groups does not always seem to work as desired.


General Debate

The question on how to focus and make our discussions more interactive has been raised. Also the issue of repetition and duplication has been mentioned.

How could these ideas and problems be explored and implemented in relation to

i) General Debate
ii) Report of the Secretary General ,and
iii) Report of the Security Council.
iv) Any Other debates, such general debates in the Main Committees?

Organisation of Work

Is the time-frame allocated to the General Assembly an adequate one?

Can the substantive relationship between the Main Committees and the Plenary be improved?

How can the relationship between the Assembly and its Special Sessions and UN conferences be improved?

the full text of resolution 51/241

the full text of Annex of resolution 51/241

the full text of resolution 48/264 and its Annexes