Sixth Committee (Legal) — 75th session

Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (Agenda item 126)

Documentation

Summary of work

Background (source: A/75/100/Add.1)

At its forty-fifth session, the General Assembly, under the item entitled “Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations”, decided to include in the draft agenda of the forty-sixth session the item entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly” (decision 45/461). The Assembly had the item on its agenda at its forty-sixth to forty-eighth and fifty-second sessions and has had the item on its agenda annually since its fifty-third session (resolutions 46/77, 47/233, 48/264, 55/285, 56/509, 57/301, 58/126, 58/316, 61/292, 62/276, 63/309, 64/301, 65/315, 66/294, 67/297, 68/307, 69/321, 70/305, 71/323, 72/313, 73/341 and 74/303 and decisions 52/479, 53/491, 54/491 and 74/537 A and B).

At its fifty-eighth session, the Assembly decided that, in July of each year, the General Committee would conduct a review of the proposed programme of work for the forthcoming session of the Assembly, on the basis of a report submitted by the Secretary-General, and submit recommendations on the matter to the Assembly at its forthcoming session; and that the report would include information on the status of documentation to be issued during the forthcoming session (resolution 58/316).

At its seventy-fourth session, the Assembly considered the item in a joint debate, with the item entitled “Implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations”, where statements were made by the President and 23 delegations (see A/74/PV.29). The Assembly decided to establish, at its seventy-fifth session, an ad hoc working group on the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, open to all Member States, to identify further ways to enhance the role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the Assembly, inter alia, by building on the progress achieved in past sessions as well as on previous resolutions, including evaluating the status of their implementation and to submit a report thereon to the Assembly at its seventy-fifth session; requested the Secretary-General to undertake within existing resources an analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work of the Assembly and to provide a briefing thereon to the ad hoc working group during the seventy-fifth session; and decided that the ad hoc working group should continue its review of the inventory of Assembly resolutions on revitalization annexed to the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group submitted at the seventy-third session and, as a result, continue to update the inventory to be attached to the report to be submitted at the seventy-fifth session of the Assembly, including the separate indication of relevant provisions that were not implemented, with reasons therefor (resolution 74/303).

Since its sixtieth session, pursuant to resolution 58/316 and in order to facilitate the work of the Main Committees, the Assembly has decided annually, on the recommendation of the General Committee, to allocate the item to all the Main Committees for the purpose of discussing their working methods, as well as considering and taking action on their respective tentative programmes of work. Accordingly, at its seventy-fourth session, the Assembly approved the provisional programme of work and timetable of the First Committee for 2020 (decision 74/512); the proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) (decision 74/516); the draft programmes of work of the Second Committee (decision 74/538) and the Third Committee (decision 74/519); and the provisional programme of work of the Sixth Committee (decision 74/521) for the seventy-fifth session of the Assembly.

Consideration at the seventy-fifth session

At its 2nd plenary meeting, on 18 September 2020, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the General Committee, decided to allocate the item to all the Main Committees for the purpose of discussing their working methods and considering and taking action on their respective tentative programmes of work for the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly. 

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 19th meeting, on 19 November 2020 (see A/C.6/75/SR.19).

Statements were made by the representatives of Australia, Mexico, Cuba and Canada.

Delegations commented on the experience of holding the annual session of the Sixth Committee in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Committee was praised for instituting time-limits on national and group statements, which had enhanced predictability and focus. It was proposed that future debates on the annual report of the International Law Commission be limited to 8 minutes for national statements and 14 minutes for groups. At the same time, it was recalled that it had been agreed that the special working arrangements put into place had been exceptional in nature; the possibility of continuing such arrangements in the future would have to be discussed and decided upon separately. The Committee was also called upon to take stock of the experience of 2020, and to consider lessons learned with a view to improving working methods, and to consider, for example, revisions to the Official Rules of the Procedure of the General Assembly, so as to ensure that the Organization would have the ability to work effectively and efficiently in similar circumstances in the future.

It was also suggested that statements delivered by delegations in the Sixth Committee be systematically made available in writing and distributed (by the Secretariat) to all delegations, as important evidence of State practice and even opinio juris. The Secretariat was further strongly encouraged to restore access to statements made by delegations in the Sixth Committee at past sessions, previously uploaded into the discontinued PaperSmart portal, by including such statements on the website of the Sixth Committee.
The view was also expressed that the Sixth Committee would benefit, in the future, from an enhanced rotation among coordinators of draft resolutions.

Archived videos and summaries of plenary meetings

Video   19th meeting (19 November 2020, 3:00pm – 6:00pm) | Summary

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 19th meeting, on 19 November, the Chair introduced a draft decision containing the provisional programme of work of the Committee for the seventy-sixth session of the General Assembly, as proposed by the Bureau (A/C.6/75/L.21). At the same meeting, the Committee adopted the draft decision A/C.6/75/L.21 without a vote. 

Subsequent action taken by the General Assembly

This agenda item will be considered at the seventy-sixth session (2021).

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