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GA/12257
22 July 2020

Adopting Five Texts, General Assembly Extends Silence Procedure for Taking Decisions during COVID-19 Pandemic, Establishes Modalities for Upcoming General Debate

The General Assembly — operating under the silence procedure it has embraced amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — adopted five decisions on 21 and 22 July, including one extending that procedure until 31 August and another setting out hybrid virtual and in-person modalities for its upcoming high-level general debate.

By the terms of the draft decision “Extension of the procedure for taking decisions of the General Assembly during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic until the end of August 2020” (document A/74/L.76), the 193-member organ decided to extend its silence procedure, first laid out in decisions 74/544 of 27 March and 74/555 of 15 May, and again through 74/558 of 18 June, the latter of which extended the procedure until the end of July 2020.  Under those arrangements, which apply to the Assembly and its subsidiary organs, the President is authorized to circulate draft decisions to all Member States at least 72 hours after consultation with the General Committee.  If the silence is not broken, those decisions are considered adopted.  (For more details, see Press Releases GA/12244, GA/12245 and GA/12251.)

Turning to the general debate for its seventy-fifth session, to be held in September, the Assembly adopted a draft decision titled “High-level meetings of the General Assembly in September 2020” (document A/74/L.75).  By its terms, the Assembly decided that, in light of COVID-19, Member States, observer States and the European Union will be invited to submit pre-recorded statements by Heads of State, Vice-Presidents, Crown Princes or Princesses, Heads of Government, Ministers or Vice-Ministers, to be played in the General Assembly Hall during the general debate following an introduction by their representative who is physically present in the Assembly Hall.

By other terms of that text, the Assembly decided that such arrangements — which it stipulated shall not set a precedent for future debates and mandated high-level meetings — will only apply to the meetings of the general debate, the high-level meeting to commemorate the Organization’s seventy-fifth anniversary, and three other sessions.  Those are a summit on biodiversity, a high-level meeting on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and a high-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In that vein, the Assembly decided that the summit on biodiversity, to be convened pursuant to resolution 74/269 of 31 March 2020, will be held on Wednesday, 30 September 2020.  The high-level meeting on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, to be convened pursuant to resolution 73/340 of 12 September 2019, will be held on Thursday, 1 October 2020.  The high-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, to be convened pursuant to resolution 74/54 of 12 December 2019, will be held on Friday, 2 October 2020.

The Assembly further decided that, in addition to verbatim records for those meetings, the President of the General Assembly will circulate as a document of the Assembly a compilation document of the statements delivered by Heads of State or other dignitaries during the general debate and the high-level meeting to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary.

The Assembly also adopted three draft decisions related to its thirty-first special session, which opened on 10 July with a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.  By the terms of the first decision (document S-31/4), Members decided that the Vice-Presidents of the thirty-first special session shall be the same as those of the seventy-fourth regular session of the General Assembly.  In the second (document S-31/5), they decided that the Chairpersons of the Main Committees of the thirty-first special session shall be the same as those of the seventy-fourth regular session.  In the third decision (document S-31/6), the Assembly adopted the agenda of its thirty-first special session, which is contained in document A/S-31/1.

The thirty-first special session is the first such meeting convened in four years.  Thirty special sessions were held between 1947 and 2016, the first on the question of Palestine and the last on the global drug problem.  According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Assembly holds special sessions “as occasion may require”, convoked by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council or a majority of United Nations Members.

The final version of decisions adopted during the resumed part of the General Assembly’s seventy-fourth session will be contained in the organ’s official record (document A/74/49 (Vol. III)) after editorial review.

For information media. Not an official record.