What is it?
The General Assembly (GA) is one of the six principal organs of the UN and has been called the closest thing to a world parliament. Comprising all 193 UN Member States, it provides a forum for discussion for countries around the world on a range of issues, including human rights. It is based in New York.
All Member States get one equal vote when it comes to General Assembly decisions, called "Resolutions". Resolutions on the most important issues (peace and security; elections of members to other UN organs; admission, suspension and expulsion of UN Members; and budgets) are decided by two-thirds majority of those present and voting. All other questions are decided by majority vote.
Although these resolutions are not legally enforceable (except the General Assembly’s decision on the UN’s budget), they are a strong statement of what the international community thinks about a particular issue.
You can find the full text of General Assembly resolutions via UNBISnet, the Official Document System of the United Nations (ODS) and on the General Assembly website.
The General Assembly meets in regular, special (eg Special Session on children) and emergency special sessions. The regular session commences in September and finishes in December. It reconvenes if required the following year.
What does it do?
The General Assembly’s functions and powers are set out in the UN Charter. The main functions are:
- To consider and make recommendations on maintaining international peace and security;
- To discuss any question relating to international peace and security, except where a dispute or situation is currently being discussed by the Security Council, and make recommendations on it;
- To discuss, with the same exception, and make recommendations on any questions within the scope of the UN Charter or affecting the powers and functions of any organ of the UN;
- To initiate studies and make recommendations to promote international political cooperation, the development of international law, the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and international collaboration in the economic, social, humanitarian, cultural, educational and health fields;
- To make recommendations for the peaceful settlement of any situation that might impair friendly relations among nations;
- To receive and consider reports from the Security Council and other UN organs;
- To consider and approve the UN budget and establish the financial assessments of Member States; and
- To elect the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of other UN councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, to appoint the Secretary-General.