Forum for multilateral negotiation
Established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly occupies a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 192 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter.
Murals created by French artist Fernand Léger for the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations headquarters in New York, 1952 (Brieuc PONT)
It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required.
The General Assembly cannot impose any measures on a State, but its recommendations are a reliable indicator of global opinion and represent the moral authority of the world community.
Functions and powers of the General Assembly
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly may:
Consider and make recommendations on the general principles of cooperation for maintaining international peace and security, including disarmament;
Discuss any question relating to international peace and security and, except where a dispute or situation is currently being discussed by the Security Council, make recommendations on it;
Discuss, with the same exception, and make recommendations on any questions within the scope of the Charter or affecting the powers and functions of any organ of the United Nations;
Initiate studies and make recommendations to promote international political cooperation, the development and codification of international law, the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international collaboration in the economic, social, humanitarian, cultural, educational and health fields;
Make recommendations for the peaceful settlement of any situation that might impair friendly relations among nations;
Receive and consider reports from the Security Council and other United Nations organs;
Consider and approve the United Nations budget and establish the financial assessments of Member States;
Elect the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of other United Nations councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General.
The General Assembly
The search for consensus
Each Member State in the Assembly has one vote. Votes taken on designated important issues, such as recommendations on peace and security and the election of Security Council members, require a two-thirds majority of Member States, but other questions are decided by simple majority.
In recent years, a special effort has been made to achieve consensus on issues, rather than deciding by a formal vote, thus strengthening support for the Assembly’s decisions. The President, after having consulted and reached agreement with delegations, can propose that a resolution be adopted without a vote.