What is the UN General Assembly?

The 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is set to begin this week, but what is the UNGA, and what are the annual meetings? We’re explaining below. 

What is the General Assembly, and how does it work? 

The UNGA is the main policy-making “organ” (there are six organs in the United Nations, which are specialised agencies) of the United Nations. It is the deliberative and policy-making body of the UN, addressing complex world issues as well as the challenges facing individual members. Each of the 193 member states has an equal vote on international issues, and the UNGA is the only body in the United Nations where all member states have representation. 

There are annual meetings (the 2021 meetings are set to begin this week) that are held in the United Nations New York Headquarters, that begin in September, and generally run through to January of the following year. 

A centrepiece of the meetings is the General Debate, which is held at the beginning of each session of the General Assembly. With the debate, there are usually nine days worth of speeches and meetings. The theme of the upcoming debate is “building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations”

Another aspect of the UNGA is the “Credentials Committee”. It is appointed at the beginning of each regular session of the General Assembly. The Committee’s role is to report the credentials of the body’s representatives. This year in particular will be interesting, as it remains unclear who will be recognised as the legitimate representatives of Myanmar and Afghanistan.

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