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About the General Assembly

Functions and powers

The General Assembly (GA) is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of
the UN.
Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new
members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority. Decisions on other questions are
by simple majority.
Each country has one vote. Some Member States in arrear of payment may be granted the right
to vote. See the list of countries in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions.
The Assembly has adopted its own rules of procedure and elects its President for each session.

Functions and powers of the General AssemblyAccording 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

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 United Nations General Assembly is an principal organ of the United Nations
Organization. It meets once a year or on special occasions. This is the only organ of UN where
all members have equal representation. Resolutions of the General Assembly could become

source of International Law. Provisions related to the General Assembly are present in Chapter
IV - Articles 9 to 22 of the United Nations Charter.

Agencies such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children's
Fund (UNICEF) are not specialised agencies of the UN, but are bodies set up by the UN
General Assembly, and lack separate international legal personality.


1 Composition of General Assembly

2 General Assembly Meeting

3 Functions of the General Assembly

o 3.1 Deliberative functions

4 Supervisory functions

5 Financial functions

6 Elective functions

7 Constituent functions

Composition of General Assembly

The General Assembly comprises of all members of the UN.

Each member has an equal status irrespective of its size, power or importance.

Each member shall have up to 5 representatives in the General Assembly.

General Assembly Meeting

The General Assembly meetings are called 'regular sessions'.

The regular sessions will be held every thirteen weeks.

'Special Sessions' can be called for by the Secretary-General up on a request from the
Security Council or by a majority of members

An 'Emergency Special Session' can be called for within 24 hrs of receipt by the
Secretary General of a request by the Security Council on the vote of any of 9 members
or by a majority of members of the UN.

Functions of the General Assembly

The function of the General Assembly is to discuss the problems of the world. It also
investigates, reviews and supervises the works of the Organization and the organs. Its functions
are broadly divided into 5 types:

Deliberative functions

Supervisory functions

Financials functions

Elective functions

Constituent functions

Deliberative functions

General Assembly is a deliberative body

Has powers of discussion, investigation, review, supervision and criticism in regard to the
works of the UN as a whole and of the organs

Can discuss any matter within the scope of the UN Charter

Can consider general principles of co-operation in maintenance of international peace and

o topics include principles governing disarmament
o regulations of armaments
o make recommendations to Security Council on principles

Promoting international co-operation

Encouraging development of International Law and codification of law

Promoting international co-operation in Economic, Social, Cultural, Educational and

Health fields and assisting in realization of Human Rights.

Supervisory functions

Supervises activities of other organs and agencies including the Economic and Social
Council and the Trusteeship Council

Receives and reviews annual reports from the organs and agencies. Secretary-General
submits an annual report to the General Assembly.

Financial functions

Considers and approves the UN Budget

Share of expenses of each of the members is decided. i.e Expenses of UN are apportioned
by members

Considers and approves financial and budgetary arrangements with specialized agencies.

Examines administrative expenses of agencies

Members wont have voting rights until they pay their dues.

Elective functions

New members admitted only after election

Admission of new members, expulsion of existing members by way of elective functions

of UN

Elects 10 non-permanent members to the Security Council

Elects 54 members to the Economic and Social Council

Elects some members of the Trusteeship Council

Plays active role in the election of Judges of International Court of Justice

5 permanent members have no Veto Right in General Assembly

Elects President for each session

Constituent functions

General Assembly is the only organ that can allow amendment to the United Nations

2/3rd majority including votes made by permanent members is essential to approve and
ratify an amendment.

Principal Organs of the United Nations

The character provided for the establishment of six organs of the UN. The General Assembly, the
Security Council, the International Council of Justice and the Secretariat.
The official languages of the General Assembly, all its main committees and sub-committees, the
Security Council and Trusteeship Council are Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
These languages together with Arabic are the working languages of the Security Council and its
seven main committees. The official languages of international court of justice are English and
General Assembly:
The General Assembly is the apex body of the United Nations. It has been described as the town
meeting of the world because all the members of the United Nations are ipso facts members of
the General Assembly. Each member has a single vote even through each state can send five
representatives to the Assembly. These representatives are the nominees of their respective
governments. The charter does not impose any restriction on the member states with regard to
the appointment of the delegates to the General Assembly except that Article 8 enjoins upon the
states not to make any discrimination on the basis of sex. These representatives have to act in
accordance with the instruction of their respective governments and are directly responsible to
their governments. Thus the General Assembly is more of a diplomatic coference than a
legislative body.
The General Assembly at its first session elects a president for a term of twelve months. As a
matter of convention, the president is taken from a minor country. It may be noted that though
the president is elected by the General Assembly, in reality the choice of the candidate for the
post of president is made through private consultations before the session of the Assembly and a
candidate who is acceptable to the majority of the members is elected as president. It is note
worthy that during the initial years close contests took place the office of President Ship.
Vice Presidents and Chairmen of Standing Committee:

In additional to the president the General Assembly at its first session also elects seventeen vice
Presidents and seven chairmen for the seven standing committees. All these officials, along with
the president constitute the General Committee, which acts as the steering committee fore each
session. This committee acts as advisory body t the president. How ever, its recommendations
are not binding on the president. It mainly advises the president with regard to agenda and
priorities of debates, allocation of items to the seven committees, co ordination of work of the
standing committees, fixing date for adjournment of Assembly and assistance to the president in
the discharge of his responsibilities.
While nominating the seven vice presidents of General Assembly effority is made to provide
representation to all the areas. Usually seven members are taken from Asian and African states;
one from Eastern European States, three from Latin American states; two from Western
European and other states and five seats are given to five permanent members of the Security
Council. Like wise the Chairman ship of the seven committees is also allocated on the basis of
these areas.
Sessions of Assembly:
The regular session of the General Assembly is held once a year. The session commences on the
third Tuesday in September and continues until mid-December. In addition special session of the
Assembly can be called at the request of the Security Council a majority of member states or one
member states with the concurrence of the majority, Emergency special session of the Assembly
can be called within 24 hours of a request by the Security Council on vote of any nine of its
members, or by a majority of the member states.
Decision on all important questions are taken by two third majority of the members present and
voting. Some of the important matters, which fall in this category include recommendations on
peace and security. Election of members of the security council: the Economic and Social
Council and the Trusteeship Council, admission suspension and expulsion of member states:
trusteeship questions and budgetary matters. The other matters can be decided by simple
The General Assembly conducts its business on the basis of the agenda which is prepared by the
secretary. General in the month of duty. The secretary General has not much dis-creation with
regard to the determination of the agenda because there are certain items which must find their
place on the agenda. Thus the agenda of the Assembly invariably includes Annual Report of the
Secretary General, reports of other organs of the United Nations, items proposed by members of
the United Nations. Further, this agenda is reviewed by the General Committee of the Assembly
to avoid overlapping and repetition.
Functions and Powers:
The General Assembly performs varied ad extensive functions which cane be conveniently
studied under the following heads.
1. Deliberative Functions: The General Assembly can discuss any question or matter within the
scope of the UN charter and relating to any organ of the United Nations. It can also invite the
attention of the Security Council to the situation which are likely to endanger international peace
and security and recommendation measures for the peaceful adjustment of situation which is
likely to disturb the friendly relations amongst nations.
The General Assembly can also initiate studies and make recommendations for (a) promoting
international co-operation in political arena and encourage progress of international Law and its

codification. (b) Promoting international co-operation in the economic, Social, Cultural

educational and health fields and assising in realisation of human rights and fundamental
freedom for all without discrimination as to race, Sex Language or religion. The deliberative
functions of the Assembly according to Prof: Vandenbosch and Hogan implies two things. First it
entails the power to ascertain the facts and information necessary for the discussion. Secondly, its
deliberations may go beyond mere discussion and may result in certain recommendations. In
other words the General Assembly can make recommendations and also conduct studies for
promoting international co-operation.
The recommendations of the General Assembly do not possesses any legal sanction and are
merely an expression of opinion or advice of the Assembly, which is not binding on the member
states. Further thought the General Assembly enjoys extensive powers with regard to discussion
on world problem, it can not intervene in the matters falling within the domestic jurisdiction of
the states. But in view of the growing inter dependence of internal and foreign affairs, it is not
always easy to say what really falls under the domestic jurisdiction. For example in 1948 India
lodged a compliant with General Assembly regarding maltreatment of Indian minority in South
Africa but the South African Government challenged the right of the Assembly to consider the
issue on the plea that the matter essentially relates to domestic jurisdiction. Despite this the
General Assembly proceeded to adopt a resolution in December 1946 and insisted that the
treatment of the Indian minority should be in accordance with international obligations,
including the provisions of the charter. It is a different matter that the South African government
refused to implement the resolution on the ground that the matter did not fall within the
competence of the General Assembly.

The functions and powers assigned to the Security Council under the charter are the following:

to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and
purposes of the UN;

to investigate any dispute or situation that might lead to international friction and to
recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;

to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or an act of aggression and to

recommend what action should be taken;

to call on members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use
of force in order to prevent or stop aggression;

to take military action against an aggressor; and

to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments.

The Security council also is empowered to exercise the trusteeship functions of the UN in areas
designated as "strategic" (only the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands was so designated).
Finally, the Council recommends to the General Assembly the admission of new members and
the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the General Assembly, elects the
judges of the International Court of Justice.