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General Assembly

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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.

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 security
    • topics include principles governing disarmament
    • regulations of armaments
    • 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 Charter.
  • 2/3rd majority including votes made by permanent members is essential to approve and ratify an amendment.