General Assembly of the United Nations

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

General Assembly of the United Nations


one of the chief organs of the United Nations. According to Article 9, Point 1 of the UN Charter, the General Assembly consists of all states that are members of the United Nations. It is empowered to discuss any questions or matters within the scope of the Charter or relating to the powers and functions of any organ established by the Charter. With a few exceptions, it may make recommendations to the members of the UN or the UN Security Council on any such questions or matters. In particular, the General Assembly has the power to consider general principles of cooperation in matters of maintaining international peace and security (including principles determining disarmament and regulating armament). It may also discuss any questions relating to the maintenance of international peace and security. The powers of the UN General Assembly are limited with respect to the special functions and powers of the Security Council, to which the members of the UN have assigned the chief responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Any question on the maintenance of international peace and security on which actions have to be taken is referred by the UN General Assembly to the Security Council either before or after its discussion (UN Charter, Article 11).

As a rule the decisions of the UN General Assembly have the character of recommendations; that is, they are not legally binding on the members. However, on a number of questions relating to the internal affairs of the UN, the assembly’s decisions are mandatory—for example, admission to and exclusion from UN membership, the election of non-permanent members of the Security Council and the election of the International Court of Justice, and the appointment of the secretary-general of the UN. (Some decisions on these questions are adopted with the participation of the Security Council.) Decisions of the UN General Assembly are adopted by a majority of the votes of the UN members present and participating in the voting. (UN members abstaining from the vote are considered nonparticipants in the vote.) Decisions on important questions are adopted by a two-thirds majority of the members present and participating in the vote.

The UN General Assembly meets every year for regular sessions; emergency and special sessions are held as the need arises. Every member state of the UN may be represented in the session by five delegates (and five of their deputies), and each member state has one vote. Regular sessions open, as a rule, on the third Tuesday of September. As of Jan. 1, 1971, there had been 25 regular, five special, and five emergency special sessions of the UN General Assembly.

To discharge its functions the UN General Assembly has seven main committees, which essentially consider most of the points on the agenda of the UN General Assembly. The committees include the First Committee (political questions and security, including disarmament), the Special Political Committee (the same questions), the Second Committee (economic and financial questions), and the Third Committee (social, humanitarian, and cultural questions). In addition, there is the Fourth Committee (trusteeship and non-self-governing territories), the Fifth Committee (administrative and budgetary questions), and the Sixth Committee (legal questions). To coordinate the work of these committees the General Committee is formed at each session. It consists of the president of the assembly, the 17 vice-presidents, and the chairmen of the seven main committees. The Credentials Committee, consisting of nine members, is formed at each session. There are also two permanent committees, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and the Committee on Contributions. The members of these committees are elected by the UN General Assembly for three years. In addition, special committees and commissions are often formed—for instance, the Special Committee on the Situation With Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and the Commission on International Law.

Since 1964 there have been special organs of the UN General Assembly with the status of autonomous international organizations: the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, established in 1964), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO, established in 1965), and the Capital Development Fund, established in 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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