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The Role of the UN General Assembly

Introduction

Since its inception more than sixty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly has been a forum for lofty declarations, sometimes audacious rhetoric, and debate over the world's most vexing issues, from poverty to peace and security. In the 2009 session, attention will likely focus on the global economic crisis, nuclear proliferation, climate change, and global health issues. As the deliberative and representative organ of the United Nations, the assembly holds general debate in the UN's New York headquarters from September to December, with special sessions convened thereafter as required.

Policy debate could also take place in the delegates' lounge over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Middle East peace process, as the United States attempts to invigorate talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The sixty-fourth assembly president is Dr. Ali Abdessalam Treki, who has outlined themes for the session, including "the reform of the UN, environment, the international financial situation, social issues, disarmament, education, [and] diseases."

What is the UN General Assembly?

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) is the only universally representative body of the five principal organs of the United Nations. The other major bodies are the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. As delineated in the Charter of the United Nations, the function of the General Assembly is to discuss, debate, and make recommendations on a range of subjects pertaining to international peace and security - including disarmament, human rights, international law, and peaceful arbitration between disputing nations. It elects the nonpermanent members of the Security Council and other bodies such as the Human Rights Council, and appoints the secretary-general based on the Security Council's recommendation. It considers reports from...

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