Every year in September, delegates from around the world gather in New York City for the annual meeting known as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The meetings, which include speeches from every member nation, will take place from Sept. 12-25. Here’s a rundown of what the UNGA is and what they’ll be talking about.
A little UNGA history
Established in 1945, the UNGA is one of the United Nation’s main “deliberative, policymaking and representative organ”. The first session opened on January 10, 1946 in London.
The global forum lends member states the opportunity to make recommendations and discuss pressing issues that are covered by the U.N. charter. All 193 member states have equal representation.
Duties of the UNGA
The UNGA votes on major issues related to security, finance, or new members require a two-thirds majority, whereas less important matters are decided by a majority.
Though its resolutions are nonbinding, the UNGA plays a significant role in setting international standards and law. However, the UNGA cannot make any recommendations on peace or security issues that are currently being examined by the U.N. Security Council.
The Security Council has 15 members, five of which are permanent members – China, Russia, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The remaining Security Council seats are are rotated among the other member states. Each member of the Security Council gets a vote.
The United Nations General Assembly also plays a major role in matters within the United Nations. It appoints the secretary general, elects non-permanent members of the Security Council, and approves the U.N. regular budget.
The UNGA elects a new president from a different region every annual session, but the president cannot be from one of the countries that are permanent members of the Security Council.
In this 72nd session of the UNGA, Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, is the 2017 president-elect.
There are six main committees at the UNGA that members sit on to hear issues:
- Disarmament and international security
- Economic and financial matters
- Social, humanitarian, and cultural matters
- Special political and decolonization matters
- Administrative and budgetary matters
- Legal matters
Issues on the 2017 agenda
This year’s theme is: “Focusing on people: striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.” The main eight topics will revolve around Education, Environmental Conventions and Social Development; Trade, Gender and Human Development; and Globalization and 2030 Agenda, Technology and Innovation, and Water and Sanitation.
What’s buzzing at this year’s UNGA
All eyes will be on President Trump who will give his first speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 19. He has previously slammed the U.N., and proposed steep cuts. The United States donates 22 percent of the U.N.’s general budget, making it the organization’s biggest financial contributor. President Trump’s speech on Tuesday is expected to touch on DPRK, U.N. reforms, the Syrian crisis, and the Iranian nuclear deal.
A specific order for speeches
Brazil always has the first position in the speeches by all nations. Host country, the United States, is always second in line. In the early years of the U.N., Brazil was the first country that volunteered to speak first, and it became a tradition.
The general assembly is funded by the U.N. regular budget, which is paid for by member states.
Losing the right to vote
Under Article 19 of the U.N. Charter, member states can lose the right to vote if they owe an amount that equals, or exceeds, their dues for a period of two years. However, some exemptions apply to countries who are able to prove that their debt is related to “conditions beyond their control”. In 2016, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia were still able to vote despite being in arrears.
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