United Nations General Assembly Poster - UN Photo
CAIRO – 8 September 2017: On September 12, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will convene for its 72nd session in New York. The UNGA sessions are held annually to allow the Assembly’s subsidiary organizations to present their recommendations concerning discussed issues on the GA’s agenda. The recommendations are usually presented in the form of draft resolutions and decisions during the GA plenary meeting.
Prior to every session, the subsidiary organizations of the GA discuss the set agenda for the session and seek possibilities to harmonize the various approaches of member states to address these issues.
The UNGA subsidiary organizations are bodies created by the Assembly under Articles 22, 29 and 68 of the U.N. Charter, which enables the GA to establish necessary organizations to better perform its functions. These organizations report to the Assembly or another organization selected by the GA as explained in the resolution of establishment. The number of subsidiary organizations varies from year to year, as the GA creates bodies to assist in new fields of concern, while dissolving others that have completed their work.
Some of the GA organizations are funded directly by the U.N., while others are financed by the voluntary contributions of governments or private citizens.
In this article, we will introduce the five subsidiary organizations forming the General Assembly, including the five categories: Committees, Boards, Commissions, Councils, and Panels, in addition to Working Groups and others.
The GA has six main committees: the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and the Sixth Committee (Legal).
Other Committees at the GA include the Credentials Committee, which is mandated to examine the credentials of representatives of member states and reports to the GA, as well as the General Committee that meets periodically to review the progress of the GA and its committees.
Each member state may be represented by one person on each main committee and on any other committee that may be established, upon which all member states have the right to be represented. Member states may also assign advisers, technical advisers, experts or persons of similar status to these committees.
Currently there are seven boards, categorized into two groups: the Executive Boards and the Boards. The Executive Boards include the Executive Board of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Executive Board of the World Food Program (WFP). Boards include the Board of Auditors, the Trade and Development Board, the U.N. Joint Staff Pension Board and the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.
The Assembly has six commissions established under specific GA resolutions, including the Disarmament Commission, the International Civil Service Commission, the International Law Commission, the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the U.N. Conciliation Commission for Palestine, and the U.N. Peace Building Commission. In addition, the UNGA includes an advisory Commission on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine in the Near East.
Councils and Panels:
The newest council established under the GA is the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2006. There are a total of four councils and one panel, namely the Human Rights Council, the Council of the U.N. University, and two Governing Councils: the Governing Council of the U.N. Environment Program and the Governing Council of the U.N. Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).
Furthermore, the GA has panels of the External Auditors of the U.N. and the Specialized Agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Working Groups and Other:
The GA’s working groups include the High-level Open-ended Working Group on the Financial Situation of the U.N. and the Working Group on the Finance of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). There are also some open-ended ad hoc working groups, like the working group “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: Establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”. Furthermore, there are some open-ended working groups, like the Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation On and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council, as well as the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing.
The “Other” category includes the Joint Inspection Unit and the U.N. Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is one of the six U.N. organizations established in 1945 under the U.N. Charter. It is the only U.N. organization in which all member states have equal representation. The Assembly provides a forum for policymaking and multilateral discussion on international issues covered by the U.N. Charter, and it plays a role in the process of setting and monitoring the implementation of the international law.