UN General Assembly news, videos and analysis: live updates

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The United Nations General Assembly meets this week in New York for its annual meeting, setting its agenda for the coming year and addressing some of the world’s most pressing social and diplomatic issues.

The Assembly, currently in its 78th session, has undergone enormous changes as its influence has waned and global politics have changed.

This is how the Assembly works.

What does the General Assembly do?

The General Assembly is one of six organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

The organization was created in 1945 under the name “the main deliberative, decision-making and representative body» of the UN, and it is the only one within the UN and the wider world of international alliances (NATO, BRICS and the Group of 20, for example) in which all 193 member states have equal representation. As a condition of membership, each state must pay an “assessed contribution” to UN operations.

“It’s the place where every country has a headquarters,” said Peter J. Hoffman, associate professor of international affairs at the New School and director of its summer study at the United Nations. “It’s hard to herd the cats, but the fact that everyone is in the room together and everyone has an opportunity creates a kind of credibility in itself.”

At the New York meeting, representatives from each member state discuss international issues in the general debate and vote on hundreds of resolutions.

What are the powers of the Assembly?

Unlike the UN Security Council, which can impose sanctions or authorize the use of force, the General Assembly is purely deliberative. Much of its power derives from its ability to solve problems and make recommendations on issues of international importance.

“In terms of concrete resolutions, that will never happen because when the Security Council issues a resolution, it says, ‘You will do this,’” Dr. Hoffman said. “When the General Assembly does it, it’s a recommendation: You should do it.”

For example, a resolution adopted by the Assembly in November 2022 allowed the UN to first commemoration in May of this year, displacements of Palestinians during the creation of Israel.

The General Assembly also appoints the UN Secretary-General, currently António Guterres, for a five-year term, as well as the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council. A new President of the Assembly is elected each year and the position is assigned in turn to representatives from five geographic regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe and others.

The Assembly meeting provides leaders with a global platform. During the general debate, each Member State has 15 minutes to speak on the theme of the year, but this limit is generally not respected. Last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a burning reprimand of the Russian invasion of his country in a recorded speech to the General Assembly.

What is the program this year?

The complete theme for 2023 is “Rebuilding trust and reviving global solidarity: accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals for peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”. But the key words are “Agenda 2030” and “Sustainable Development Goals”.

In 2015, the General Assembly adopted 17 objectives, collectively known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, as part of a “common project of peace and prosperity for people and the planet, today and into the future.” They include, among others, “no poverty”, “zero hunger”, “climate action” and “gender equality”.

The SDGs were formally adopted as part of a resolution known as the 2030 Agenda, a reference to when some of them are expected to be achieved, although some goals do not have a due date. In 2017, A resolution was adopted to formalize specific indicators of progress on these objectives.

“The real story is that only 15 percent of the SDGs have been achieved and about half of them are not on track.“, » said Dr. Hoffman.

In an effort to give the body a boost, Mr. Guterres issued “A wake-up call to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. Member states have until 2024 to find a way to get the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda back on track.

How has the Assembly evolved over the years?

Since its establishment, the United Nations General Assembly now has 193 member states as of 2011, when South Sudan was admitted, from 51 countries mainly based in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.

The creation of the UN largely coincided with the advent of the Cold War, which subsequently created a divide between West and East, primarily in the Security Council. But the Assembly’s policy has long been dictated by tensions between the wealthy nations of the “global North” – widely seen to include Australia, Europe, North America, Israel, Japan, South Korea. South and New Zealand – and the “global South”. “largely represented by the former colonies of the Global North in Africa, Asia and Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“In the ’60s and ’70s, you really start to see policy change and in particular the emergence of what was called the new international economic order in the ’70s,” Dr. Hoffman said, “with a proposal that was essentially between the countries of the South and the countries of the South. non-aligned countries to say: Oh, the terms of trade are really unfair between the north and the south.

At the same time, pressure on countries in the Global South to begin tackling environmental destruction drew a scathing response in a 1972 speech by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at a UN conference, in which she asked: “Aren’t poverty and need the greatest? polluters? as a statement on what she sees as the hypocrisy of the Global North in dictating its terms to developing countries.

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