By Mie Hansen
5 January 2012
On 1 December 2011 the General Assembly met to discuss Agenda Item 120: Implementation of the Resolutions of the United Nations and Agenda Item 121: Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly. This article provides an overview of the debate.
The President of the General Assembly, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, opened the debate with a Statement  stressing the importance of the revitalization and the empowering of the General Assembly (GA), in order for it “to meet the current global challenges and to fulfill its central role as envisaged by the UN Charter”. Al-Nasser made clear that even though reform has been achieved in a number of areas, a lot is still to be done. Al-Nasser also took the opportunity to thank Ambassador Dalius Cekuolis, Permanent Representative of Lithuania, and Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and Grenadines, for their work chairing the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Assembly during the 65th GA session. Likewise, Al-Nasser thanked Ambassador Alexander Lomaia, Permanent Representative of Georgia, and Ambassador Ombeni Y. Sefue, Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, for accepting to serve as co-chairs for the Ad Hoc Working Group during the 66th GA session.
During the debate all in all twenty Member States delivered their Statements. All of them reiterated their support for General Assembly revitalization but, once again, opinions were divided in regard to what the reform process should focus on.
Statements made by the members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
The first Member State to deliver its Statement was Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) . The NAM reiterated its opinion that revitalizing the General Assembly is a political process that needs to be conducted in “an inclusive, transparent and efficient manner”. According to the NAM, lack of implementation of resolutions is one of the major problems in revitalizing the GA. Also, the NAM stressed the need to fully respect the functions and powers of each principal organ of the UN and expressed its concerns over what was called the attempts from the Security Council to encroach on powers and prerogatives of the Assembly. The NAM underlined that the GA should maintain its role and mandate in setting the priorities of the UN in considering all budgetary and administrative issues and reforms, and in the appointment of senior officials in the Secretariat. The NAM also noted that the activities of the Assembly - and hereby the activities of the Office of the PGA - have increased drastically over the years, and that this should be matched with the necessary resources. In regard to the selection and appointment of Secretary-Generals, the NAM emphasized the need for the process to be more transparent and inclusive to all Member States and for the participation of the GA in the process to be more active, effective and efficient.
A range of Member States associated themselves with the NAM Statement delivered by Algeria, including Cuba, Viet Nam , Egypt , Indonesia , Belarus, Malaysia , Tunisia, and Iran . Several of these Member States repeated the position put forward by Algeria that the process of revitalizing the GA is a political one and that the lack of implementation of resolutions is the one of the major obstacle keeping the process from moving forward. In this regard, Malaysia suggested the establishment of a mechanism and a special unit to assess the status of implementation of resolutions.
Several of the Member States, associating themselves with the NAM Statement, also echoed the complaint made by Algeria in regard to the so-called “encroachment” by the Security Council on the role and functions of the Assembly. In this regard, Egypt  suggested for the Ad Hoc Working Group to identify the areas of encroachment in the upcoming deliberations in order to start addressing the overlap in activities and the waste of resources it results in. At the same time Egypt said that the Assembly itself should assume a more proactive role and take action when the Security Council fails to address cases involving genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity etc.
In regard to the theme of the current GA session: “The role of mediation in the settlement of peaceful means”, Indonesia  stressed that it was now more important than ever to strengthen the Assembly in order for it to enhance its role in ensuring peaceful settlement of disputes. In regard to improving the working methods of the Assembly and its Main Committees, Indonesia supported the call for the Main Committees to discuss their working methods during the current GA session.
Both Belarus and Tunisia underlined that the role of the Assembly in peacekeeping and international peace and security needs to be recognized and strengthened. In regard to the annual reports of the Security Council to the Assembly, Tunisia lamented that they were merely descriptive and narrative and did not reflect international dynamics and challenges.
India  stressed, among other things, the importance of UN reform in order for the Organization to reflect the world of today and for it to “evolve with the evolving international situation”. India further said that the Assembly must have a greater say in the process of selection of the Secretary-Generals but at the same time pointed out that the Assembly itself that had limited its own role, and therefore would have to claw back its “rightful place” in the process.
Pakistan  said that the agenda of the Assembly should be streamlined and that resolutions should be implemented on a non-selective and non-discriminatory basis. According to Pakistan there could be a special unit in the PGA’s Office to assess the status of implementation of resolutions. In regard to strengthening the Office of the PGA, Pakistan reiterated its proposal to constitute a “troika” consisting of the outgoing, incumbent and future GA Presidents but at the same time stressing that the efforts to strengthen the institutional memory of the PGA’s office should not constrain the flexibility in selection of staff by the incoming PGA.
The European Union and aligned States.
The European Union (EU)  said that it is a top priority to strengthen the UN, “based on effective and sustainable funding – in line with real capacity to pay”, as well as increasing the efficiency of the Organization’s functioning. The EU expressed its support for the revitalization process and for the efforts aimed at strengthening the role and authority of the Assembly. The EU further said that it believed that revitalization can be ensured only when the GA takes relevant action on issues of common concern to the international community. The EU welcomed the adoption of resolution A/RES/65/315  and stressed the importance of implementing all resolutions of the GA. The EU stressed that the revitalization process has already led to positive developments, one of them being the holding of thematic debates, allowing in-depth discussions on issues of critical importance. The EU also recognized the importance of the interaction between the GA and other international or regional fora and organizations dealing with global matters of concern. In regard to the relationship between the GA and the other principal organs of the UN, the EU said it believed that improving transparency and cooperation remain important goals. The EU welcomed the briefings held by both the Secretary-General and the PGA, providing valuable information on activities, travels etc. On the issue of working methods, the EU stressed the need for further rationalization and streamlining of the agendas of the GA and its Main Committees, with the possibility of biennialization, triennialization, clustering or elimination of items.
Finland  aligned itself with the Statement made by the EU but also added a few extra remarks. In June 2011 the Permanent Mission of Finland organized high-level retreat entitled “Towards a stronger General Assembly”, bringing together the Presidents of the UNGA 66, 65 and 62, elected members of the General Committee, as well as senior representatives of the Secretariat. Finland said the aim of the retreat was to give the incoming General Committee an opportunity to familiarize themselves further with the working methods of the Assembly as well as to give the elected members of the General Committee an opportunity to discuss ways of strengthening the GA in a more informal setting. For more information on the retreat, Finland referred to the report circulated, A/65/945 .
Several Member States took the opportunity at the debate to thank Finland for organizing this retreat.
Japan  said, among other things, that one strongly anticipated outcome of the revitalization of the General Assembly is the strengthening of relations between the Assembly and the other principal organs of the UN. In this regard, Japan praised both the submission of annual reports by the Security Council to the Assembly and the conduct of regular consultations between the Presidents of the Council and the Assembly. In regard to reinforcing the institutional memory of the PGA Office, Japan welcomed the efforts undertaken by current and past PGAs to reinforce the role and functions of the President and the Office. Further, Japan underlined the importance of bringing greater public attention to the work of the Assembly. Japan said that the PGA, the Chairs of the Main Committees and other interested parties, such as the facilitators of particular event or resolutions should make efforts to publicize the activities and achievements of the Assembly by having more frequent press encounters and press conferences.
The United States  suggested that the revitalization process should focus on streamlining and prioritization. Member States should consider reviewing existing resolutions biannually or triannually (not annually) and they should exercise restraint in submitting new resolutions. The Assembly should also encourage a more timely publishing of its resolutions following their adoption, which would lead to faster implementation. Further, the US said that the Assembly would be better served by more interaction between the heads of the main organs of the UN, as well as the leaders of its committees and sub-bodies. The US was also in favor of making the Secretary-General’s selection process more inclusive; however, it believed that the current process, as enshrined in the Charter, could not be altered.
China commended the PGA for making revitalization of the Assembly a priority for the current Assembly session. The Assembly should continue to promote international cooperation in political, economic, social, cultural and humanitarian areas, as well as in the area of maintaining international peace and security. Further, China stressed its support for the Assembly improving its working methods, streamlining its working process and fostering a more practical and action-oriented style. According to China, effective functioning of the Office of the PGA guarantee the work of the Assembly being effective, and therefore the Office should be strengthened. .
Making the final statement of the debate was Georgia, who will co-chair the Ad Hoc Working Group on GA revitalization during the current Assembly session together with Tanzania. Georgia said that this assignment was of great importance to the country and assured the Member States that Georgia would help to build on previous progress achieved, and would do its best to take the issue a step forward in strengthening the role and capacity of the Assembly.
The Ad Hoc Working Group is expected to commence its meetings within the next few months.
|Statement NAM(Algeria) 12.01.2011.pdf ||362.8 KB|
|Statement Egypt 12.01.2011.pdf ||281.82 KB|
|Statement India 12.01.2011.pdf ||151.29 KB|
|Statement Finland 12.01.2011 .pdf ||147.96 KB|
|Statement Malaysia 12.01.2011.pdf ||91.08 KB|
|Letter Finland.pdf ||106.88 KB|
|ARES65315.pdf ||113.86 KB|