THE UNITED NATIONS
(New World Order)
UN General Assembly Hall
(UN Headquarters, New York City)
The Official Story
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
(New York City)
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), serving as the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN. Its powers, composition, functions, and procedures are set out in Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter. The UNGA is responsible for the UN budget, appointing the non-permanent members to the Security Council, appointing the Secretary-General of the United Nations, receiving reports from other parts of the UN system, and making recommendations through resolutions. It also establishes numerous subsidiary organs to advance or assist in its broad mandate. The UNGA is the only UN organ wherein all member states have equal representation.
The General Assembly meets under its president or the UN Secretary-General in annual sessions at UN headquarters in New York City; the main part of these meetings generally run from September to part of January until all issues are addressed (which is often before the next session starts). It can also reconvene for special and emergency special sessions. The first session was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Methodist Central Hall in London and included representatives of the 51 founding nations.
Voting in the General Assembly on certain important questions—namely recommendations on peace and security; budgetary concerns; and the election, admission, suspension or expulsion of members—is by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. Other questions are decided by a simple majority. Each member country has one vote. Apart from the approval of budgetary matters, including the adoption of a scale of assessment, Assembly resolutions are not binding on the members. The Assembly may make recommendations on any matters within the scope of the UN, except matters of peace and security under the Security Council consideration.
During the 1980s, the Assembly became a forum for “North-South dialogue” between industrialized nations and developing countries on a range of international issues. These issues came to the fore because of the phenomenal growth and changing makeup of the UN membership. In 1945, the UN had 51 members, which by the 21st century nearly quadrupled to 193, of which more than two-thirds are developing. Because of their numbers, developing countries are often able to determine the agenda of the Assembly (using coordinating groups like the G77), the character of its debates, and the nature of its decisions. For many developing countries, the UN is the source of much of their diplomatic influence and the principal outlet for their foreign relations initiatives.
Although the resolutions passed by the General Assembly do not have the binding forces over the member nations (apart from budgetary measures), pursuant to its Uniting for Peace resolution of November 1950 (resolution 377 (V)), the Assembly may also take action if the Security Council fails to act, owing to the negative vote of a permanent member, in a case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The Assembly can consider the matter immediately with a view to making recommendations to Members for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.
General Assembly Building
The General Assembly Building, housing the United Nations General Assembly, holds the General Assembly Hall, which has a seating capacity of 1,800. At 165 ft (50 m) long by 115 ft (35 m) wide, it is the largest room in the complex.
The Hall has two murals by the French artist Fernand Léger. At the front of the chamber is the rostrum containing the green marble desk for the President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services and matching lectern for speakers. Behind the rostrum is the UN emblem on a gold background. Flanking the rostrum is a paneled semi-circular wall that tapers as it nears the ceiling and surrounds the front portion of the chamber. In front of the paneled walls are seating areas for guests and within the wall are windows which allow interpreters to watch the proceedings as they work. The ceiling of the hall is 75 ft (23 m) high and surmounted by a shallow dome ringed by recessed light fixtures. The entrance to the hall bears an inscription from the Gulistan by Iranian poet Saadi.
Original plans called for the back wall of the General Assembly Hall, behind the rostrum, to be adorned with the seals of the sixty countries that were part of the UN in 1952. Though fifty-four seals were eventually completed, these plans were scrapped in 1955 because Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld felt they would distract from the purpose of the room. The General Assembly Hall was last altered in 1980 when capacity was increased to accommodate the increased membership. Each of the 192 delegations has six seats in the hall with three at a desk and three alternate seats behind them.