General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly

Level: Beginner

Established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly consisted of only 51 member states. After the first sessions, which were held in White Hall (London), the General Assembly moved its premises to the UN Headquarters in New York – where it still stands today. The total amount of members also changed throughout the centuries, among other reasons because former colonized parts of the world became sovereign nation states. Today the General Assembly counts 193 member states.

Since the General Assembly’s foundation, each member state sends its delegates into the Assembly to debate and resolve contemporary issues or crises. The Assembly meets each year from September to December, although urgent meetings can be held in an instant. During the meetings, the principle of one-country-one-vote applies, in most cases, a simple majority decides whether or not a resolution is adopted. Therefore, the General Assembly is a unique platform for international debates.

All resolutions passed by the General Assembly are mere recommendations and, therefore, are not legally binding for member states. Nevertheless, these resolutions can encourage action if a broad coalition supports and implements its recommendations. Vice versa, it should be clear that many resolutions fail because they lack support and implementation.

To improve efficiency, the General Assembly created subsidiary bodies, which work on specific topics – as many modern parliaments do.

There are six Main Committees:

  • The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security Committee)
  • The Second Committee (Economic and Financial Committee)
  • The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee)
  • The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization Committee)
  • The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary Committee)
  • The Sixth Committee (Legal Committee)


Each member state may send one representative to each of the six Main Committees. In addition, member states may assign advisers, technical advisers, experts or people of equal status, but not only member states attend the General Assembly or its subsidiary bodies. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also send envoys to attend meetings. Ever since the number of NGOs has risen, there is a broad network of NGOs all over the world, being involved on a regular basis.


1. Overlooked and Forgotten? Strengthening the Conditions of Internally Displaced People.

2. Combatting Illicit Drug Trade


Ann Katrin Korb, Sebastian Renke, Raphael Varossieau

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