Adoption of the Draft Resolution on the Revitalization of the General Assembly

By Alex Maresca
September 2014

The draft resolution recommended by the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly was adopted on the 10th of September, 2014 in the General Assembly. The resolution was adopted by consensus.

Following the adoption of the resolution, statements on the revitalization of the General Assembly were made by several delegations including the European Union, Belarus, Liechtenstein and Algeria.

European Union
The representative of the European Union expressed appreciation for the “highly constructive” nature of the session, which he felt had resulted in substantive achievements. In particular, he noted that the non-permanent members of the Security Council will now be elected farther in advance, which will allow new members more time to prepare for their time on the Council. He also cited the extension of the interim arrangement on the rotation of the chairs of the main committees as a concrete result of the ad hoc working group’s deliberations.

Nonetheless, the EU emphasized that there was still much to be done in the area of rationalizing the agendas of ECOSOC and the General Assembly, and referred to resolution 68/1, the Report of the Secretary General on the Work of the Organization (see Chapter Three). This is consistent with the EU’s previous statements in the working group, which frequently mentioned the need to eliminate duplication and overlapping items in order to improve the efficiency of the United Nations. During the debates, however, this issue came up against opposition from the Non-Aligned Movement and other states, which were concerned that rationalization might restrict the right of all member states to bring issues to the Assembly’s attention.

Belarus commended the establishment of a rotation scheme for the chairs of the main committees, and observed that the proceedings of the ad hoc working group illustrated the need to find compromises between member states.

Belarus stressed the equality of all official UN languages, and argued that ensuring this equality in practice is important to maintain the rule of law. Belarus expressed particular concern about the timeliness of the publication of the UN Journal in all official languages, and hoped that finances would not prevent documentation from being provided in all languages on time.

Regarding the process for the selection of the Secretary General, Belarus drew attention to rule 141 in the Rules of Procedure, which mandates that the Assembly vote on the candidate recommended by the Security Council using secret ballot. By returning to Rule 141, Belarus stated, all states regardless of size would “once again” be able to express their views about candidates for Secretary General.

The representative of Liechtenstein delivered a statement on behalf of Liechtenstein, Brazil, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Estonia. The statement focused on the process for the selection of the Secretary General.

The representative noted that the new resolution highlights the role of the President of the General Assembly in the selection process, a role which has been suggested by previous resolutions but has not been implemented. He hoped that future Presidents would take on a more “active” role in the process, as stipulated by the resolution.

Turning to the question of selection criteria for the Secretary General, the representative expressed disappointment that the language proposed by Liechtenstein was not included in the final resolution. The language requested that the ad hoc working group consider selection criteria during the 69th session.

Notably, the representative also suggested that civil society should have a voice in the discussion about selection criteria.

Non-Aligned Movement
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the representative from Algeria expressed appreciation for the flexibility of the ad hoc working group, but suggested that revitalization would need to go further. The NAM argued that a stronger General Assembly would serve to strengthen the entire United Nations system.

The adopted resolution, A/RES/68/307, can be accessed here.
For a detailed account of the drafting of resolution 68/307, see our recent article.