Every September, world leaders convene at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the opening of the next session of the UN General Assembly to discuss the most pressing global challenges and ways to address them.
Some refer to the week as “UNGA week” because many people love a good acronym. If you have ever wondered what the General Assembly is and why it is important, here is a short Q&A to inform and prepare you as the 71st session of the UN General Assembly begins today.
Q. What is the UN General Assembly?
A. Through the Charter of the United Nations, the UN General Assembly (or sometimes referred to as UNGA) was created in 1945 as the forum for multilateral coordination. It is the arm of the UN dedicated to discussion and policymaking. The General Assembly meets from September to December each year, and as needed following the New Year.
Q. Who participates?
A. Everyone has a voice at the UN General Assembly – that’s part of what makes it so important and special. All 193 Member States of the UN are part of the General Assembly and have a vote on business such as budgeting, new members, and resolutions for peace and security. A General Assembly president is elected each year. For 2016 – the 71st session – it is Peter Thomson of Fiji.
Q. Why is it important?
A. If we think back to why the UN was created in 1945, which was to create a safer and healthier world for all in the aftermath of World War II, we can appreciate the importance of bringing nations together to prevent another world war, promote peace, and create a better world for everyone.
Today, 71 years since its creation, in an era of complex global challenges, the UN General Assembly continues to be a vital venue for multilateral dialogue and cooperation. It plays a significant role in establishing international law and making recommendations on how to address global issues.
Many people often say that if the UN didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.
Q. What will happen at the opening of this year’s General Assembly?
A. The opening if the General Assembly provides a unique opportunity to convene leaders from every sector across the world to discuss today’s toughest problems – from the refugee crisis to climate change to antimicrobial resistance – and how to solve them. The next session of the General Assembly starts on September 13 and high-level general debate, when many Heads of State and Government come to the UN and speak, begins on September 20.
To learn about nine key issues at the top of the agenda this year, read this blog from UN Foundation Senior Vice President Susan Myers.
In addition to the meetings that happen within the walls of the UN, company leaders, journalists, advocates, and the general public come together at a number of side events in New York to advance solutions to some of our most pressing global problems.
Q. How can I get involved?
A. There are many ways to get involved during the General Assembly if you’re in New York or anywhere around the world. The UN livestreams most of the sessions on UN TV, which you can watch from the comfort of your desk or couch. Also, there are many interactive side events including the Social Good Summit on September 18 and 19, and the Global Citizen Festival on September 24.
For more information about the UN General Assembly, visit: http://www.un.org/en/ga/about/index.shtml.