United Nations Government Information

General Assembly

The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the U.N. One hundred and ninety one nations are represented here and each has one vote. This body elects members of the other organs. The General Assembly can debate any issue relating to the Charter , e.g., international security, cultural issues, law, education, etc. It approves the U.N. budget and elects the Secretary-General , the chief administrative officer. There is a set procedure to conduct business in this U.N. organ ( Rules of Procedure and General Assembly: Parliamentary Documents ).

1. Agenda

2. Committees

3. Report or Draft Resolution

4. Verbatim Records & Speeches

5. Resolution

6. Vote

Other important items for the General Assembly

Subsidiary and Ad Hoc Bodies

Other Research Aids for General Assembly

 

AGENDA

First, the General Committee (a kind of steering committee) sets up the agenda

AGENDA
About This Resource
When searching in UNBISnet, search under UN Doc. Symbol , which is their version of call numbers. Agendas are numbered A/session number/251(number for agenda) . So, a search for the agenda for the agenda from 1995 (session 50) would be UN Doc. Symbol A/50/251.
Digital Version Paper Version

UNBISnet has full-text copies of the General Assembly's agendas and addenda back to 1989 (44th Session).

Official Records of the General Assembly from 1946 to 1990.

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COMMITTEES

Some issues are debated only in plenary meetings, while others are assigned to one of six committees designated to handle these questions. (Links contain subject guides, documents and information about each committee):

1. Disarmament & International Security

2. Economic & Financial

3. Social, Humanitarian & Cultural

4. Special Political & Decolonization

5. Administrative & Budgetary

6. Legal

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REPORT OR DRAFT RESOLUTION

Usually after these committees debated the issue, their results are presented as a report or draft back to the General Assembly.

About This Resource
The UN Doc. Symbol for these committees are A/C.1 (Disarmament) - A/C.6 (Legal). When searching online, you can limit your searches to the documents from these committees by putting the Doc Symbol in quotes for the committee in the UN Doc. Symbol field, while you do a subject or word search.
Digital Version Paper Version

Committee Documents

UNBISnet has records back to 1979 and full-text to 1992.

AccessUN  1944-present. It provides access to current and retrospective United Nations documents and publications. It does not offer everything in full-text. Please read these quick instructions to help you find what you want.

Official Records of the General Assembly from 1946-1990. In the stacks you will see special volumes labeled Official Records Committees with the number of the committee.

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VERBATIM RECORDS

Many times exact records are kept of meetings and they are a good way to get information.

About This Resource
UN Doc. Symbol for the records are /VP (proces-verbaux).When searching online, a search in the Doc. Symbol field with A/VP will limit results to verbatim records of the General Assembly.
Digital Version Paper Version

UNBISnet has records back to 1979 and full-text to 1992.

AccessUN  1944-present. It provides access to current and retrospective United Nations documents and publications. It does not offer everything in full-text. Please read these quick instructions to help you find what you want.

Official Records of the General Assembly from 1946-1990. In the stacks you will see special volumes for plenary and committee meetings with transcripts from the meeting.

SPEECHES

Members and invited speakers (e.g. presidents and prime minsiters) give speeches at the U.N. on a variety of subjects.

About This Resource
Online, you can search by speaker or U.N. Doc. Symbol. For older paper copies, you need to search by the date and the committee or organ.
Digital Version Paper Version

UNBISnet: Index to Speeches has full-text of speeches back to 1983 (38th session).

Official Records contains all speeches given at the General Assembly from 1946-1990.

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RESOLUTIONS

The major document type for the General Assembly is the resolution, which describes the situation and the actions that will be taken by the U.N., for example to send peacekeepers or call on nations to do a certain act. It is the will of the organization. A Decision , on the other hand, is the will of the organization about an internal affair affecting the U.N. only, such as elections or appointments.

Resolutions have a certain structure. They have a Preamble and Operative Part:

About This Resource

Using online searching, the resolutions are numbered a/res/session number/sequential number . For example, A/RES/59/305 "Financing of the United Nations Mission in Liberia" is an a 35th Resolution of the 59th Session (2004/5) of the General Assembly. However, from 1946 to 1975, the format was A/[sequential number of the document].

Digital Version Paper Version

United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBISNET) has full-text back to 1946. To search for General Assembly resolutions, type ares* in UN Doc Symbol field. (See UNBISNET for more search information).

AccessUN , an index of resolutions back to 1944 and full-text back to 1980. To search for General Assembly resolutions, type a/res in the field in Document Number. (See AccessUN instructions for more search information and Document Type for more information about U.N. documents).

Resolutions of the General Assembly goes from 1946-1986.

Also check out General Assembly Resolution for full history of each resolution. Search by year and resolution number. Since 1997, it lists the legislative history of the resolution (committee, agenda, draft, verbatim record).

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VOTES

Substantive issues, such as official U.N. policy towards a world event, are decided by a two-thirds vote of the plenary meeting of the General Assembly. Many Resolutions are not voted on if they have been approved of in committee.

About This Resource
Using UNBISnet: Voting, follow the numbering system of resolutions (See above).
Digital Version Paper Version

UNBISnet: Voting Record Search to get voting records for resolutions back to 1983 (38th session). You can search by keyword or resolution symbols. Click on the citation to get the roll call.

Resolutions of the General Assembly has the votes on each resolution from 1946-1986.

Nations on Record : United Nations General Assembly Roll-Call Votes 1-Size JX1977.8 .V6 N38 REF

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SUBSIDIARY AND AD HOC BODIES

There are many subsidiary and ad hoc bodies that work on special taks and report to the General Assembly, for example UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund), and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees). In the U.N. Organizational Chart , click on the body's name to be taken to its website.

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OTHER RESEARCH AIDS FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Official Documents of the U.N.: Advanced Search allows searches of all documents provided by the U.N. online. Use the Full-text search field to search for words in the text of the documents.

United Nations Bibliographic Information System (UNBISNET) has bibliographic records going back to 1979, and full-text back to 1992. However, they are constantly digitizing more older records. Use "a*" in UN Doc. Symbol field to search for General Assembly Documents.

AccessUN, an index of U.N. material back to 1944, allows you to search by organ. If you put in 'a' for Document Number , only Securtiy Council documents will be retrieved. So, this search below with a in Document and korea in Subjects will bring up records of documents produced by the General Assembly pertaining to Korea. (See AccessUN instructions for more search information and Document Type for more information about U.N. documents).

Press Releases are a good source of basic information about U.N. activity. Search under General Assembly in the Subject field. You can then delimit by keyword. So, following this procedure, a keyword search with the United States would bring up press releases of the General Assembly dealing with the U.S.

 

Documents Rearch Guide The U.N. has published online a very good and detailed research guide for the General Assembly.

Yearbook of the United Nations is an annual publication of the U.N. that gives a very good summary of the events and documents produced that year at the U.N.

Don't forget! You can always consult me, Tom Stieve, or send an Interlibrary Loan request for the item if it's not here.

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