What goes on behind closed doors inside the United Nations, the international organization which symbolizes and advocates values of our emerging era? Multilateralism is critical in our interdependent and globalizing world, and is one of the main goals of the United Nations. The main multilateral forum is the General Assembly. Also, known as the Parliament of Man, the great equalizer, it was devised after World War II as a great equalizer, where all of the 192 Member States of the world hold one vote each.
The General Assembly serves as a forum for discussion of global problems and creates resolutions. However, these resolutions do not hold any legally binding force for governments. According to Mr. Joseph Deiss, President of the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, “public opinion sees a United Nations with a General Assembly that is powerless, a talking shop, with no real impact.” What makes the General Assembly significant is the fact that it equally represents the voice of each country of the world; therefore, its resolutions symbolically carry the moral authority and weight of the world community. For example, the General Assembly’s votes have helped isolate South Africa’s apartheid regime and even to shape today’s Middle East.
What issues are debated during a General Assembly year? The Charter of the United Nations indicates that the General Assembly serves as the pre-eminent forum for international debate. Any matter under the scope of the Charter of the United Nations may be discussed. During the sixty-second session of the United Nations General Assembly (from 2007 to 2008), for example, some of the toughest problems were tackled, including climate change, humanitarian aid, terrorism and reform of the United Nations system.
Every year, the Council of Presidents of the General Assembly of the United Nations convenes over a plenary session in New York. This year’s session took place from 27-28 October 2010, where interactive dialogues on the following issues were ambitiously conducted: natural disasters in Member States, the outcome of the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the status of climate change negotiations, Small Island Developing States, developments on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East Peace Process and negotiations on Western Sahara.
According to President Deiss, “the mechanisms for communication, consultation and cooperation between those entities and other States must be improved. Only the United nations and its General Assembly can do so.” The United Nations today remains a constant work in progress, as it continues to try to open doors to the remedies against the worst problems of mankind. It remains the first line of attack against the common enemies of mankind.
Brenda Vongova writes for the HARBUS on international affairs. She has served in the cabinets of three Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly. She recently produced “Opening Doors,” the first documentary about the work of the United Nations General Assembly. Official site: www.OpeningDoorsMovie.com