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General Assembly Essay, Research Paper

General Assembly resolutions contain decisions and recommendations adopted by the member nations of the General Assembly. These resolutions are not intended to be legally binding on the General Assembly’s independent member nations. Consequently, a nation’s own government must accept a General Assembly resolution before it can become binding upon that nation. Although General Assembly resolutions are not sources of law, they may contribute to the development of international law if they are supported by the General Assembly’s member nations.

Tracing a General Assembly Resolution

1. An item is proposed by a nation or nations for inclusion in the provisional agenda of the General Assembly, or is held over from the previous year.

2. The item on the provisional agenda is approved by the General Committee of the General Assembly and assigned to one of the seven main committees of the General Assembly or to the Plenary; the General Assembly approves the recommendations of the General Committee.

3. One of the main committees or Plenary discusses the item.

a. Each member nation gives its views in a general statement;

b. A draft resolution is proposed;

c. Amendments are proposed.

4. The Committee votes on the draft resolution and amendments.

a. If the draft resolution, as amended, is passed, the committee reports to the General Assembly;

b. If draft resolution is not passed, the item is dropped.

5. The General Assembly discusses the report of the committee and its recommendation (which is the draft resolution which has passed in the Committee).

a. Further statements by member nations may be made;

b. Further amendments may be proposed.

6. The General Assembly votes on draft resolution, as amended. A two-thirds majority is required on the most important questions (e.g., new member admission); all others require a simple majority.

Security Council resolutions contain decisions and recommendations adopted by the member nations of the Security Council. Security Council resolutions have the same legal status as General Assembly resolutions.

Tracing a Security Council Resolution

1. An issue is brought to the attention of the Security Council by the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, a United Nations member nation, or a non-United Nations member nation.

2. The members of the Security Council consult on whether or not to make the issue in question an agenda item.

3. If the issue is made an agenda item, it is discussed by the members of the Security Council.

a. Each member nation gives its views;

b. A draft resolution is proposed;

c. Amendments are proposed.

4. The members of the Security Council vote on the draft resolution, as amended. Procedural issues (e.g., agenda adoption) require the affirmative vote of any nine member nations. Non-procedural issues require a majority of nine votes, including the concurring vote of the five permanent member states.

The General Assembly, largest of the six basic organs, is the great deliberative body of the United Nations. It is linked up with all the other organs and it elects their membership. It may discuss any subject within the scope of the charter, except those disputes that are being dealt with by the Security Council. After voting, it may pass on its recommendations to other organs or to member governments. All member states are represented in the Assembly. Each state may have up to five representatives but only one vote. Decisions on important questions (listed in the charter) require a two-thirds majority of members present and voting. Other questions are decided by a simple majority of those voting. The Assembly meets in regular annual sessions and in such special sessions as occasion may require. It elects its president for each session.

The Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining world peace and security. Every member of the United Nations is pledged to accept and carry out the Council’s decisions. The Security Council has 15 members. Five nations–the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, and the United States–have permanent seats. (Russia’s seat was held by the Soviet Union until its break-up in 1991.) Of the other ten, five are elected each year by the General Assembly for two-year terms; five retire each year. Each member has one vote. On all routine (procedural) matters, approval requires nine “yes” votes. On all other matters, the nine “yes” votes must include the votes of all five permanent members. Thus, each of the Big Five has a veto power. Any one of them can block even the discussion of an action that it disapproves. A party to a dispute, however, must abstain from voting. Any state, even if it is not a member of the United Nations, may bring a dispute to which it is a party to the notice of the Security Council. If the Council finds there is a real threat to peace, or an actual act of aggression, it may call upon the members of the United Nations to cut communications with the countries concerned or break off trade relations (economic sanctions). If these methods prove inadequate, the charter states that the Council may take military action against the offending nation by air, sea, and land forces of the United Nations. Every member of the United Nations is pledged by Article 43 to supply the Council with armed forces on its call. These forces are to be directed by a Military Staff Committee, consisting of the chiefs of staff (or their representatives) of the five permanent members.

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