The General Assembly may discuss any question or matters within the scope of the Charter. However, the power to discuss does not automatically carry with it the power to recommend. The Assembly may discuss a dispute or a situation with which the Security Council is concerned, but it may not make recommendations.
The General Assembly addresses a broad agenda covering practically all UN activities. At the beginning of every session the agenda is presented to the General Assembly by the Secretary-General.
Items on the agenda
The agenda of the Assembly has grown year by year and nowadays it contains more than 200 items. Some of them are procedural questions such as
- appointment of the Secretary General
- elections of non-permanent members of the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the International Court of Justice
- approval of the UN budget
- consideration of reports from other UN bodies
- administrative questions.
Other issues cover a vast range of subjects areas including
- regional conflicts
- peacekeeping operations
- human rights
- economic and social questions
- the human environment and sustainable development.
Once an item appears on the agenda it is likely to reappear, but apart from that the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretary General and any member of the United Nations can propose additional matters for inclusion into the agenda.
Different versions of the Agenda
The agenda will appear in different versions before it is finally approved:
- The preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda of the General Assembly is issued early in the year (usually in February). This particular document is only a draft and some issues may be deleted from the list of items.
- The annotated version of the preliminary list succeeds the first preliminary list. It is published several months later with background information about each item on the list.
- The provisional agenda, issued at least sixty days before the opening of the session, gives a more concrete definition to the shape the final agenda.
- The report of the General Committee appears just before the opening of the session. This report recommends the items to be included in the definitive version of the agenda which the Assembly will adopt, and then assigns the items, on the basis of topic, to either the plenary or one of the six Main Committees.
- The Agenda is usually adopted during the third plenary meeting of the General Assembly and the items are given their final numbers.
- The allocation of agenda items finalizes the recommendations made by the General Committee regarding the allocation of items and definitively decides whether the plenary or one of the Main Committees will assume primary responsibility for a thorough review of the item.
Find the Agenda
The General Assembly Agenda in its different versions has the following documentary symbols:
The preliminary list of items
The annotated version of the preliminary list
The provisional agenda
The report of the General Committee
The agenda as adopted by the plenary
The allocation of agenda items
- About the General Assembly Agenda. Information about the documentation of the Agenda provided by Dag Hammarskjöld Library, New York.
Key UN documents
UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases
- United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
- UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
- ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
- Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
- UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
- Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
- a list of all documents
- a comprehensive subject index
- an index to speeches
- a voting chart of resolutions
- United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
- All UN documents from 1993-.
- All resolutions of the Principal Organs from 1946-.
- All Security Council plenary documents from 1946- in English, French and Spanish.
- All supplements to the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR) from 1946-.
- All General Assembly plenary meeting records from 1946- in English, French and Spanish.
- Older documents are being scanned: Update on UN Digitization Programme.