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Your guide to UN and UN documents and reports

The Agenda

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The Agenda is usually adopted during the third plenary meeting of the General Assembly and the items are given their final numbers.
  6. 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 General Assemby Agenda

The General Assembly Agenda in its different versions has the following documentary symbols:

The preliminary list of items

A/session number/50

The annotated version of the preliminary list

A/session number/100

The provisional agenda

A/session number/150

The report of the General Committee

A/session number/250

The agenda as adopted by the plenary

A/session number/251

The allocation of agenda items

A/session number/252

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library. UN official documents and open access publications, UN maps, UN voting data and speeches.
  • UN iLibrary. UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS. 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 is 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

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