Revitalizing the Assembly's Work

Article excerpt

Among the nearly 300 resolutions adopted by the fifty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, one resolution that stands out concerns the Assembly's own effectiveness. The text seeks to open more channels of communication and cooperation between the Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

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The 191 Member States of the Organization, in the resolution "Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly", unanimously reaffirmed the Assembly's central position". Over the course of the next two years, consultations are expected to sharpen the focus of Assembly decisions, pare down its workload and deepen its cooperation with both Councils. The text reads in part: "The Presidents of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council should meet together periodically with a view to ensuring increased cooperation, coordination and complementarity ... in accordance with ... the [UN] Charter." Assembly President Julian Robert Hunte of Saint Lucia noted that this action was a "means to effectively meet contemporary global challenges".

The Assembly, in its plenary meetings which are not part of the six Main Committees, adopted 55 resolutions. Among them was the United Nations Convention against Corruption, a path-breaking Convention that took 130 UN Member delegations two years to draft. Under its ambit is public procurement, bribery, illicit enrichment, embezzlement, misappropriation, money laundering, protecting whistle-blowers, freezing of assets and cooperation between States. Addressing the Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the treaty "makes a major breakthrough by requiring Member States to return assets obtained through corruption to the country from which they were stolen".

Another resolution, Promotion of religious and cultural understanding, harmony and cooperation, was adopted without a vote. Through this text, the Assembly welcomed the efforts of States, relevant entities of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, civil society, including religion-based and other non-governmental organizations, and the media in developing a culture of peace. The Assembly encouraged them to promote inter-religious and intercultural interaction through congresses, conferences, seminars, workshops and research.

Other resolutions adopted outside the Assembly's Main Committees included Assistance in Mine Action, to "foster establishment and development of mine-action capacities in affected countries"; Towards global partnerships between the United Nations and all relevant partners, in particular the private sector, "to meet the challenges of globalization"; and Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel, by which the Assembly "strongly condemned any act or failure to act that obstructed or prevented UN and other humanitarian personnel from discharging their humanitarian functions" and expressed "deep concern that threats against the safety and security of United Nations and other humanitarian workers have escalated at an unprecedented rate over the past decade".

Acting on recommendations of the First (Disarmament and International Security) Committee, chaired by Jarmo Sareva of Finland, the Assembly adopted the resolution Improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee. It requested the Secretary-General to compile and organize States views on making the Committee more effective, in light of threats to world peace post-September 11. The Assembly voted on 29 of the 52 resolutions recommended by the First Committee, adopting the remaining without a vote. The word "nuclear", covering aspects such as proliferation and reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, elimination of nuclear weapons, nuclear-weapon-free zones and ending of the nuclear arms race, figured in 14 resolutions.

The Second (Economic and Financial) Committee, chaired by Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury of Bangladesh, recommended to the Assembly 37 resolutions, and all but two were adopted without a vote. …