Next week you need to know about . . . the UN General Assembly


Tuesday sees the start of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, and it could hardly come at a more sensitive moment in international affairs.

The assembly is the “main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations”, with the regular session running on a packed schedule from September to December each year. All 193 members of the UN have equal representation at the assembly, unlike the all-powerful Security Council, with its Big Five permanent members.

The presidency of the assembly rotates annually; this year it was the turn of an eastern European country: in an election in June, Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic pipped his Lithuanian rival for the post, Dalius Cekuolis, by 99 votes to 85.

Events scheduled for the first few weeks of the assembly include International Peace Day, on September 21st, and a high-level meeting on the rule of law, on September 24th. The next day, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the general debate, in which each member gets an opportunity to highlight its hopes for the coming year.

With tensions high in Libya and the Middle East this week, considerable attention will be paid to speeches by those countries’ representatives. Controversially, the scheduling of the debate will likely see Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad address the assembly on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

And in what looks like a snub, US president Barack Obama will not be making time to meet Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, whose sabre-rattling with Iran has consternated the White House.

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