10 October 2012, New York, USA – For the seventh subsequent year, UNITAR continued its training of new delegates from all over the world for their participation in the General Assembly, which this year held its 67th session. During a three-day General Briefing, held at the United Nations Headquarters from 12 to 14 September, new delegates acquired knowledge about the history and mandate of the United Nations’ different bodies as well as an understanding of the specific rules and mechanisms of debate in the General Assembly and in its six committees.

H.E. Mr. Eduardo Ulibarri, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations, along with Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Head of the UNITAR New York Office, opened the briefing, highlighting the special mandate of the General Assembly (GA), the most democratic and legitimate of all UN bodies. Even though the GA cannot adopt binding measures, its resolutions, especially when adopted unanimously, are often seen as expressions of an existing global will or opinion and can have substantial influence on policy making at the national and international level, explained Ulibarri. Therefore, Lodico called training new delegates and enabling them to fulfill their mandate one of UNITAR’s most important tasks.

Delegates listening to the briefing and taking notesOn the first day, the new delegates were able to benefit from the vast knowledge and long year experience of Mr. Larry Johnson, former Assistant-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs. Johnson introduced the delegates to the history and provisions of the UN Charter and to the rules of procedure of the GA and gave practical advices to the delegates concerning negotiation and decision-making in the GA. He recommended the delegates not to talk only to the ambassadors, but to win the support of those persons who advise the ambassador, as it is they who really prepare and shape the decisions. Also, he reminded delegates that decision making can be very fast in the plenary, as a draft-resolution can be on the floor without having been debated previously: “In the plenary, item and resolution are often debated at the same time. So, you have to make sure, ‘you cook well your resolutions’; otherwise, you might end up having a point in, you did not want”. Also, with regard to the structure and drafting of GA resolutions, Johnson had some useful tips for the delegates: “Gathering co-sponsors is hard work and very time consuming. Although having many co-sponsors looks impressive, it might make discussions about amendments more difficult”.

The second day of the briefing provided delegates with an extensive overview of the variety of information services and administrative assistance that the UN Secretariat offers. Representatives briefed delegates on the Protocol and Liaison Service, the Conference Services, and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library. The traditional information and news services, such as the UN Blue Book, the UN Journal and the UN Photo library, have been complemented by a variety of multimedia sources, including Twitter and Facebook. Mr. Hak Fan-Lau, from the Department of Public Information, strongly encouraged delegates to make use of the offer of multimedia material available for free on DPI’s website: “The multimedia output is there to make delegates’ life easier. So, if you were not able to attend a meeting of your interest, you can watch it later on webcast. The UN webcast homepage http://webtv.un.org, features live streams of all GA meetings and new, apart from this year, also of all six committees!”

The briefing concluded with more detailed insights into the specific fields of work of the different committees. The secretaries of the committees, among them Mr. Sergei Cherniavsky (First Committee), Ms. Jennifer de Laurentis (Second Committee) and Ms. Sharon Van Buerle (Fifth Committee) briefed the delegates on the subjects treated in each committee and on the dynamics which coin each committees work. Further, delegates were able to learn about the course of events during last years’ sessions, hearing remarks by H.E. Mr. Hussein Haniff and H.E. Michel Tommo Monthe, chairs of the Second and of the Fifth committee at the 66th session.