UNITAR Hosts Briefing Session for the Forum of Small States (FOSS) Members On 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly

The Elected President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly, H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, giving her speech at the briefing session. Photo: UNITAR. 12 September 2018, New York, USA – The United Nations for Training and Research (UNITAR), in partnership with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore to the United Nations, hosted a briefing session for members of the Forum of Small States (FOSS) on the upcoming 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly. This briefing was to help delegates understand the priorities of the agenda at the session, what the various committees will be addressing, and the rules of procedures within the committees. The briefing was held over two days between 11 – 12 September 2018.

The Director of the General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division Ms. Ruth de Miranda, Elected President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the Permanent Representative to the Mission of Singapore H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, UNITAR Head of New York Office H.E. Mr. Marco Suazo, and Chief of the General Assembly Affairs Branch Mr. Kenji Nakano. Photo: UNITAR.The first day of the briefing was started with opening remarks from UNITAR Head of New York Office Mr. Marco Suazo and the Permanent Representative to the Mission of Singapore, H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, who welcomed the delegates to the session. Mr Gafoor then introduced the Elected President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly, H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés. In her speech she highlighted 7 priorities that should be addressed in the upcoming session: gender equality, migration, ensuring access to good work, climate action, access of disabled people, “peace, security & youth,” and the revitalization of the United Nations. H.E. Ms. Garcés believed that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would tackle these issues. Additionally, she placed particular importance on the revitalization of the United Nations – one step being the revitalization and reforming of the General Assembly – believing that this could make the United nations to be relevant to all people, and to maintain its legitimacy. Her remarks established the foundation of the briefing session, with each speaker over the two days taking into account her priorities and key issues, the Rules and Procedures of the General Assembly, and Management and Documentation.

The floor was then passed to Mr. Kenji Nakano, Chief of the General Assembly Affairs Branch, who gave an overview of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly. He discussed the provisional programme of work, the key dates of the session such as the event during the first week of the General Assembly, and how additional items are considered. Following this was a discussion on the Rules and Procedures of the General Assembly, given by Ms. Tomoko Iwata, Secretary of the Credentials Committee and Legal Officer at the Secretariat. Ms. Iwata talked in great depth about formal mechanisms such as adjournment and closure of debate, and how delegates can submit proposals and amendments. The afternoon session was opened with a talk on Conference Services, Meeting Management and Documentation led by Ms. Meena Sur, Chief of Documents Management Section in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. After this were discussions on the responsibilities and functions of the First (Disarmament and International Security), Second (Economic and Financial), and Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committees of the General Assembly. Discussed in these sessions were the key issues that would be discussed, and the expected standards from the chairs of the committees during the upcoming session. The first day ended with a talk about General Assembly Documents Research by Ms. Ariel Lebowitz, Client Services Librarian at Dag Hammarskjold Library, who showed the delegates the library’s online website which contains around 18 million documents ranging from voting data on resolutions, to individual guides for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council. 

Attending delegates listening to Ms. Sangeeta Sharma, Secretary of the Fourth Committee. Photo: UNITAR.The second day of the training was opened with remarks given by UNITAR Head of New York Office Mr. Suazo, who then handed the floor to Ms. Sangeeta Sharma, Secretary of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). Ms. Sharma discussed the work of the Committee, the rules of procedure within the committee, and the various tools delegates can use. The roles and functions of the Sixth Committee (Legal) was then introduced and elaborated by H.E. Mr. Michel Xavier Biang, Permanent Representative of the Gabonese Republic to the United Nations and Chair of the Sixth Committee, alongside Mr. Arnold Pronto, Principal Legal Officer of the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs. Mr. Kenji Nakano returned for the second session, to give an introduction on UN Elections, Negotiation and Decision Making in the General Assembly discussing the different required majorities between elections, how members states can lose their right to vote if they don’t pay their assessed contributions over two years.

The afternoon session was spent giving an overview of the relationships between the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), given by Ms. Marion Barthelemy, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the Security Council, given by Ms. Blanca Montejo, Senior Political Affairs Officer of the Security Council Practices and Charter Research Branch at Security Council Affairs Division/Department of Political Affairs. The day was closed with the Interpretation Series, given by Mrs. Elina Pekler, Chief of the English Language Section, and Mr. Francisco García Hurtado, Interpreter in the Spanish Interpretation Section.

Ms. Marion Barthelemy, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, talking about the relationship between the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Photo: UNITAR.The two-day briefing has given the attending delegates more of an understanding about the upcoming 73rd Session of the General Assembly, helping them identify and assess the main issues of debate; understand the functions, practices and procedures of the General Assembly and the committees; gain an overview of the issues being addressed by each individual Committees; and know what services they can leverage to aid their preparations for the debates.


Photo 1: The Elected President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly, H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, giving her speech at the briefing session. 

Photo 2: The Director of the General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division Ms. Ruth de Miranda, Elected President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly H.E. Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the Permanent Representative to the Mission of Singapore H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, UNITAR Head of New York Office Mr. Marco Suazo, and Chief of the General Assembly Affairs Branch Mr. Kenji Nakano. 

Photo 3: Attending delegates listening to Ms. Sangeeta Sharma, Secretary of the Fourth Committee. 

Photo 4: Ms. Marion Barthelemy, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, talking about the relationship between the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).