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Timetable and committees

The session starts on Tuesday 17 September. The start of the session includes a moment of silent reflection, and an address from the Secretary-General and new President of the General Assembly.

On Wednesday 18 September the General Assembly forms a General Committee consisting of the President, Vice Presidents, and committee chairs.

They come up with a draft programme of work, which is voted on by the General Assembly on Friday 20 September.

This programme of work divides up the tasks of the General Assembly between its main body and its six committees:

The report of the Secretary-General outlines the draft programme of work of the General assembly.

Each UN member can have a representative on each committee. These committees, led by their chairs, work up proposals which they present to the General Assembly for a vote. The President of the General Assembly, in consultation with the General Committee, is responsible for managing the workload of the whole. On most issues, both within a committee and within the main or “plenary” session of the General Assembly, a simple majority vote of those in attendance is required, but some issues, such as UN membership, require a 2/3rds majority.

What can we expect in the first few weeks?

The general debate of the 74th session will be held from Tuesday 24 September to Saturday 28 September, and on Monday 30 September 2019.

This year, alongside high-level week there will be a record five leader level summits, details of which are listed below and further information is provided in “Five things that will be discussed in New York”

By tradition Brazil goes first (Brazil’s delegates were very effective in the very first General Assembly sessions in getting to the podium first, and the tradition stuck!). Then, as host, the US goes second. After that, speaker order is by negotiation, but Heads of State (Presidents and Kings) tend to go first, followed by heads of government (Prime Ministers) followed by Foreign Ministers, followed by other diplomats. The debate organisers also try to ensure that there is a good geographic mix to the speaker order, and that speakers’ personal schedules and availability are taken into account. In the event of disagreement over speaker order between officials of equivalent rank, the official who has been in post for longest takes precedence.

Provisional timings EDT are here. Highlights include:

  • Tuesday 1045 Jair Bolsonaro
  • Tuesday 1100 Donald Trump
  • Tuesday 1115 Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
  • Tuesday 1130 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Tuesday 1400 Emanuel Macron
  • Tuesday 2045 Boris Johnson
  • Wednesday 1030 Hassan Rouhani
  • Thursday 1400 Mahmoud Abbas
  • Friday 1030 Narendra Modi

Notable absences (so far):

Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Justin Trudeau, Mohammed Bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu and Angela Merkel (TBC)

Jair Bolsonaro - first time he will be addressing the UN since the horrific fires that swept through the Amazon, in the aftermath of which he rejected, then accepted, $22 million in aid from G7 leaders. The Brazilian President clashed with the international community, doubling down on the narrative of national sovereignty regarding the Amazon Basin.

President Trump - will be speaking just a few weeks after firing his special adviser John Bolton, a hawkish sceptic of the United Nation. Observers are keenly watching what tone the US President will take with regards to UN budgeting and Iran. It is confirmed he will not be attending the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit.

After that UNGA resumes its normal work. As UNGAs agenda is decided it will become clearer what issues will be discussed at what time, but we should expect:

  • The election of Human Rights Council members in October
  • The election of non-permanent Security Council members in June
  • The election of the next PGA and committee chairs in June
  • The confirmation of the peacekeeping budget in June/July
  • The new UN annual budgeting system will come into effect in January 2020, it will be debated in December 2019