10 September 2020, New York, USA, Zoom Conferences - The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) New York Office (NYO), in partnership with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore to the United Nations as Chair of the Forum of Small States (FOSS), successfully opened its two-day course entitled “Briefing New Delegates on the Work of the 75th General Assembly”. The session opened with more than 250 delegates present on the online conference.
The briefing sessions opened with introductions, led by Mr. Marco A. Suazo, Head of Office at UNITAR NYO, who welcomed the participants and distinguished panelists for the day’s session. Mr. Suazo acknowledged the different circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevents in-person meetings, and welcomed Mr. Nikhil Seth, Assistant Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNITAR, to speak. Mr. Seth discussed his previous experience attending the General Assembly and acknowledged the importance of delegates’ understanding of GA rules and procedures. H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN, spoke next and acknowledged the benefit of reaching as many individuals as possible through virtual platforms.
H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, Elected President of the 75th Session of the General Assembly, spoke next, commending the creativity of continuing the briefing through the virtual platform. Speaking on his experience at the UN, Mr. Bozkir stressed the importance of remembering that decisions made within the GA will impact the lives of the many and that the position is one of immense privilege and responsibility. Ms. Ruth de Miranda, Director of the GA & ECOSOC Affairs Division, then spoke, thanking the previous speakers and giving a brief overview of her department’s support of the GA in its operations.
Following these opening remarks, Mr. Kenji Nakano, Chief of the General Assembly Affairs Branch, started off the first session. Mr. Nakano gave an extensive overview of the 75thSession of the GA, which will take place from 15 September 2020 until 13 September 2021. He explained the seating protocol, as well as the procedure of closing the 74thsession and opening of the 75th session. Mr. Nakano explained the role of the General Committee meeting, which primarily considers and makes recommendations regarding the agenda. Mr. Nakano then discussed various plenary items, including the election of members to bodies and annual reports. Following Mr. Nakano’s remarks, an interactive Q&A was conducted with participants.
The next speaker was Ms. Tomoko Iwata, Secretary of the Credentials Committee and Legal Officer at the Secretariat, who spoke about the rules & procedures of the GA. She began by discussing the role of the Office of Legal Affairs, particularly its support of intergovernmental organs and various procedural matters. Ms. Iwata then covered various aspects of the GA’s rules and procedures: participation, observer status, formal and informal meetings, the Credentials Committee, and specific actions within the conduct of business. Another interactive Q&A followed Ms. Iwata’s presentation and the event then broke for lunch.
Returning from lunch, Session I continued with a segment on Documentation, Meetings Management, and Conference Services. Mr. Dawa Sangey, Senior Documentation Officer in the Document Management Section, explained various aspects of UN documents. He discussed reports and records of meetings and additionally explained how to find UN documents utilizing the Official Document System (ODS). Ms. Mika Murakami, Deputy Chief of the Meeting Management Section, spoke next and discussed the limited availability of in-person conference services. Mr. Tony Di Lanzo, Team Leader of Meeting Programming, continued on this subject and additionally covered how to reserve conference rooms, both for in-person and virtual meetings. Ms. Meena Sur, Project Manager for the UN Journal, followed and gave her remarks on how to publish a meeting or event in the Journal. This concluded Session I of the briefing.
Session II opened with H.E. Mr. Agustin Santos Maraver, incoming Chair of the First Committee and Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, speaking about the role of the First Committee in Disarmament and International Security. Mr. Santos Maraver discussed the 17 meetings scheduled for this session, compared to last year’s 28 meetings. He also touched on the differences between formal and informal meetings. The first meeting of the First Committee will take place in the beginning of October, where the Committee will establish how to fit all discussion items into its 17 scheduled meetings.
The next speaker was Ms. Sonia Elliott, Secretary of the First Committee & Chief of the Disarmament and Peace Affairs Branch, who covered the traditional schedule of the First Committee. She then discussed the First Committee’s program of work and explained the divisions in the work of the Committee: General Debate, Thematic Discussion, and the Action Phase. Ms. Elliott then discussed the decision-making process within the First Committee, as well as the Committee’s unique voting procedure.
Session II continued with multiple speakers on the work of the Second Committee and the Relationship of the ECOSOC to the GA. First to speak was Ms. Marion Barthelemy, the Director of Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Ms. Barthelemy spoke on the economic and financial functions of the Second Committee and how it relates to the GA. H.E. Mr. Amrit Bahadur Rai, the incoming Chair of the Second Committee and Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations, spoke next and detailed the committee’s focus on its work in the context of sustainable development and climate change. Ms. Emer Herity, Chief of ECOSOC Affairs Branch and Secretary of ECOSOC and the Second Committee, spoke last. Ms. Herity discussed that there will be 5 in-person meetings for the Second Committee this session and mentioned the UN’s eDelegate platform for delegates to use.
H.E. Mr. Amrit Bahadur Rai gave concluding remarks to delegates of the Second Committee and expressed his enthusiasm toward working with them. Mr. Pelayo Alvarez of UNITAR NYO thanked participants for their attendance and spoke briefly about the session taking place the following day. This concluded the first day of the Briefing for New Delegates on the Work of the 75th General Assembly.