ga-71-logo6 October 2016: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) discussed ways to make the UN system more accountable, inclusive and efficient during a meeting on revitalizing the Assembly’s work. As part of these efforts, the President of the 70th session, Mogens Lykketoft, submitted a “handover report” to strengthen the institutional memory of the Office of the UNGA President and support a smooth transition to the 71st session.

In the meeting held on 6 October 2016, in New York, US, the UNGA reflected on its resolution 69/321, which details the process to select and appoint the next UN Secretary-General, and resolution 70/305, adopted on 13 September 2016, which calls for an oath of office, a code of ethics and other measures related to the UNGA President, as well as to foster transparency, inclusiveness and effectiveness in the work of the UNGA. The EU described these resolutions as “groundbreaking” and instrumental in paving the way for strengthening the UNGA’s institutional memory and enhancing transparency in the UN Secretary-General’s selection process.

Peter Thomson, President of UNGA 71, highlighted the importance of close cooperation and coordination between the President’s office, the UN Security Council, the UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) and the UN Secretary-General, including to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On strengthening the UNGA’s integrity, Thomson said he will: explore ways to “preserve decorum and the special place of the General Debate on the calendar of world leaders;” consider the number of official high-level meetings held during the General Debate; and expand the focus on ethics to include overall decision-making processes. He recognized concerns about the “proliferation” of UNGA thematic debates, and said he will minimize their number while considering pressing issues in effective and efficient ways.

On the UNGA’s work, Member States called for prioritizing discussion topics, limiting meetings during the high-level week and eliminating “outdated” topics from the UNGA’s agenda. The US recommended prioritizing the items on the agenda and avoiding overlap to allow time for more relevant issues. Singapore called for ensuring that the UNGA’s agenda and those of ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies work coherently to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Speakers also supported efforts to ensure gender balance throughout the UN system and the UNGA President’s Office.

The handover report provided by Lykketoft identifies ongoing processes that will remain on the Assembly’s agenda during the 71st session, including: migrants and refugees; oceans; the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III); alignment of the UNGA agenda with the 2030 Agenda; indigenous peoples; and climate change. On oceans, the report informs that the High-Level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 will convene at UN Headquarters in June 2017. The UNGA 71 President is requested to appoint two co-facilitators to oversee the preparatory process, conclude intergovernmental consultations on a Call for Action to support implementation of SDG 14, and host a two-day preparatory meeting.

On Habitat III, the report states that the President is expected to convene a High-Level Meeting of the UNGA to discuss implementation of the New Urban Agenda and positioning of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). On alignment of the UNGA agenda and 2030 Agenda, the report notes that Lykketoft submitted a report on progress for Thomson’s consideration and further action. On the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in relevant UN meetings, the report summarizes progress to date, and reports that UNGA 71 must finalize and adopt the text, recommending reappointment of the same team of advisors to ensure continuity in the process.

The report also highlights practical lessons learned. On transparency, Lykketoft recalls that he published information on office staff, international travels, trust fund contributions and mandates. On appointment of facilitators, he recommends continuing to appoint one facilitator from the North and one from the South, and to consider gender balance. On outreach to civil society and media, Lykketoft reflects that increased demand for engagement in the 2030 Agenda requires coalition and partnership building, and suggests broadening the President’s office’s engagement with non-Member State and non-CSO actors to deliver on commitments. Finally, Lykketoft highlights the media and use of social media as critical in ensuring accountability and transparency in the Presidency’s work, and recommends continued use of a dedicated webpage, Twitter and other tools. [UN Press Release] [Statement of 71st UNGA President] [Handover Report] [UNGA Resolution 70/305]