Sessions

The work of the General Assembly is organized in sessions. The regular session usually begins annually in September, on Tuesday of the third week. The tendency now is for the session to be suspended in late December, and then reconvene as required the following year, concluding before the next session begins.

The regular sessions are numbered consecutively from the first session 1946 onwards. The special sessions and emergency special sessions carry their own numbering series.

Special sessions

The Assembly may meet in Special sessions at the request of the Security Council, a majority of member states, or, if the majority concurs, of a single member, at any time during the year as occasion may require in order to address matters of special concern.

Emergency special sessions

Emergency special sessions shall be called within 24 hours if requested by the Security Council on the vote of any nine Council members, or by a majority of the Members of the United Nations. Such meetings take place if the Security Council fails to act because of lack of unanimity of its permanent members. 
In that case, the General Assembly may deal with a situation threatening or involving a breach of peace. This is a procedure set forth in the preamble to by resolution 377(V), "Uniting for Peace", adopted by the General Assembly in 1950 during the Korean war. 

General debate

At the beginning of each regular session, the Assembly holds a general debate, often addressed by heads of state and government. Here member states express their views on the most pressing international issues. 

Plenary meetings

Some issues are considered only in plenary meetings, while others are allocated to one of the six main committees. In plenary, there are always elections to the Councils, as well as the passing of resolutions. The Assembly can decide for every other item whether it should be considered in plenary meetings for political or practical reasons, or by the committees. Political issues of greater concern discussed by the plenary carry more propaganda value.

Find session documents

For each session of the General Assembly, a large amount of working documents are issued. The session documents are issued as

  • reports
  • draft resolutions and declarations
  • exchange of letters
  • speeches
  • notes etc.

Session documents from the General Assembly carry the following symbols:

  • A/session number/consecutive number. Documents before 1976 have no session number but only A/followed by consequtive number.
  • Special sessions carry the symbol A/S-session number for special sessions/consecutive number.
  • Emergency special sessions carry the symbol A/ES-session number for emergency special session/consecutive number. 

A/ General Assembly

-/session number

-/consecutive number

Ex. A/55/137 General Assembly, 55th session, document 137 = Assistance to the Palestinian People

UN documents and publications in catalogues and databases

  • United Nations Digital Library offers UN documents and open access publications, UN voting data and speeches, UN maps, Content in 6+ languages. Replaces the traditional online catalogue UNBISnet.
  • UN iLibrary UN publications online covering different topics.
  • ODS full-text UN documents published from 1993 onward and scanned documents published between 1946 and 1993 in the official languages of the UN.
  • Daily list of documents (ODS). Documents published for the day, with full text links, can be found in the United Nations full text database ODS.
  • UNBIS Thesaurus a multilingual database of the controlled vocabulary used to describe UN documents.
  • Index to proceedings is an annual bibliographic guide to the proceedings and documentation of the major UN organs. The index includes:
    • a list of all documents
    • a comprehensive subject index
    • an index to speeches
    • a voting chart of resolutions
  • United Nations Documents Index (United Nations Digital Library) References to all documents by subject area are published. A collection of indexes is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld and Law Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
UN Documents available online