Take the U.N. General Assembly Seriously—but Don’t Expect Results

Take the U.N. General Assembly Seriously—but Don’t Expect Results
United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa addresses the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2018 (AP Photo by Richard Drew).

What is the point of the United Nations General Assembly?

The assembly—where all member states, from the United States to Kiribati, wield one vote each—has a reputation for generating more hot air than real action. It produces over 300 resolutions a year, but these lack the binding legal force of Security Council resolutions.

Assembly members discuss certain sensitive issues, such as the situations in Palestine and North Korea, annually. They scored a major success in negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. They also chew over questions such as whether to designate 2024 the Year of Camelids. This is exciting for fans of dromedaries and llamas everywhere. But it is not the stuff of high geopolitics.

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