89. Telegram From the the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

681. Measures To Improve GA Work Methods. (A) State 47868, (B) USUN 533,2 (C) USUN 578.3

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Improvement GA procedures and practices seems to us important enough to GA’s effectiveness to warrant continuing effort this direction, and GA decision to undertake general and systematic review seven years after last such exercise, and in context UN’s 25th anniversary, would be timely and desirable.
While we are not optimistic about outcome, neither do we think excessive pessimism is justified. Meager results from 1962–63 general review should not rule out new attempt seven–eight years later. Last review took place at inauspicious time, on heels of membership explosion which admitted large number new states constituting one-fifth of current membership. These new states have hopefully now had sufficient exposure to parliamentary procedure to make them appreciate need for reform and able contribute more usefully toward review. Moreover, many speakers 25th anniversary GA seem certain to refer to need for reforms and to advocate some specific measures, some good and some bad. In any case, if interest in reform is to grow and not evaporate, some kind of machinery should be provided to permit orderly consideration of suggestions put forward on occasion 25th GA.
Therefore, while we agree we should encourage friendlies to direct their pre-GA efforts toward securing agreement on few specific measures which could be adopted by 25th GA rather than exclusively on establishment of review machinery, we do not believe that we should reserve our position on latter nor make our support for it contingent upon agreement being reached or in early prospect on specific reforms.
Re para 4, Ref A, one specific reform which we propose press at 25th GA, and effectuate at that session if at all possible, is cited Ref C. As Dept. aware, this measure is directed toward rationalization of comite structure and provides for reallocation of (non-disarmament) agenda items on science and technology to single and possibly renamed main comite. We plan utilize occasion forthcoming friendlies’ meeting being convened by Canada to solicit support for this reform and to invite suggestions as to how we might best proceed in GA.
Set forth below are additional suggestions for reforms, all aimed at single purpose of saving GA’s time. We believe it would be worthwhile for 25th GA to adopt these reforms and would also plan mention them at friendlies’ meeting. Whether these measures can attract necessary support would be revealed during course extensive pre-GA consultations of type Canadians have in mind. General acceptance of these and similar reform measures would be enhanced if put forward on limited basis, e.g., that they would be put into effect for two-year trial period only, beginning with 26th GA, and would be subject review 28th session. We propose so note to friendlies and to suggest that group focus on developing program of few measures for adoption 25th GA which might be put to others on this limited basis.
Such measures could include following:
Arrange for outgoing General Comite to meet shortly prior to new GA to formulate recommendations to new GA re such organizational matters as (I) meeting schedule, (II) establishment of deadline for closing speakers’ list for general debate, (III) inclusion in agenda of items on provisional and supplementary agendas as well as “urgent and important” items proposed prior GA convening date pursuant Rule 15, (IV) allocation of items to committees and plenary, (V) closing date for 25th session. As part of this, General Comite would be enjoined, taking into account proposed closing date for session, to review agenda paying particular heed to possibility afforded by Rule 40 of recommending deferral items and their inclusion in provisional agenda of subsequent GA. To preserve original geographic balance, makeup of “old GC” would have to allow for substitutes for old GC members elected as individuals, i.e. pres and comite chairmen, in event latter unable attend. Substitutes should logically be reps of member states from which these officials were elected.
Establish “target” time limits of 40 minutes for general debate speeches and 15 minutes for plenary explanations of vote, with dels having option in both cases extend remarks in verbatim record up to maximum of 10 double-spaced pages.
Dept will recognize both of above arrangements as adaptations developed from our review of suggestions advanced by various govts. In connection 1962 general review of GA procedures and of timesaving innovations used by certain of SAs. Re latter, arrangement suggested in B above is adapted from procedure utilized with marked success by last three World Health Assemblies. Limited steps along foregoing lines would admittedly save only small amount GA’s time. However, they should serve to start ball rolling in direction procedural reform and to set stage for general review and adoption more substantial measures at subsequent GA sessions, presumably on recommendation of review mechanism of kind described Ref B.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 GA. Limited Official Use.
  2. Documents 87 and 88.
  3. Telegram 578 from USUN reads: “In addition to points raised in reftel [USUN 533] we will of course press energetically for initial step of reallocating items relating to science and technology to new main comite of the GA as set forth in our note to SYG of 16 March pursuant to DepAir A–51.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 GA)