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Updated August 31, 2021
United Nations Issues: Congressional Representatives to the
U.N. General Assembly

The annual s ession of the United Nations (U.N.) General
Assembly is held at U.N. Headquarters in New York City.
The President generally appoints one Democrat and one
Republican to serve as U.S. representatives to the session,
alternating each year between the House and Senate. The
75t ses sionopenedin September2020 and operated
remotely due to the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19)
pandemic; congressional representatives fromthe Senate
did not appear to participate. The 76th ses sionis scheduled
to begin on September 14, 2021. It remains to be seen as to
whether the sessionwill be held virtually or in-person (or a
combination ofboth), and to whatextent, if any, members
of the House of Representatives might participate.
Overview of the U.N. GeneraO Assemny
The U.N. General Assembly is composed of all 193 U.N.
member states, including the United States. It is the primary
deliberative, policymaking, andrepresentative organof the
United Nations. Each country, including the United States,
has one vote. A two-thirds majority vote is required for
decisions related to key is sues such as peace and security,
admission of new members, and the budget. A simple
majority vote applies for all other matters.
The Assembly's annualregular session opens in September
and runs for one year. The main part of the session, from
September to December, includes most of the workof the
Assembly's sixcommittees. The annual meeting ofheads
of state and government, often referredto as the general
debate, is held at the beginning of the Assembly session.
Members of Congress generally serve as representatives
during this time.
It is unclear what General Assembly events will be held in
person or virtually during the 76 session. On August 26,
the U.N. spokesperson described the situationas in flux'
due to COVID-19. Previously, the 75th session ofthe
Assembly was virtual, with most high-level speeches
delivered via video link. Members used a silence
procedure to adopt resolutions. Under this procedure, the
President of the Assembly circulates a draft resolution and
members have at least 72 hours to raise objections. If there
are no objections, the President then circulated a letter
stating that the resolution was adopted.
History of Congressiona        Representation
The concept of congressionalrepresentation to the U.N.
General Assembly emerged fromextensive participationby
both Senators and Representatives in the 1945 San
Francisco Conference on International Organization, which
led to the adoption of the U.N. Charter. The practice began
at the first Assembly session in 1946, when Members of the
Senate and House held positions as representatives and

alternate representatives, respectively. Since that time, with
few exceptions, each year two Senators have alternated
with two Repres entatives-with the Senate typically
serving in years when the House holds elections. In most
cases, bothparties have been represented and, when
possible, the Administration and Congress have aimed to
select Members who have not previously served as
delegates. (See Table 1 for a list of congressional
representatives since 2006.)
Legiative Authority
After the adoption of the U.N. Charter, Congress enacted
the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 (UNPA; 22
U.S.C. 287 et seq.), which provides legislative authority for
U.S. engagement in the United Nations. UNPA does not
require congressionalp articipation in sessions of the
General As sembly, but anticipates and permits participation
of Members ofCongress, among other U.S. representatives,
in such sessions. Section 2ofthe act sets out the authorities
for U.S. representation the United Nations. Specifically,
Section 2(a) specifies that the President, by and with the
advice and consentof the Senate, shall designate not more
than five U.S. representatives to attend a specified session
or specified sessions of the GeneralAssembly. UNPA does
not specify whether Members are eligible to be appointed
as U.S. representatives; however, Section 2(g) prohibits
compensation for Members serving as U.S.representatives,
signaling that Members might serve.
Roe and Responsibilities
The role and duties of congressionalrepresentatives are not
formalized; thus, the level and extent of congressional
engagement during the Assembly session depends on the
interests andpriorities of individualMembers. Delegates
generally travel to New York at the beginning of the regular
session. In the past, some Members have attended the
general debate and the President's reception forvisiting
heads of state, while others have stayed for several
additionaldays orreturned for otherparts ofthe Assembly
s es sion. Congressionalrepres entatives have als o follo wed
the activities of one ofthe General Assembly 's sixmain
committees, with at least one Member tracking the workof
the fifth committee, which is responsible for administrative
and budgetary matters related to the organization. Before or
during the session, Members may also schedule
appointments on policy is sues ofinterest; these might
include one-on-one visits with heads of state, foreign
representatives, orU.N. officials.
Congressionalrepresentativeshaveoftenreceived support
from congressional committee staff and State Department
officials. For example, staff from the House Foreign Affairs
Committee (HFAC) and Senate Foreign Relations

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