Roles and Responsibilities of Elected Officials
The PGA, Vice-Presidents and Chairs are collectively referred to as the General Committee. The role and responsibilities of the General Committee includes discussing the GA agenda that has been drafted by the UN Secretariat, making recommendations to the GA on the inclusion of items and their allocation to the Main Committees. It also makes recommendations on organizational issues and on issues such as the conduct of meetings, meeting records, and documentation. The General Committee does not make declarations on political questions.
The General Committee usually works by consensus. If it decides by a vote, a simple majority rule applies. During its first meetings, the General Committee discusses the draft agenda and the organization of the session and immediately submits its report to the GA. This report contains recommendations on the inclusion of agenda items, on the allocation of agenda items and on the organization of work of the GA.
Each agenda item is allocated to a Main Committee of the GA or to the Plenary. There are no set rules. The allocations are based on well established practice, and agenda items almost never change committees. The allocation of new items is decided on a case by case basis. Occasionally, an agenda item is allocated to more than one Main Committee, or to both a Main Committee and the Plenary. In such cases, the General Committee recommends in detail which aspect of an item should be considered by which body.
The General Committee also suggests time frames for the work of the Main Committees, recommends voluntary time limits for speeches by Member States, and makes suggestions about other organizational matters based on the GA revitalization resolutions.
Most Model UN simulations of the GA do not include a General Committee or any GA officials. This can give a misleading impression about the power structure at the UN. Although the roles and responsibilities of GA officials and the General Committee could be performed by the MUN Secretariat, this would not convey the appropriate power structure that places the GA at the center of the UN system and the UN Secretariat in a supporting role. It is vital to any simulation of the GA to include the main GA officials in the leadership structure of the conference to avoid giving over emphasis to the role of the Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat.
The elected officers of a GA Main Committee (the Chairman, Vice-chairmen and Rapporteur) are collectively referred to as the Bureau. In some conferences they never meet as such but particularly in large conferences, the Bureau serves to assist the chairman with important aspects of managing the Committee proceedings. This includes, drafting the Programme of Work for the Committee, reporting on the Committee’s work in the Plenary meetings of the GA, choosing facilitators to assist the Committee in reaching consensus. The role the Bureau plays in helping the negotiation process move forward is a critical part of its work that is often left out of MUN simulations. In defining the functions of the Bureau it is important to keep in mind at all times that the Bureau does not tell a committee what to do, it recommends a certain course of action. Even though the Committee usually goes along with the Bureau’s recommendations it always has the right to question, make changes or even put those recommendations to a vote. Adding this element into the simulation can be a rewarding experience that leads to a deeper understanding of how the UN works.
Many Model UN simulations do not have a complete Bureau in place nor do they use the same titles for the leaders of the Committee or the same terminology used at the UN to refer to itself. For example, the position of Rapporteur rarely occurs in Model UN, many refer to the leader of a Committee as a Director instead of a Chair and often refer to the leaders as members of the “dais” instead of the Bureau.