Procedural Roles of the Chairman: A Step-by-Step
Procedural roles of the PGA and Committee Chairmen: Step-by-step through a conference
Allocation of work and time management
One of the first tasks of the GA General Committee is to decide what items to allocate to the GA Plenary and what items to allocate to its various subsidiary bodies.
The allocation of time is a more challenging task and must be a constant preoccupation of the presiding officers. The secretariat is likely to be able to give helpful advice in this regard, but the responsibility remains with the presiding officer, whether it is the PGA or Committee Chairmen. He/she will need a timetable or timeline within which tasks need to be accomplished. This timetable is outlined in the Programme of Work which is distributed at the beginning of the first Plenary or Committee meeting.
Opening the meeting
The presiding officer should arrive early before the scheduled start of each meeting. As soon after the appointed starting time that there are enough delegates in the room, the presiding officer ‘calls the meeting to order’, greets the delegates and declares the meeting open. He/she announces the purpose of the meeting and gives a brief oral introduction to the work at hand.
What a PGA/Chairman would say to open a meeting:
“The first plenary meeting of the General Assembly is called to order.” [PGA bangs the gavel to mark the opening of the meeting]
“I call to order the 20th meeting of the Third Committee of the 60th Session of the General Assembly.”
Announcing each phase of Committee activity
At the beginning of a meeting and as the meeting progresses, the presiding officer announces each procedural move: He/she explains any procedural matter that might be unclear and foreshadow subsequent moves. Likewise, the Chairman closes each phase of debate and explains what has been done and what is to follow.
At the beginning of any meeting a Chairman clearly outlines to the delegates what will take place and reminds them of important information they need to know.
This section will outline what a Chairman might say when announcing each phase of a Committee’s activity.
What a Chairman might say at the beginning of the General Debate in a GA Main Committee:
“Before opening the floor, I should like to remind all delegations once more that the rolling list of speakers for the general debate will close today at 6 p.m. All delegations interested in speaking should make every effort to inscribe their names on the list before that deadline.”
“Distinguished delegates, this morning the Committee will continue its general debate on agenda item 86 in accordance with its programme of work and timetable. The first speaker on my list is the distinguished ambassador ofNigeria. You have the floor sir.”
What a Chairman might say at the beginning of a meeting that will conclude the general debate:
“Today, the Committee will conclude the general debate on items allocated to it, in accordance with the programme of work and timetable.
At the end of the General Debate on an agenda item the Chairman would say:
“We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item. The Assembly (or Committee) has thus concluded this stage of its consideration of agenda item 43.”
Introducing a draft resolution
After concluding the debate on an agenda item, the next step is to introduce a draft resolution on the agenda item that was debated. At this juncture he Chairman would say:
“We have heard the last speaker on the debate of this item 43. The Committee will now proceed to consider draft resolution A/67/L.8. I give the floor to the representative ofMexicoto introduce the draft resolution.”
Taking action on a draft resolution
The Chairman will always know in advance whether a particular draft resolution will be adopted by consensus or whether a recorded vote has been requested before action is taken. The delegation requesting a recorded vote on a draft resolution must do so in writing prior to the time action will be taken.
Introduction of amendments
If delegates have not been able to reach consensus on a draft resolution, sometimes certain delegations choose to introduce amendments before action is taken. All amendments have to be tabled in the same manner as a draft resolution, i.e., deposited with the Secretariat in advance so that they can be distributed to all delegates before action is taken.
What a Chairman might say when amendments have been tabled:
“We will now move to the next phase of our proceedings, the introduction of amendments. I would ask those delegations who have submitted amendments to introduce them in the order in which they have been submitted. I call first on the distinguished delegate fromSri Lanka.”
“The next amendment will be introduced byIndia. I give the floor to the distinguished representative ofIndia.”
Once all of the amendments have been introduced, action is taken on them individually in the order in which they have been submitted.
What a Chairman might say to initiate action on the amendments that have been tabled:
“All the proposed amendments to draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.52 have now been introduced. We will take them up in the order in which they were introduced. We begin withSri Lanka: amendment to draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.22.”
Once action has been taken on all of the amendments proposed, the Committee next takes action on the entire draft resolution.
What a Chairman might say after taking action on the amendments and before taking action on the draft resolution:
“All the proposed amendments to draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.22 have thus been considered. We will therefore now proceed to consider draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.22. I call on those representatives who wish to explain their votes before voting.”
A delegation can decide to withdraw an amendment any time before action is taken on it. A delegation wishing to do so might say:
“India will not be seeking action on the draft amendment submitted by us in document…”
When this occurs, the Chairman would confirm this decision by saying:
“The draft amendments in documents…are therefore withdrawn.”
Voting on one part of a draft resolution before voting on the entire resolution
Sometimes a delegation requests a separate vote on just one part of a draft resolution. This takes precedence over voting on the entire draft resolution.
What a Chairman might say when a request for a separate vote on one paragraph of a draft resolution is made:
“The Committee will now proceed to take action on draft resolution A/C.1/60/L.4. A recorded vote has been requested. A separate vote has been requested on operative paragraph 4. I give the floor to the Secretary of the Committee to conduct the voting.”
Taking action on the whole resolution
After the results of the vote on the amendments are completed, or if there are no amendments, the Chairman proceeds to take action on the whole resolution. Before doing so, the Chairman gives all delegations an opportunity to explain their position or vote before taking action.
Here a Chairman might say:
“All proposed amendments to draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.22 have thus been considered. We will now proceed to consider the draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.22 as a whole. I first call on those representatives who wish to explain their vote before a decision is taken.”
If no amendments were proposed and a draft resolution will be adopted by consensus, the Chairman would say:
We will now proceed to consider the draft resolution A/C.1/53/L.22 as a whole. I first call on those representatives who wish to explain their position before a decision is taken.”
Explanation of position before action is taken or explanation of vote before voting
After a draft resolution is introduced, Member States have an opportunity to explain their position before action is taken (if it will be adopted by consensus) or to explain their vote (if a recorded vote has been requested). Unlike the General Debate, there is no speaker’s list. Delegates raise their placards to indicate that they want to speak and the Chairman calls on them in whatever order he chooses. Sponsors of the draft resolution cannot explain their position or vote. This is only
The phrase “explanation of position before action is taken” is used when a draft resolution will be adopted by consensus. The phrase “explanation of vote before voting” is used when a recorded vote has been requested in advance.
Once all the delegations who wish to explain their vote or position have spoken but before action is taken, the Secretary reads the title of the draft resolution, which Member State introduced it and which Member States added their names to the list of co-sponsors.
Concluding the decision-making process
If the resolution is to be adopted by consensus, the Secretary or Chairman mentions that “the sponsors hope that the draft resolution will be adopted by consensus.”
What a Chairman might say:
“The sponsors of the draft resolution have expressed the wish that it be adopted by the Committee without a vote. If I hear no objection, I shall take it that the Committee wishes to act accordingly. It is so decided.”
If this is not the case, then the Secretary or Chairman announces that “a recorded vote has been requested” and the Secretary proceeds to conduct a vote. Once the voting process has started it cannot be interrupted. After the voting process is completed, the results of a vote are announced.
Sponsors of a resolution cannot be added once action has been taken on a draft resolution.
Explanation of position after action is taken or explanation of vote after voting
Once action is taken, delegations have once last chance to put their points of view on the record. Those delegations that are not sponsors of the resolution are given an opportunity to explain their position if it is has been adopted by consensus or explain their vote after voting.
When the last speaker has finished, the Chairman may conclude by saying:
“May I thus take it that it is the wish of the General Assembly [or Committee] to conclude its consideration of agenda item 58? It is so decided.”
The action phase is a particularly sensitive component of a Committee’s activity, to which the Chairman pays particular attention. In the case of written draft proposals, the Chairman explains the procedural situation to make sure that all delegations fully understand it. He/she makes every effort to ensure that the decision-making process is fully transparent and that the wishes of delegations are accurately reflected. The most common mode of making decisions is for the Chairman to declare that a resolution has been adopted by consensus. This requires the Chairman to have a very good sense of the wishes of delegations, since, as with all other decisions by the Chairman, it is subject to its being accepted by the entire Committee.
An important part of the Chairman’s responsibilities is to ensure that all requisite decisions are taken and duly recorded.
Each evening, after closing the meeting, the Chairman starts to plan the next day’s work. It is important to make sure that he/she is informed of what has happened in the consultations and other meetings at which he/she was not present, and of likely developments in coming meetings. For this purpose, a meeting of the Bureau in the morning before the day’s session is often necessary. As appropriate, the Chairman prepares the interventions he/she will make in advance of the meetings. At times he/she may see advantage in meeting with some delegations and/or arrange to forewarn delegations of impending developments.
Closing the conference
Finally, it is PGA’s role to declare the conference closed. Before doing so he/she usually thanks delegates and the secretariat. He/she may also make some observations on the outcome of the conference.