EU at the UN General Assembly

The EU at the UN

  • the EU is a permanent observer at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) since 1974
  • it has observer status in most of the UN specialised agencies
  • it is a full voting member of 3 UN bodies
  • it is the only non-state party to more than 50 UN conventions
  • the 28 EU member states command more than one eighth of the votes of the UNGA
  • the EU and its member states collectively are the largest financial contributor to the UN system

The EU is committed to multilateralism, with a strong and effective United Nations at its core. This commitment is rooted in the conviction that to be able respond to global crises, challenges and threats, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system, founded on universal rules and values.

Over the years the EU has established a strong relationship with the UN. Co-operation takes place on a broad range of areas covered by the different UN bodies. The EU also participates in the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Participation at the UN General Assembly

A resolution adopted by the UNGA in May 2011 gave the EU the ability to speak early among other major groups, when speaking on behalf of the 28 EU states, and invited the EU to intervene in the general debate at the opening of the General Assembly.

The EU external representatives - the President of the European Council, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European Commission and the EU delegation - can therefore present the positions of the EU and its member states at the UN. 

In addition, the EU has obtained the right to orally present proposals and amendments, a possibility that no other observer has at its disposal, and the right to reply once to a speech regarding EU positions.

Since 2011, the President of the European Council is addressing the General Assembly on behalf of the EU.

EU priorities at the UN General Assembly

Every year the Council of the EU adopts the EU priorities at the UN and the UN General Assembly, taking into account the UN's agenda and global issues. These priorities guide the EU's work for the year to come.

On 17 July 2017, the Council adopted the EU priorities for the UN and the 72nd UNGA (September 2017 - September 2018). The EU, together with its member states, will focus on the following three priorities.

Stronger global governance

The key EU priority will be to uphold, strengthen and reform the UN and the rules based global order. The EU will strive for clarity, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability as the key principles guiding UN action. This is essential to restore citizens' and member states' trust in the UN system to prevent and respond to crises, as well as to promote a rules based global order.

Peace and conflict prevention

Investing in upstream conflict prevention and planning for post peacekeeping scenarios is a priority for the EU. There are synergies between the EU Global Strategy and the UN vision of prevention as the golden thread that needs to run through all UN activities.

The EU and the UN are committed to strengthen their partnership in the global fight against terrorism and in the protection of victims. The EU also welcomes the reform of the UN Counter Terrorism architecture adopted by the UN General Assembly on 15 June 2017.

The EU will support the UN-led efforts in countries and regions requiring robust international action, including Syria, the Middle East, Libya, Ukraine, Yemen and African countries.

In the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, the EU will continue to promote universalisation and full implementation of the existing multilateral disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control treaties and regimes.

An enduring agenda for transformation

This year will be a defining year for the partnership between Europe and Africa. Africa is a strategic partner for the EU across all policy areas and the EU wants to support Africa in realising its full potential.

Building on the close EU-UN partnership on human rights,  the EU will foster the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law and democracy worldwide. The EU will also support the UN's coordinating role in promoting a coherent international response to humanitarian crises.

In addition, the EU supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and it is committed to achieve the 17 sustainable development goals by 2030.

Regarding migrants and refugees, the EU will push forward the negotiations for the UN global compact on migration,  the development of the global compact for refugees, and the comprehensive refugees framework with pilot countries.

When it comes to climate change,  the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be key to shape the global order. The EU supports a strong role for the UN in identifying and analysing security related risks linked to climate change.