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 18 July 2016, the Council adopted the EU priorities for the UN and the 71st UNGA (September 2016 - September 2017). The EU, together with its member states, will focus on the following issues.

Sustaining peace   

The increasingly prolonged and complex nature of conflicts requires a comprehensive approach and an integrated UN response. The EU will help implement the recommendations from last year's review processes under the UN peace and security architecture.  

Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the UN global counter terrorism strategy, the EU will promote its full implementation in light of the Secretary General's action plan on preventing violent extremism.

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

In the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, the EU will support UN efforts to prevent non-state actors and terrorist groups from developing and acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It will also promote the full implementation of existing conventions on chemical and biological weapons, and will support the universalisation and implementation of both the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the arms trade treaty.

A more just and humane world

To address increasing migratory and refugee flows, the EU will call for a global and efficient cooperation framework. This approach should be based on shared responsibilities, promote development-oriented solutions, enhance channels for legal migration and ensure the readmission of individuals not eligible for asylum.

The international humanitarian aid system also needs to adapt in order to cope with the scale of current challenges. The EU will work to ensure synergies between humanitarian aid and development cooperation to better prepare for and respond to crises or disasters.

The EU will continue to promote the protection of human rights worldwide. It will seek to advance its thematic human rights priorities and take up country situations that require the attention of the UN.

An enduring agenda for change

The coming year will be focused on implementation of the important agreements reached during the past year. These include the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, the Addis Ababa action agenda of the third international conference on financing for development and the Paris climate agreement. There is currently insufficient integration between strategies on climate change, sustainable development, humanitarian aid and peace-building issues. The EU is willing to engage multilaterally to change this and work towards a comprehensive global agenda.

With the arrival of the new UN Secretary General, the EU will call for a comprehensive UN reform and a new strategic agenda for the next 15 years. The EU welcomes all proposals in order to guarantee that the UN is fit for purpose and can deliver flexible, effective and efficient solutions.