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UN General Assembly

October 5th, 2012

United Nations. Photo credit Flickr user Africa Renewal/John Gillespie via CC

World leaders from all over the globe came to New York recently to attend the United Nations General Assembly. It’s a meeting held every year to discuss many of the world’s problems … and to try to find solutions to them.

What happened at this year’s meeting? HTE Kids’ News proudly presents ‘s explanation of this year’s event, as well as background on how the U.N. General Assembly came to be.


The United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly is held every year towards the end of September. It is the U.N.’s biggest annual meeting. The Assembly takes place at the U.N.’s headquarters in New York City, in the U.S., and usually lasts for about two weeks.

The U.N. was formally set up, or founded, just after the end of the Second World War in 1945. It replaced the League of Nations. This organization was formed after the end of the First World War (1914 – 1918). Its main purpose was to stop any future wars from happening. Yet the League was not successful and it failed to prevent the start of the Second World War in 1939. Towards the end of the war it was decided to replace the League with a new organization, called the United Nations.

Today the U.N. has 193 member countries. All are invited to attend the General Assembly. Each Assembly is given a number. This year it was the sixty-seventh session, or the 67th Assembly since the U.N. was founded in 1945.

A secretary-general leads the U.N. Its current leader is Ban Ki-moon. He is a former diplomat from South Korea. The General Assembly has a president. He or she holds this position for 12 months, or until the next Assembly takes place. U.N. member countries are divided into five geographical groups: African, Asian, Latin American and Caribbean, Western European and other States, and Eastern European.

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The five groups take turns to choose who is going to be the next president of the General Assembly. This year it was the turn of Western European and other States. The members within this group chose Vuk Jeremić, who is a politician from Serbia. The president for the previous 12 months, or sixty-sixth session, was from Qatar.

As the General Assembly is the one time in the year when nearly all the world’s leaders are in the same building at the same time, security is very strict. Hundreds of police officers surround the U.N. headquarters and police boats patrol the nearby East River.

One of the main parts of the Assembly is called the general debate. During the debate the leader or a representative from each member country can make a speech. These happen one after each other. The speeches are supposed to be no longer than 15 minutes. These speeches are often reported in the news. This is because they are a chance, or opportunity, for countries to complain about others if they don’t agree with, or don’t like, what they are doing.

This year’s general debate began on September 25. It finished six days later. Ban Ki-moon gave the opening address, or speech. He said that there were still many problems in the world and that U.N. member countries needed to work together to solve them. Mr. Jeremić, the Assembly’s president, then spoke after Mr. Ban.

Barack Obama, the president of the U.S., was one of the first leaders to speak. Recently, a short movie, or video,was made in the U.S. The movie was about the Prophet Muhammad. It led to many anti-American demonstrations in Islamic countries. Many Muslims were angry.

They claimed that the movie, parts of which were posted on the YouTube website, was disrespectful to Islam and that it insulted their religion.

Mr. Obama said that the movie was an insult to all Americans as well. Yet it has not been banned. Mr. Obama added that in America many movies and publications cause offense. He said that he was sure that many people called him awful things every day, but he insisted that he would defend their right to do so. Free speech and freedom of expression are important.

When it was the turn of many leaders from Islamic countries to speak nearly all disagreed with the American president. They insisted that it was wrong to use the right of free speech to deliberately offend a religion. Algeria suggested that there should be an international law against mocking, or making fun of, Islam in this way. The representative from Malaysia told the Assembly that attacks on Islam should not be protected by freedom of speech laws…

To continue this article and/or sign up for a   free trial of (with the help of an adult if you are under 13 years old), you can click on this link .

And HTE’s World and Politics Editor, Lukas Haynes, is happy answer any questions you may have about the United Nations General Assembly. He’s been to it!

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