Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Why Brazil always speaks first at the UN General Assembly


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNGA

Mains level : Mandate of the UN General Assembly

Every year since the 10th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1995, Brazil has been the first to address the delegation, followed by the United States.

About UNGA

  • The UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), serving as the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN.
  • Its powers, composition, functions, and procedures are set out in Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter.
  • It also establishes numerous subsidiary organs to advance or assist in its broad mandate.
  • The UNGA is the only UN organ wherein all member states have equal representation.

Why does Brazil always get to speak first?

  • Brazil has been the first speaker at the UNGA annual general debate for over six decades now.
  • While some assume that the order is determined alphabetically, this is not the case.
  • This tradition dates back to the early years of the United Nations, following its formation soon after the end of World War II.
  • In those days, most countries were reluctant to be the first to address the chamber.
  • Brazil, at the time, was the only country that volunteered to speak first.

So, why does the US go next?

  • In the list of speakers, the United States always goes second after Brazil as it is the host nation.
  • US President Joe Biden addressed the chamber on Tuesday, detailing his vision for a new era of diplomacy in his first-ever UNGA speech.

How is the order of the remaining speakers determined?

  • After the US and Brazil, the order of speakers depends on a number of factors.
  • Generally the order is determined by the rank of the representative — heads of state, heads of government, crown princes, and foreign ministers would be amongst the initial speakers, followed by deputies and ambassadors.
  • Other criteria like geographic balance also play a role in determining the order.

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