500.C1/14G: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva (Everett) to the Secretary of State

24. Department’s telegram 13, February 19, 6 p.m., section 2, paragraph l.8 I have discussed this matter with Avenol, Lester,9 and Charron. Each was categorical in stating that the situation hitherto prevailing as regards collaboration in specific technical activities by non-member states remains unchanged at least until the Central Committee has met and drawn up its rules and regulations and that our continued collaboration will not involve any legal financial obligation prior to the meeting of the Central Committee and will not involve any such obligation subsequent to such meeting unless the Committee should adopt rules imposing such an obligation. They consider it improbable that the Central Committee will undertake to establish rules imposing an automatic financial obligation in connection with collaboration such as ours has been and certainly not without prior consultation with us under the terms of article 5 of the Committee’s constitution. Furthermore they are categorical in stating that any rules the Committee may establish in this connection would not have a retroactive force as such a procedure would be entirely contrary to principles of law and to League practice.

I am inclined to the opinion that foregoing views are sound. The legal situation in this respect as based on the language of the Bruce Report is too vague to justify the assumption that a legal obligation exists prior to action by the Central Committee and in particular under article 5 of its constitution. The situation is similar to that which was created by the adoption in 1937 of the amended article 22 of the financial regulations. The Secretariat’s position on this question was from the outset that this article could not be binding without the prior consent of the non-member states concerned. This view was confirmed by the fourth committee in its report to the 1937 Assembly.

Practical considerations reinforce the views stated above by the Secretariat officials. It is highly improbable that the Bruce Committee in drafting its report desired to impose in advance a rigid financial [Page 316]obligation on non-member states irrespective of the manner and degree of their participation. Moreover although the date of the first meeting of the Central Committee has been tentatively suggested for June it is not yet certain that it will meet then.10 It was to meet such an indeterminate situation that the Council on December 14 renewed for 1 year the membership of all the League’s technical committees. In other words all the circumstances seem to indicate that the status quo will be maintained pending the moment when the Central Committee will be able to give consideration to these questions and that even then it is unlikely an effort will be made to alter the conditions under which we have collaborated in the past.

Everett
  1. Paragraph beginning “For your own information,” p. 313.
  2. Seán Lester, Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations.
  3. On May 1, 1940, Mr. Charron advised members of the Consulate at Geneva that the first meeting of the Committee would be held in September rather than as tentatively planned in June (500.C1/145).