Lot 60–D 224, Box 58: D.O./Conv.B/JSC Mins.
Informal Minutes of Meeting No. 4 of the Joint Steering Committee Held at 3 p.m., October 5, at Dumbarton Oaks
|Present:||Dr. Koo, Dr. Hoo, and Dr. Liu of the Chinese group;|
|Lord Halifax, Mr. Jebb, and Professor Webster of the British group;|
|Mr. Stettinius, Mr. Dunn, Mr. Grew, and Mr. Pasvolsky of the American group.|
|Mr. Hiss also present, as secretary.|
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
At this point Mr. Stettinius said that the first purpose of today’s meeting had been to permit Dr. Koo to present his views on the question [Page 872] of the voting procedure to be followed in the Council and to permit a general discussion of this subject.
In response Dr. Koo said that on the question of voting in the Council his group had found the clarifications and explanations given at the second meeting of the Joint Steering Committee (October 2, 4:00 p.m.) most helpful in understanding the status of this subject as a result of the preceding phase of the conversations. He said that the view of the Chinese group is that there are several questions of principle which deserve consideration. For example, there is the question of whether there should be some general formula as to what questions will require a simple majority or a two-thirds majority. A related question is whether there should be any distinction drawn between substantive and procedural questions. He said that one method of approach might be to specify that certain kinds of functions would be exercised by the Council on the basis of a two-thirds majority vote and others on the basis of a simple majority.
He said that his group had thought the matter over and had found that there were certain advantages to each of the alternative means of procedure which they have so far considered. He said that if the categories of questions to be dealt with by a simple majority and those categories of questions to be dealt with by a two-thirds majority should be described in general terms there could thereby be avoided a good deal of effort in attempting to specify the two categories in detail. On the other hand, it appeared that there would be some advantage in stating at least certain kinds of functions which would fall within one or the other of these two categories.
He recalled that in the Council of the League disposition of the question of whether or not the International Court at the Hague should be asked for advice had been blocked because one state which was a party to the dispute under consideration would not admit that this was merely a procedural question. He said that he was inclined to think that it might be desirable to attempt to combine, if possible, the two approaches to this question and that he would like to raise for consideration the possibility of specifying certain kinds of functions which would call for one or the other type of majority vote. For example, a recommendation as to the admission of new members and perhaps the question of reference of cases to the International Court might be mentioned. He recognized, of course, that it would not be possible to specify all kinds of questions which might be likely to arise. This aspect of the problem could be met by adopting a general provision that substantive questions would require a two-thirds majority but that procedural questions could be disposed of on the basis of a simple majority.
Secondly, Dr. Koo said, he felt that the general principle of the unanimity of the permanent members is a very desirable one. He [Page 873] said that he thought that it might simplify the understanding of this problem if it could be provided that the rule of unanimity should prevail except in cases where one of the permanent members is involved in a dispute. He thought that a general provision to that effect might perhaps facilitate the parliamentary proceedings of the Council.
In the third place, Dr. Koo said, he believed that it would be desirable to have some understanding as to whether abstention from voting is to be permitted and, if so, what the effect of such abstention should be.
In the fourth place, he felt that when reference is made to a simple majority, or to a two-thirds majority vote, and to unanimity of the permanent members except when one or more of them is involved in a dispute, it should be made clear that the particular majority decided upon is an absolute one, i.e., is a majority of the total membership of the Council. He recalled that on several occasions when a delicate question had come before the Council of the League, some members did not wish to indicate their attitudes on the question and had absented themselves from meetings of the Council.
Lord Halifax inquired whether Dr. Koo meant that the prescribed majority, whether a simple majority or a two-thirds majority, should relate to the entire membership regardless of whether certain members voted or not. In reply, Dr. Koo said that he was inclined to believe that his chief interest is in seeing that there is some definite provision on this matter so that there should be no doubt as to the procedure to be followed.
Mr. Stettinius said that he thought Dr. Koo’s observations on the subject of voting were most interesting. Mr. Pasvolsky observed that the American group had tended also in its thinking to take the position that the required majority should be of the total membership of the Council.
Mr. Dunn asked Dr. Koo whether the Chinese group had developed in more detail its thought on the question of abstention from voting. He said that the American group had run into some difficulties on this question which he thought might be avoided if it were made clear, as Dr. Koo had suggested, that the prescribed majority would be in terms of the entire membership of the Council. However, Mr. Dunn felt that some difficulty might still be anticipated, in this regard, if two or three members were to abstain from voting. He said he also wished to ask Dr. Koo whether the latter intended that an abstaining member would be bound to contribute forces to carry out a decision reached by the Council.
Dr. Koo said that he felt that if it were to be provided that the prescribed majority were to be an absolute one, that is in terms of the entire membership, it would be difficult to introduce the principle of [Page 874] abstention unless it were to be specifically provided that such abstention would not invalidate the decision of the Council. Otherwise, he felt that there would be difficulty in determining whether a majority had been obtained.
Professor Webster said that he thought that an abstaining member’s vote would have to be regarded as a negative one. Mr. Pasvolsky thought that for purposes of determining whether or not a majority had been obtained it might be feasible to provide that an abstaining member’s vote should be counted as a positive one. However, Professor Webster continued to feel that if a member were to abstain from voting, its vote could not be counted on the majority side of the question and, therefore, it must be counted on the negative side. Lord Halifax said that if as many as three members should abstain from voting and the required majority were to be two-thirds, the result might be that adoption of the proposed action would require complete unanimity of the remaining members. This, he was inclined to feel, would be unworkable. Mr. Jebb agreed that in effect an abstention would be a negative vote.
Lord Halifax inquired as to what objection there might be to providing that the required majority related to those present and voting. In reply, Dr. Koo said that a member might, in order to avoid having to make a decision, absent itself from the meeting and thus reduce the force and authority of the meeting at which the proposed action was taken. Mr. Pasvolsky felt that a provision for an absolute majority of the total membership also constitutes a protection to the permanent members who will, in the main, have to supply the military forces required to carry out action decided upon by the Council. He thought that the permanent members should not be exposed to the risk of being bound by action taken in their absence.
Lord Halifax thought that it should be possible to maintain the principle of the unanimity of the permanent members while still providing that in other respects the required majority relates to those present and voting. Mr. Pasvolsky observed that the protective feature of the other procedure would extend also to non-permanent members of the Council. He felt that each member should have protection of the kind he referred to, namely, that no decision should be taken without its vote unless it specifically desired not to vote, in which case it would have to be treated as if it had voted in a positive sense.
Professor Webster and Mr. Jebb thought that the ordinary procedure of deliberative meetings should afford sufficient protection to the member states. Professor Webster observed that it is not possible to make a state vote if it does not wish to. Mr. Dunn pointed out that the matter of absence from a meeting is taken care of by the provisions for continuous sessions of the Council and for continuing representation by each member at the seat of the Council.[Page 875]
Professor Webster raised a query as to why a state should not be permitted to abstain from voting on a doubtful proposition. Mr. Dunn thought that it would be very difficult to provide for such abstention. Mr. Stettinius said that he felt that each member should be required to show its true colors and to take a definite stand.
Dr. Hoo pointed out that it would not be possible to say that abstention should be treated as a positive vote for the reason that any proposition can be so phrased that, although stated in positive terms, its effect would actually be negative. Mr. Pasvolsky said that if the Charter were to be silent on the question of abstention and were at the same time to provide that the required majority should be an absolute one, it would be equivalent to providing that abstention would not be permitted. He added that it seemed to him that so long as the required majority is obtained it should not matter how the remaining votes are considered. He felt that the basic responsibility for action by the Council must fall upon the permanent members and such non-permanent members as are required to make up the prescribed majority.
Dr. Hoo said that if there were to be too many abstentions it would be impossible to obtain the required majority. The others present expressed their agreement with this observation and seemed to feel that it constituted an argument against the policy of abstention.
Lord Halifax felt that there would be great difficulty in combining the unanimity principle and the principle that all members of the Council are supposed to vote on each question. He still felt that it should be feasible simply to provide that the prescribed majority should be of those present and voting, subject always to the requirement of the unanimity of the permanent members. However, Mr. Pasvolsky felt that such a formula might make it possible for action to be taken as a result of the affirmative votes of the permanent members only. This, he felt, would be undesirable. He felt that it is necessary to provide that action by the Council has to be on the basis of the affirmative votes of the permanent members plus the number of nonpermanent members required to meet the prescribed majority. He felt that the question of a particular type of majority is of less importance than is the requirement that action must be based upon votes of the permanent members and of some non-permanent members as. well. He remarked that in the preceding phase of the conversations there had been some discussion of the possibility of splitting the difference between a two-thirds majority and a simple majority and providing that action by the Council would require seven of the eleven votes, including among the seven all of the permanent members.
Professor Webster said that he believed that there existed no precedent for preventing abstention from voting. He felt that if a member did not attend a meeting it would mean that that member did not desire to vote on the question at issue and if it had voted would have [Page 876] voted in the negative. He added that it had been quite common practice in the Council of the League for states to refrain from voting. Mr. Pasvolsky said that he continued to prefer a provision stated in terms of the actual number of votes which would be required for action by the Council. He agreed with those who felt that it would not be desirable to permit abstention from voting by the great powers unless there were to be an additional and rather meaningless provision that powers which abstained from voting would nevertheless be bound by the decision reached. Mr. Dunn thought that provision for abstention plus a provision for unanimity of the great powers might indicate that the votes of the non-permanent members were not desired. Mr. Pasvolsky agreed that the participation of the non-permanent members is of great importance. He felt that one of the mitigating features of the principle of the unanimity of the permanent members is that it is effective in a negative rather than in a positive sense in as much as no action can be taken by reason of the votes of the permanent members alone.
Lord Halifax thought that although it would probably not be likely to arise, it would be most unfortunate if there could develop a situation in which the five permanent members were all in agreement but found that the action which they desired to take was blocked by unwillingness on the part of the other Council members to commit themselves to a decision. Mr. Pasvolsky, however, suggested that if action agreed upon by the five permanent members cannot command the support of at least one of the non-permanent members the presumption would be that the proposed action is undesirable.
Dr. Koo inquired whether the other groups saw any objection to prohibiting abstention. Mr. Jebb and Mr. Pasvolsky replied in the negative. However, Professor Webster thought that it would be extremely difficult to adopt any such prohibitory provision. He thought it quite likely that a great power might not be able to say that it agreed to the proposed action but at the same time, having as it did a veto, it might not wish to vote in the negative. Mr. Jebb thought that in such a situation the power concerned would be able to make its position clear in a statement made before the Council.
Mr. Stettinius pointed out that the document stresses the continuous functioning of the Council and also stresses the fact that the Council acts on behalf of all member states. He felt that each member of the Council should recognize its world obligation to act as a trustee for other states and should be prepared to cast its vote accordingly.
However, Dr. Hoo felt that there might be cases where one of the smaller powers might not dare to vote either positively or negatively. He thought it might be helpful to determine first whether the non-permanent [Page 877] members would be bound by any action against which they had voted. Dr. Liu said that he understood that it is intended that non-permanent members would be bound in such a case and that, apart from the rule of unanimity, this would be true of the permanent members as well. The other members expressed their agreement with Dr. Liu’s understanding.
Dr. Hoo then suggested that it might be desirable to provide that voting of non-permanent members would be by secret ballot. He said that the significant question is whether or not a majority has been obtained. It is not necessary to know what members make up that majority in as much as all members will be bound by the decision reached. He thought that provision for such a secret ballot would help many of the smaller powers and that with such a provision it might be practicable to preclude them from abstaining from voting. Mr. Jebb thought that if all five of the great powers voted for a particular proposal the small powers which joined with them would not be likely to have much anxiety about their responsibility for such votes. Mr. Stettinius thought that Dr. Hoo’s proposal was very interesting and has considerable merit.
Dr. Hoo added that under the proposal which he had suggested it would be appropriate to provide simply for a fixed number of votes, rather than for a majority, as required for the taking of action by the Council. Mr. Pasvolsky expressed his agreement and said that he thought the suggestion which he had mentioned before that the required number of votes be fixed at seven, had considerable merit. Mr. Jebb was inclined to agree, provided the question were not complicated by permitting abstention from voting. Mr. Dunn agreed that Dr. Hoo’s proposal constituted an improvement over previous formulae.
There then ensued a discussion as to the voting rights of those members of the Organization not members of the Council which may be invited to attend sessions of the Council when matters of special interest to them are under consideration. Mr. Stettinius said that he thought that it would confuse the voting procedure if these nonmembers were to be permitted to vote in the Council on such occasions. Mr. Grew pointed out that there might be a bloc of several such countries involved in a particular dispute or other case before the Council.
Dr. Koo then referred again to the problem of distinguishing between substantive and procedural questions. He said that he was inclined to think that it might be wise to limit the area of discussion in the Council as much as possible and to this end it would be wise to specify what kind of questions would call for a simple majority and [Page 878] then to provide generally that other questions would require a two-thirds vote. In this way, he felt, the Council could avoid having first to devote considerable time to determining whether a particular question is a procedural or a substantive matter. He felt that it would be desirable to try to eliminate debates on such points.
Mr. Jebb said that there had been an attempt to specify just what the voting procedure would be under the proposal made by the Soviet group and what it would be under the alternative proposal. Mr. Dunn pointed out that in the provision relating to voting in the Assembly there had been some spelling out of the topics which would require a two-thirds majority. Mr. Pasvolsky added that in the provision to which Mr. Dunn had referred it had been provided that all other matters, including the question of the determination of additional categories of questions to be decided by a two-thirds majority, should be determined by a simple majority vote. He thought that careful consideration should be given to the possibility of enumerating the functions which would require a two-thirds or a simple majority vote. Professor Webster and Mr. Pasvolsky pointed out that the formula provided in the section on voting in the Assembly is a novel one. Mr. Pasvolsky added that another novel formula is set forth in the chapter on amendments which, unlike the Assembly formula, combines the principle of unanimity and in addition provides for a majority slightly larger than a simple majority of the total membership.
Dr. Koo inquired as to whether there would be any objection to adopting the same procedure with respect to voting in the Council as had been adopted for the Assembly. Mr. Pasvolsky pointed out that the only problem which came up in connection with voting in the Assembly was that of distinguishing between those matters which would require a two-thirds majority and questions which would require only a simple majority. The question of the unanimity of the permanent members of the Council did not arise with respect to the Assembly. For this reason the question of voting in the Council is a more difficult one than that of voting in the Assembly. Dr. Koo wondered whether the problem of voting in the Council could not be simplified by merely adopting the provision on voting in the Assembly and adding to it the requirement of the unanimity of the permanent members except in the event that one or more of the permanent members is a party to a dispute.
Mr. Pasvolsky said that this raises the whole question of whether it is desirable to provide for two types of majority action by the Council and, in this connection, whether the two types of action should be distinguished by a listing of categories. He said that the British proposal [Page 879] as to voting in the Council is that procedural matters should be disposed of by a simple majority and that substantive matters should require a two-thirds majority for action. The American and the Russian proposals had been for a simple majority as to all questions, with the proviso that substantive questions would require the unanimity of the permanent members. Mr. Pasvolsky said that no final conclusion had been reached as to the two types of majority, i.e., a simple majority or a two-thirds majority. Professor Webster pointed out that the British group had constantly favored a requirement that substantive questions be settled only by a two-thirds majority. He thought that perhaps too much importance can be given to the question of voting, apart from the very important question of the rule of unanimity. He felt that experience shows that where the great powers are united on a particular question there would be no problem as to voting. So far as he could recall there had only been two instances in the League’s experience where despite the united attitude of the great powers there had been a voting problem. Mr. Pasvolsky and Dr. Hoo expressed their agreement with Professor Webster’s statement.
Mr. Pasvolsky pointed out that the Soviet group had proposed a general formula as to the rule of unanimity, with an exception for procedural matters which would not be specifically defined.
At this point Dr. Koo said that the view of the Chinese group is that the rule of the unanimity of the permanent members is desirable except when one of the permanent members is involved in a dispute. Mr. Jebb and Mr. Pasvolsky added that they felt that the unanimity rule should in addition not apply to procedural questions. Dr. Koo replied that in the Chinese view the rule of unanimity should be applied to all questions, including procedural ones, except for cases where one of the permanent members is involved in a dispute. At this point Mr. Dunn read the provision on the subject of voting in the Council which is contained in the Russian document.
Dr. Koo then said that with respect to the question of initial members of the Organization he would like to inquire as to the meaning of the phrase “associated nations”. Mr. Stettinius replied that this phrase describes those countries which, although not adherents to the Declaration of the United Nations, had nonetheless been invited to the recent United Nations conferences. He explained that the adherents to the Declaration of the United Nations include only those countries which have actually gone to war against the Axis states. The associated nations include certain countries which have merely broken relations with the Axis. He pointed out that all of the four powers had approved the invitation lists to the recent conferences before the invitations had been issued. He thought it would be most [Page 880] unfortunate if any of these countries were to be eliminated from the list of initial members of the new Organization. In reply to an inquiry by Dr. Koo, Mr. Pasvolsky said that the associated nations include France, Egypt, Iceland, and six Latin American countries. Mr. Stettinius said that some of these countries might quite possibly have been persuaded to declare war had it been deemed desirable to have them do so. Mr. Dunn pointed out that all of these countries are cooperating in the prosecution of the war. He mentioned particularly Venezuela, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. Dr. Koo said that he thought the attendance of these countries at the United Nations conference would be very useful. Mr. Stettinius observed that this question would subsequently have to be discussed more fully with the Soviet representatives.
In response to an inquiry by Lord Halifax, Mr. Dunn explained that some countries which had broken relations with the Axis, for example Argentina and Turkey, are not yet actually associated in the prosecution of the war. He pointed out that in addition to this special category of states there remain, of course, the neutral states and the enemy states. Mr. Pasvolsky observed that Turkey had been neutral when the invitations were issued for the United Nations conferences thus far held. Mr. Jebb pointed out that there is still another category of states, the co-belligerents.
Dr. Koo again asked whether it is intended that states not members of the Council will not be entitled to vote at sessions of the Council to which they are invited. The others present replied in the affirmative.
Dr. Liu said that he wanted to be sure, with respect to the question of the time of publication of the agreed proposals, that the proposal now under consideration is that of publication at noon on Monday, October 9, Washington time. Mr. Stettinius answered in the affirmative and in reply to a further inquiry from Dr. Liu, Mr. Jebb said that this would mean 5:00 p.m. Greenwich time.