Memorandum Prepared in the Office of Special Political Affairs


Proposed Papers on the Issue of the “Veto” in the Security Council, and Related Questions54

The issue of the “veto” in the Security Council has been placed on the agenda of the General Assembly, scheduled to meet September 23, by the Australian Delegation which requests consideration of the application of Article 27 of the Charter dealing with the method of voting in the Security Council.55 In addition, the Cuban Delegation has placed on the supplementary list (containing items which can be included in the agenda by vote of the Assembly) an item requesting that a general conference of United Nations members be called in accordance with Article 109 of the Charter (General Conference to consider amendments) “in order to modify Paragraph 3 of Article 27 of the Charter to eliminate the so-called veto privilege”.56

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There is every prospect of a full debate on the subject of the “veto” followed by possible action by the General Assembly. Public as well as official interest has of course been increased by the use of the veto in the Security Council and discussion in the Atomic Energy Commission.

The United States Representative to the Security Council and ranking officers of the Department of State have proposed a full study of the “veto”, not only in its technical aspects, but more especially from the broader viewpoints of the philosophy of the “veto” and the theory and use of the principle in national governments and in international organizations other than the United Nations as well as in the United Nations itself.

Listed below are a series of papers suggested for preparation in various interested offices and divisions of the Department. Responsibility for the preparation of each paper is suggested after each title on the assumption that the named office or division will consult with other interested offices and divisions.57

The United States position58SPA and its divisions in collaboration with Le and other interested offices and divisions.
Legislative and diplomatic history of provisions for voting in the Security Council up to the adoption of the Charter—IS.
Analysis of voting procedure in cases thus far considered by the Security Council—IS.
A compilation of official U.S. statements on the veto in relation to the control of atomic energy—IS, with Le.
Present status of discussions in the Committee of Experts on voting in the Security Council—IS.
The “veto” principle as expressed or implied in Article 79 of the Charter and in recent U.S. proposals for its relaxation in application—DA and EUR.
The “veto” principle in the Council of Foreign Ministers, and in the peacemaking machinery established after World Wars I and II—EUR.
The “veto” in Allied Control Commissions in Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Japan and Rumania—EUR and FE.
Public attitudes toward the “veto” in the United States—PL.
Voting procedure in the League of Nations and in major Pan American conferences—OA.
The “veto” or influence tantamount thereto in specialized international agencies—OA.
Aspects of U. S. foreign policy on which this Government insists on exercising its unilateral judgment (e.g. immigration, bases, Monroe Doctrine, Panama Canal, etc.)—OCL., with all geographic offices, Le, A–C, A–B.
Note: An appropriate query in connection with the following suggested papers would be: What recognition is given in national attitudes and practices or political theory in various parts of the world to the possibility of interposing decisive objections (legal or extralegal) to proposed international action?
The “veto” or influence tantamount thereto in relation to international organization in the Western Hemisphere (this paper should also characterize, if possible, the general attitude of Latin Americans toward the existence of the “veto” in political processes)—OA (Regional Branch), with ARA.
Soviet attitudes and practices with respect to the “veto” in international affairs, particularly in international organization—EE.
Chinese attitudes and practices with respect to the “veto” in international affairs, particularly in international organization—FE.
French attitudes and practices with respect to the “veto” in international affairs, particularly in international organization—EUR.
The “veto” in the operation of the British Commonwealth of Nations (This paper should also treat of the general attitude toward the “veto” or its equivalent in the internal politics of the various British Commonwealths)—BC.
Voting arrangements in the Arab League—NEA.
The “veto” in American constitutional theory and practice (This would include an examination of the Federalist Papers, analysis of relations between branches of the Federal Government, and analysis of congressional parliamentary practice and theory)—Le, with OCL.
  1. A working paper drafted in the Office of Special Political Affairs for the Department’s United Nations Liaison Committee.
  2. This proposed item was placed on the provisional agenda by the Secretary-General; for General Committee consideration of this subject see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, Second Part, General Committee, pp. 74 and 75.
  3. United Nations document A/75; this proposal was addressed to the Secretary-General on August 1. Subsequently (October 3) Cuba submitted another item calling for a general conference of Members of the United Nations under Article 109 of the Charter for the purpose of reviewing the present Charter (United Nations document A/102); this was in effect a reiteration of the original Cuban proposal and not designed to enlarge its scope. (Documents found in United Nations depository libraries)

    The relevant section of Article 109 reads: “1. A General Conference of the Members of the United Nations for the purpose of reviewing the present Charter may be held at a date and place to be fixed by a two-thirds vote of the members of the General Assembly and by a vote of any seven members of the Security Council. Each Member of the United Nations shall have one vote in the conference.”

  4. Technical information regarding drafting procedures, deadlines, etc., omitted: omissions not indicated. Detailed studies were made on each subject; most were completed by the first week in September. In turn these were incorporated into a collection entitled “Background Book on Unanimity Rule and Related Issues” (IO Files).
  5. See document SD/A/C.1/69B, October 22, 1946, p. 298, for the statement of the United States position which eventuated from this study; see also minutes of meeting with Senator Austin, September 11, p. 293. Senator Warren R. Austin had been appointed Senior Representative on the United States Delegation to the Second Part of the First Session of the General Assembly.

    The work on preparing a position paper on the General Assembly items dealing with voting in the Security Council was initiated in the Division of International Security Affairs in the Office of Special Political Affairs. By August 31 a second draft was being circulated within the Office of Special Political Affairs and at this time Elwood N. Thompson, Special Assistant to the Director (Hiss) noted in a memorandum to Mr. Hiss and the Deputy Director (Ross) that: “…The basic question seems to me to be whether or not the attached paper is couched in a sufficiently broad framework to be satisfactory to Mr. Austin, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Fahy [Charles Fahy, Legal Adviser of the Department of State]. The material perhaps can be adapted to a broader framework which will make clear the reasons for the position taken. The paper as now organized seems to balance a large superstructure primarily on the consideration of an effective set of tactics to gain our objectives in the Committee of Experts. Perhaps the necessary broad framework can be established separately in the outline for possible use in preparing an address, which Mr. Ross planned to develop.” (501.BC/8–3146)

    In one of the earliest meetings in the Department on this question, shortly after the Australian item had been submitted, Mr. Ross had written: “… I find it difficult to escape the feeling that we perhaps have been indulging in a large amount of shadow-boxing with the technicalities of rules of procedure without having first formulated our broad policies with regard to the veto not only as this question arises in the Security Council but in many other ways.” (Memorandum to Mr. Fahy and Mr. Cohen, July 22, 501.BC/7–2246).