501.BD International Law/9–1146

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mrs. Alice M. McDiarmid of the Division of International Organization Affairs

Mr. Bathurst of the British Embassy stated that the Foreign Office has asked him to make informal inquiries with regard to the agenda item proposed by the United States on the progessive development and codification of international law.

I explained that we took the view that the General Assembly had a positive obligation to promote the development and codification of international law and that stress should be laid on development as well is codification. We believe careful consideration should be given to the procedures by which it might discharge its responsibility. We were, therefore, planning to propose a small sub-committee to consider procedures and make a report to the next General Assembly. The sub-committee might consider the kind of codification agency the United Nations might establish, its relations with public and private [Page 530] groups, the role of the Economic and Social Council particularly with reference to Article 62, the consideration of special proposals, such as a legislative drafting bureau, and the topics which might be selected for codification.

Mr. Bathurst said he thought our proposals were along the lines Mr. Beckett, Legal Adviser of the Foreign Office, had been thinking. He said he would relay the information to London and believed the United Kingdom would wish to support our proposals.

He expressed particular interest in the consideration of the kind of agency which might be established. He said he had talked with Mr. Feller of the United Nations Secretariat, who had indicated that plans for the work of the Secretariat’s Division for the Development of International Law had not yet been clearly formulated. He expressed the view that without some specific direction the Secretariat might simply draft papers which would gather dust. I agreed with him that the Secretariat’s Division could do highly useful preparatory work but that it needed some authoritative direction in order to be most useful. I mentioned that in our view members of the sub-committee should be experts in international law but should also be acquainted with the policies of governments because one of the major problems was what governments were willing to do or to accept. Mr. Bathurst agreed.

He inquired whether we had any specific topics in mind for codification, and I said we did not at this time. I also said that, if possible, it might be desirable to take a general view of the field rather than to tackle a problem simply because it looked easy.

He asked whether there was any precedent for the appointment of a sub-committee of this kind. When I replied that the Committee on U.N.R.R.A. or the Negotiating Committee on League of Nations Assets might be precedents, he added the Negotiating Committee on the Headquarters. We agreed that the appointment of a sub-committee seemed well within the Charter.

In response to his question, I said that we would have a proposal in the form of a resolution. I emphasized that we would not go to the General Assembly committed irrevocably to a specific proposal but that we thought a careful and thoughful approach should be made to the problem.

In leaving, Mr. Bathurst again expressed sympathy with the proposal and said he might get in touch with me again when he heard from London.