The Canadian Embassy to the Department of State
Confidential and Informal Memorandum on the Views of Canada on Elections to the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council9
1. At present the six non-permanent members of the Security Council are:
|For two-year term:||Australia|
|For one-year term:||Egypt|
2. The United Nations Assembly in October will elect successors to Egypt, Mexico and the Netherlands. These states are not eligible for immediate re-election.
3. The Latin-American Republics appear to have agreed on Colombia. The Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi-Arabia, and Iraq) have agreed on Syria and have secured the concurrence of Turkey and Iran. It is widely expected that Belgium will be the candidate of the Western European states for the succession to the seat of the Netherlands though there may be strong opposition to a state being a member at the same time of both the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.
4. According to the Charter (Article 23:1), the primary consideration to be taken into account by the Assembly in elections to the Security Council is “the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization”. The secondary consideration is “equitable geographical distribution”.
5. In fact, however, at the elections in London in January scant attention was paid to the principle of functionalism and the two governing principles were the sharing of honours and equitable geographical distribution. The first principle means that a state (other than one of the Big Five) should not be a member at the same time of both the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. The second principle means that various groups of states are each entitled not only to a seat on the Security Council but to agree among themselves on which of them should have the seat. Of the six non-permanent seats five, in the minds of the adherents of these principles, are divided as follows:
- Western Europe (1)
- The Soviet Zone of Europe (1)
- Latin America (2)
- Middle East (1)
The sixth seat was at London given to Australia and it is debatable whether this seat is considered as belonging to the British Commonwealth or to the area lying south of China and the Arab states and including the whole of Africa.
6. Regionalism, combined with the rotation of seats among the states members of the regional groups, is likely to produce a weak Security Council. It has already resulted in Syria being chosen as the Middle Eastern candidate. This has been done certainly with little regard being paid “to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purpose of the Organization”. Two years from now it may [Page 201] result in the two Latin American members of the Security Council being countries with little military or economic force to contribute to the preservation of peace.
7. The present system also means that the non-permanent members of the Security Council are not in fact being elected by the Assembly but that the Assembly is merely ratifying the decisions of regional groups. Not all states are members of any recognized regional group and some states which might be useful members of the Security Council will, as a result, be disqualified from membership in the Council.
8. From Canada’s point of view the situation is especially serious. Since the United States is always on the Security Council, Canada can make no claim for membership on the basis of equitable geographical distribution. Canada belongs, moreover, to no organized regional group. If Latin America always has two seats on the Security Council, Western Europe one seat, Eastern Europe one seat, and the Arab bloc one seat—only one seat is left over for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India and for the other states which do not belong to one of the four regions. The argument will be made that that seat should go to a representative of the vast area lying south of China and of the Arab states and including the whole of Africa.
9. We would be serving neither our own immediate interests or the interests of the United Nations if we were to give support to the view that membership in one Council disqualified a state, other than one of the Big Five, from membership in the other Council. This would mean that Canada would be ineligible for membership in the Security Council until its term on the Economic and Social Council expires in January 1949 (i.e., Canada could not be elected until September 1948). By limiting the choice of candidates for the Councils it would weaken the Councils since they can do their most effective work only if they contain the states which have the greatest contribution to make to the solution of the problems with which they are dealing. Canada should therefore be prepared to oppose any movement which may develop in the Assembly to disqualify Belgium from membership on the Security Council because of its membership on the Economic and Social Council.
10. Should Canada stand for the Security Council this year, one of the main arguments for our standing (even if we expect to be defeated) would be that by so doing we would make clear our opposition to the acceptance of our [four?] undesirable conventions:
- The convention that the Assembly can properly disregard in elections to the Security Council the principle of functionalism set forth in Article 23 of the Charter;
- The convention that a state is ineligible for election to the Security Council if it is already a member of the Economic and Social Council;
- The convention that a number of regions of the world have a right to be represented on the Council by a state designated by them no matter what the qualifications of that state may be;
- The convention that only one member of the British Commonwealth, apart from the United Kingdom, should sit on the Security Council.
Washington, September 25, 1946.
- Transmitted to the Department by the Canadian Embassy under cover of a letter dated September 26, not printed.↩