Memorandum Prepared in the Division of Dependent Area Affairs1


Draft Position Paper for Use of United States Representative to Ad Hoc Committee Convened for August 28, 1947, Regarding Functions of the General Assembly with Respect to Information on Non-Self-Governing Territories Transmitted Under Article 73(e) of the Charter

the problem

The problem is to determine (1) what functions the General Assembly should perform or should be allowed to perform with respect to information from non-self-governing territories submitted under Article 73(e); and (2) what machinery or procedures, if any, should be employed to permit the General Assembly to carry out these functions effectively. This problem will be dealt with at the meeting, called for August 28, of the ad hoc committee of the General Assembly which was created by a Resolution of the General Assembly on December 14, 1946.

This paper deals only with questions of policy and is based on the following assumptions with respect to the legal questions involved:

That the General Assembly can, under Articles 10, 13, and 14 of the Charter and in view of the obligations set forth in Article 73, discuss and make recommendations relating to (a) the powers and functions of the Secretary-General with respect to information transmitted under Article 73(e), and (b) the substance and adequacy of the information so transmitted; and
That the General Assembly may, under Article 22, establish such subsidiary organs (e.g., standing committees) as it deems necessary for the performance of these functions.

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That the functions of the General Assembly, with respect to information transmitted under Article 73(e), should be as follows:
to make recommendations regarding the functions of the Secretary-General under Article 73 (e);
to discuss freely any question of procedure or substance relating to the information itself, either on a functional basis or, if any delegation wishes, as regards individual territories;
to make recommendations with respect to procedural matters; and
to make recommendations of a substantive character, for practical purposes, only on functional or topical subjects and not with respect to individual territories.
That the General Assembly machinery for carrying out these functions should be as follows:
The Secretary-General should prepare, after consultation with the specialized agencies, (1) a summary and analysis of the information on a functional or topical basis; (2) suggestions for improving the reports; (3) suggested recommendations as to the adequacy of existing conventions and possible need for new conventions; and (4) suggested recommendations as to research, technical assistance and other programs wherein the specialized agencies might be able to render useful services.
A subcommittee of Committee IV should, with the assistance of representatives of the Secretariat and of specialized agencies, examine the data and suggestions in 2(a) above with a view to formulating reports and resolutions for presentation to Committee IV and the General Assembly.
A standing committee of the General Assembly for this purpose is unnecessary. If, however, a proposal to create such a standing committee is adopted over United States objections, a rule should be proposed preventing reelection of elective members of the committee in two successive years.


Pertinent Provisions of General Assembly Resolution

The Resolution on “Transmission of Information Under Article 73(e) of the Charter” adopted by the General Assembly on December 14, 1946 provides in part for the following:

Invites the Secretary-General to convene, some weeks before the second session of the General Assembly, an ad hoc Committee composed in equal numbers of representatives of the Members transmitting information under Article 73(e) of the Charter (Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France*, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and [Page 282] United States of America) and of representatives elected by the General Assembly on the basis of equitable geographical distribution (Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Philippines, USSR, and Uruguay).
Invites the Secretary-General to request certain specialized agencies to send representatives in an advisory capacity to the meeting of the ad hoc Committee; and
Invites the ad hoc Committee to examine the Secretary-General’s summary and analysis of the information transmitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter with a view to aiding the General Assembly in its consideration of this information, and with a view to making recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the procedures to be followed in the future and the means of ensuring that the advice, expert knowledge and experience of the specialized agencies are used to the best advantage.

These provisions of the resolution were the subject of protracted debate in Subcommittee 2 of Committee IV and in the full Committee itself.2 The United States, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom sponsored a compromise resolution which was approved by the subcommittee. This resolution omitted reference to the establishment of the ad hoc Committee and to any functions by the General Assembly with reference to information transmitted under Article 73(e). It did, however, provide for an analysis as well as a summary of this information by the Secretary-General, and for the assistance of the specialized agencies with respect to non-self-governing territories. This compromise resolution was subsequently defeated in the full Committee in a Sunday morning meeting called for another purpose, and the above outlined provisions proposed by Cuba, approved. The General Assembly sustained the Committee’s decision on this question by a vote of 28 to 15, with 7 abstentions. The states favoring these provisions included those within the Soviet influence, the Arab States, the Asian States (including the Philippines), Canada, and 12 Latin American States. Those opposing were seven of the eight states which had submitted information on non-self-governing territories (New Zealand abstaining), the Scandinavian states, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ecuador, and Uruguay.

The discussion was chiefly significant in revealing the divergence of view as to the scope of Chapter XI of the Charter between, on the one hand, the governments which have large responsibilities for the administration of non-self-governing territories, and, on the other hand, Members who have no such responsibilities and whose attitudes are further influenced by their own previous experience of dependent [Page 283] status and/or their desire to acquire prestige through championing the cause of dependent peoples.

The United States maintained that creation of the ad hoc Committee was permissible under Article 22 of the Charter and Rule 100 of the Rules of Procedure, but voted against its establishment on the ground that it would be wiser not to proceed with a proposal which, in the minds of some members, went beyond their commitments under Article 73(e). While the colonial powers consistently emphasized the distinction between trust and other non-self-governing territories and interpreted Article 73(e) as strictly limiting the functions of the United Nations with respect to non-self-governing territories under the sovereignty of Members, the Chinese, Soviet, and Indian Delegations were aggressive in their attempts to soften as far as possible the line of distinction drawn by the Charter between trust and non-self-governing territories. Thus when a Chinese proposal, empowering the Trusteeship Council to receive and examine the information from non-self-governing territories, was defeated, China, India, the Soviet, and Arab States supported a Cuban Resolution for an ad hoc committee with membership, like that of the Trusteeship Council, equally balanced between colonial and non-colonial powers. Also significant in this connection was the hope expressed by the Polish Delegation that non-self-governing territories would eventually be transformed into trust territories and a resolution introduced by India (but ruled out of order by the Chairman of Subcommittee 2) that the Secretary-General inquire of states administering non-self-governing territories whether they were willing, acting on Article 77(c), to place any of these territories voluntarily under the international trusteeship system.

Situation of the United States

Since the membership of the ad hoc committee established by the General Assembly will be equally balanced between the colonial powers and the United States on one hand, and, on the other hand, the states which, during the General Assembly meetings, took a very broad view of the function of the United Nations with respect to non-self-governing territories, the position of the United States with respect to Chapter II is likely to be decisive in the ad hoc committee.

The United States last August transmitted to the Secretary-General, pursuant to Article 73(e) information on Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. This was done without prejudice to the territories on which information would in future be sent. It will be the Secretary-General’s [Page 284] summary and analysis of this information, including of course that transmitted by seven other states, which will be examined by the ad hoc committee.

Functions Which the General Assembly Should Exercise With Respect to Information Under Article 73(e)

There are three basic, alternative positions which the United States might take on this question. These are as follows:

Alternative 1: That the General Assembly, while being free to discuss anything, would limit its recommendations to (a) the form in which the information is sent and the subject matter which should be included; (b) the procedure for transmitting this information to ensure its most effective use “for information purposes”, and (c) the various aspects of the Secretary-General’s functions under Article 73(e). Thus, the General Assembly might recommend that certain subjects be treated more comprehensively in the reports in order to satisfy the informational requirements of the various organs of the United Nations and the specialized agencies. It may suggest that copies of the reports be deposited in the library of the Secretariat and sent to Members of the United Nations and to the specialized agencies. It might request the Secretary-General to summarize and analyze the information in such a way as to ensure its effective use for information purposes.

Such a position would be based on the idea that the General Assembly should restrict its functions closely to the orginal intent of Article 73(e), namely that the reports were for “information” and not for “recommendation on substance”, an idea which was considered but rejected at San Francisco on grounds of domestic jurisdiction. This would have the advantage of preventing the colonial powers from being pilloried constantly by the so-called anti-imperialist states, whose motives may not be entirely disinterested, as to how they are giving effect to Assembly recommendations. It would have the disadvantage of making the United States and other administering powers to appear to be somewhat on the defensive as to alleged or real conditions existing in the territories under their jurisdiction. It would also align the United States with the more conservative colonial powers and subject this government to criticism as being an “imperialistic” power. Even if the so-called colonial powers were successful in securing adoption of this alternative in the ad hoc Committee, the recommendation of the Committee might be defeated in the General Assembly and a wholly unacceptable substitute resolution adopted instead.

Alternative 2: That the General Assembly should, in addition to the functions set forth in Alternative 1, be authorized to make recommendations on any question of a procedural or substantive matter relating [Page 285] to information transmitted under Article 78, but that, as a means of making its recommendations effective, the General Assembly should make recommendations only with respect to functions (e.g. economic, social, and educational matters) and not with respect to individual territories. This would have the advantage of permitting the General Assembly to offer its advice and assistance on a constructive and non-political basis and would enable its recommendations to tie in very effectively with the existing committee structure of the General Assembly and with the organizational structure of the specialized agencies. Furthermore, this position would probably be supported by the colonial powers, since it would avoid the possibility of any government being embarrassed by recommendations designed to throw a political spotlight on any individual territory within its domestic jurisdiction.

Although certain states, such as India and the Soviet Union, may not, for political and propaganda reasons, be satisfied with this proposal, it is believed that it would appeal to a sufficiently large number of non-colonial powers as being fair and appropriate to permit its adoption and would greatly enhance the international prestige of the United States. If the United States were to initiate such a proposal, it would take the “wind out of the sails” of the so-called anti-imperialist powers.

Alternative 3: That the General Assembly should, in addition to the functions set forth in Alternatives 1 and 2, make such recommendations as it considers advisable, whether on a functional basis or with respect to an individual territory, on the basis of information transmitted under Article 73. Such a generous and unrestricted proposal by the United States would have the advantage of building United States prestige in the United Nations and among dependent peoples as being a country which does not fear criticism or comment on its territorial administration, either existing or planned. It would take the initiative away from the so-called anti-imperialist powers—Soviet Union and India—and permit the United States to capture leadership as a protagonist of dependent peoples, a role befitting the American tradition. The disadvantages of this position are (a) that opposition within the United States to reporting under Article 73(e) might follow any critical recommendation with respect to one of our territories; (b) that the other colonial powers might modify on paper their constitutional relationship with their territories in order to avoid reporting altogether, a threat already made by France; and (c) that it would be impractical for the General Assembly to inform itself adequately about any particular territory to permit it to make useful recommendations.

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recommended position

It is recommended that the United States should initiate or support a proposal along the lines of Alternative 2, defining the functions of the General Assembly, with respect to information transmitted under Article 73(e) as follows:

That the Assembly should make recommendations whenever advisable with respect to the functions of the Secretary-General under Article 73 (e);
That Members of the Assembly should feel free to discuss any question of procedure or substance relating to the information itself, either on a functional (i.e., topical) basis or, if any delegation wishes, as regards individual territories;
That the Assembly should make any recommendation it considers desirable with respect to procedural matters; and
That the Assembly should, for practical purposes, and in order to avoid needless political controversy, confine its recommendations of a substantive character to broad recommendations on functional or topical subjects and not with respect to individual territories.

The United States should make it clear that it does not oppose recommendations relating to conditions in individual territories out of any desire to protect its own territorial administration or that of any other government. It should emphasize that it welcomes any discussion of conditions in its own territories, and that such discussion, if conducted in the right spirit, will be as effective as a recommendation which the General Assembly might be unable to carry out in a territory within the domestic jurisdiction of any of its members.

General Assembly Machinery for Carrying Out Recommended Functions

It is clear that the recommended functions of the General Assembly will require considerable preliminary study and analysis of the information before recommendations can be formulated and acted upon by Committee IV of the General Assembly and by the Assembly itself. However, this preliminary work could be done without creating a standing committee of the General Assembly to meet between sessions. In the event such a standing committee is proposed, the United States should oppose it on the grounds that the procedure recommended below makes the establishment of such a new body unnecessary. If the proposal to create the committee is adopted, the United States should strongly urge adoption of a rule prohibiting reelection of a government to serve on the committee for two successive years.

Whether or not the standing committee is created, the following procedure should be followed in order to facilitate General Assembly consideration of this information: [Page 287]

The General Assembly should request the Secretary-General of the United Nations to transmit to the Secretary-Generals of specialized agencies copies of the reports and to prepare, after consultation with them, (a) a summary and analysis of the information on a functional basis (e.g. finance, commerce and industry, food and agriculture, labor, health, and educational and cultural); (b) suggestions for improving the reports (e.g. more uniform and adequate reporting in certain fields); and (c) recommendations as to the adequacy of existing conventions and the possible need for new conventions in certain topical fields; and (d) suggested recommendations with respect to immediate research and other programs in which the respective international organizations might be able to render useful services. In the near future, specialized agencies, such as the ILO and the FAO, should be asked to give an indication of the information they need on non-self-governing territories, with a view to the possible inclusion in one report of the informational requirements of all international bodies and thus to avoid duplication of effort and excessive costs for the Members which administer non-self-governing territories.
A subcommittee of Committee IV should examine the information transmitted under Article 73(e), the summary and analysis, and the suggestions and recommendations, and, on the basis of these, should formulate resolutions for presentation to Committee IV and the General Assembly. Representatives of the United Nations Secretariat and of the specialized agencies should attend the meetings of the subcommittee and Committee as observers and should assist members of the Committee as may be necessary.

  1. Drafted by O. Benjamin Gerig, Chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs, and Emil J. Sady, Specialist in Dependent Area Affairs.
  2. The French Delegate entered a reservation in the General Assembly to the effect that he could not undertake that his government would send a representative to the ad hoc Committee. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. For the summary record of discussions in the Fourth Committee and in the Committee’s Subcommittee 2, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, Second Part, Fourth Committee (hereafter cited as GA (I/2), Fourth Committee), Part I and Part III.
  4. The Republic of Panama objected to the transmittal by the United States of information on the Canal Zone, and in view thereof, the United States agreed that it would not transmit information in future on this territory without consulting the Republic of Panama. [Footnote in the source text.]