IO Files: US(P)/A/17

Memorandum for the United States Delegation to the General Assembly


Memorandum of Staff; Conversations Between Canada, United Kingdom, United States, at Ottawa, August 30–31, 1948

Subject: Forthcoming General Assembly

Participants: Canada–Mr. L. B. Pearson; Mr. Escott Reid; Mr. Jerry Riddell; Mr. E. A. Cote; and others1
United Kingdom—Mr. Gladwyn Jebb;2 Mr. G. E. [Page 243] Boyd Shannon, United Kingdom High Commissioner’s Office
United States—Mr. Dean Rusk, Mr. Hayden Raynor3

[Here follows a tour d’horizon of the principal organizational items on the agenda of the impending General Assembly session. Several were discussed both before and after this discussion of the problem of voting in the Security Council.]

(b) The Veto. Mr. Jebb started the discussion by indicating certain “reservations” which the United Kingdom had to the report of the Interim Committee. These appear in Tab B. Mr. Raynor attempted to ascertain just what was meant by “reservations” without success. Since Mr. Jebb’s remarks indicated that the United Kingdom might not wish to take any action at all with respect to the veto, more extensive and careful consultation with then on the report of the Interim Committee is clearly indicated.

In general, the United Kingdom reservations pertain to the following:

They doubt if Recommendation 2 establishing a class of decisions described as not either procedural or non-procedural is constitutional, and are against the establishment of such a category.
They feel Item 214 is open to objections for the same reason stated in (1) above, and also on its own merits.
A number of proposals to abolish the veto under Chapter VI would, in the United Kingdom’s opinion, involve amendments. If revisions are made, they should be accomplished by the amendment method, and then as a whole and not on a piecemeal basis.
Item 1 on page 7 of the Report pertaining to domestic jurisdiction, the British feel, should continue to be subject to decision by the qualified vote.
On membership, the United Kingdom position is to favor postponement of the adoption of this recommendation.
The recommendation that parties to a dispute be determined by an unqualified vote seems unsound to the British. They believe some ad hoc definition should be developed on this matter, holding that parties to a dispute include—(a) the state or states bringing the dispute, (b) the state or states impugned, (c) third states involved (I do not recall the details on this third category).
[Page 244]

The British position is to pursue a middle course until the time for amendment arises. They do not see any constructive result coming from work in this field of the Interim Committee.

Mr. Riddell stated that he hoped that the report of the Interim Committee, after approval by the General Assembly, would become a guide for the use of Presidents of the Security Council in ruling upon the effect of votes in the Security Council. Mr. Rusk indicated that we were not clear that this could be done and that we were inclined to believe that the recommendations of the Interim Committee could become effective in the Security Council only after the agreement referred to in the recommendations of the Interim Committee itself. At the conclusion of the discussion, the consensus seemed to be that the report of the Interim Committee might serve as a guide for establishing new precedents in the Security Council as a basis for negotiation among the permanent members.

There was general agreement that the Argentine proposal with respect to calling a general conference should be defeated, although Mr. Rusk indicated that the tone of the United States position would undoubtedly be affected by the Vandenberg resolution. The Canadians made a strong point that at all costs a revisionary Conference at this time should be avoided.5

[Here follows discussion of other matters.]

  1. Mr. Pearson was Canadian Under Secretary of State for External Affairs and became Secretary of State for External Affairs on September 10. Messrs. Reid, Riddell and Cote were officers of the External Affairs Department.
  2. Mr. H. M. G. Jebb was British Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Superintending Under Secretary for the United Nations (Political) Department of the British Foreign Office.
  3. Mr. Dean Rusk was Director of the Office of United Nations Affairs; Mr. Hayden Raynor was Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson); both were designated advisers to the United States Delegation to the General Assembly; later in the session Mr. Rusk was appointed Alternate U.S. Representative to the General Assembly.
  4. Item 21 read: “Whether a matter is or is not procedural within the meaning of Article 27, paragraph 2.” The “Conclusion” drawn in the Interim Committee Report was, “That this decision should be adopted by the vote of any seven members of the Security Council.” (For texts, see GA (III/1), Suppl. No. 10, p. 6.)
  5. At a subsequent meeting in Washington on September 4, which the Canadians did not attend, and at which political issues confronting the United Nations were chiefly discussed, with the attendance of specialists from the Department of State, the subject of the problem of voting in the Security Council came up:

    “Mr. Jebb said that he had received a preliminary reaction from London to the points made on the veto question in our discussion in Ottawa. He said he thought the United Kingdom would arrive at the view that they could perhaps agree in principle to the proposals, provided they were put forward in the light of the formulation of a general guide to the Security Council. If the question is approached in the Assembly in that manner, Jebb expressed the view that the British might drop their reservation which he outlined in Ottawa. Under the circumstances Jebb did not wish to leave with us the memorandum which he had promised to give us at Ottawa outlining the reservations in detail.” (IO Files, document US (P)/A/16, Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, Sept. 4, 1948)