IO Files: US(P)/A/M/(Chr)/7

Minutes of the Seventh Meeting of the United States Delegation to the Third Regular Session of the General Assembly1 Paris, Hotel d’Iéna, September 28, 1948, 9:15 a. m.


[Here follow list of persons (30) present2 and consideration of prior items on the Delegation’s agenda.]

3. Question of Southwest Africa (Mr. Gerig)3

Mr. Gerig explained that the question of the future status of Southwest Africa had been discussed at every session of the Assembly. It was essentially the question of annexation vs. trusteeship. He pointed out that the Assembly’s decision on this matter may affect the continued membership of the Union of South Africa in the United Nations. He noted that Southwest Africa was the last of the former League mandates outside the United Nations.

There were some 40,000 Europeans in the territory who favored its incorporation in the Union of South Africa as a fifth province. In addition there was a native population of some 350,000. The territory [Page 276] was strategically located and if it were incorporated into the Union, it would enclose several territories under the administration of a High Commissioner, such as Bechuanaland. He pointed out that this case was also related to the racial policies of the Union government and had been tied by the Indian Delegation to the question of the treatment of the Indians in South Africa.4

In the past the United States had worked for a moderate resolution, and despite pressure for radical action, satisfactory resolutions had been adopted. One of the main difficulties encountered was the fact that many states believed there was a positive obligation under the Charter of the United Nations for a state to submit a Trusteeship Agreement for a territory such as Southwest Africa. While the United States took the view that such action was desirable, it did not regard it as obligatory.

Mr. Gerig referred to a statement by the Smuts Government5 in 1947 that it would continue to govern the territory in the spirit of the mandate, South Africa had also reported to the United Nations Administration but had refused to send a representative to discuss the report with the Trusteeship Council. The Union Government, however, had answered a series of written questions and its cooperation had been relatively good.

The question now was whether for the third time the Assembly should express its view that Southwest Africa should be placed under the Trusteeship System. It seemed clear that the Assembly should not for the third time urge the Union Government to submit a Trusteeship Agreement, which request would certainly be ignored. Mr. Gerig believed that there was some question whether the new Union Government6 would be willing to continue the policy of reporting on the Administration of this territory. South Africa was very sensitive on [Page 277] this matter, and certainly if a critical resolution were adopted by the Assembly, even this token cooperation would probably be brought to an end. Such a critical resolution would also be useful to the Nationalist Group in the Union who were urging withdrawal from the United Nations. Mr. Gerig incidentally noted that the Chief of the South African Delegation7 was one of the original exponents of the annexation of Southwest Africa. Mr. Raynor8 said that he doubted whether the new government would submit information on Southwest Africa.

The Secretary said he was aware that South Africa felt very strongly on this matter and he thought the United States should be very clear about its position. Since time was growing short, he suggested that further action be deferred and the recommendations be discussed as the first order of business at the next meeting of the Delegation.9

  1. The third session of the General Assembly was convoked at Paris on September 21.
  2. For documentation regarding the composition and organization of the U.S. delegation to this session, see pp. 1 ff.
  3. O. Benjamin Gerig, Chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs, Department of State, and member of the Advisory Staff to the Delegation.
  4. The continuing dispute at the United Nations between India and South Africa, concerning the alleged discrimination by the Union Government against the Indian minority in South Africa, was essentially a human rights question. Generally the United States had adopted the position that the best approach to the problem was bilateral, with direct negotiations between India and South Africa. Underlying this view was the opinion of the successive U.S. delegations involved, that probably the question of domestic jurisdiction was implicated here, as set forth in Article 2(7) of the Charter of the United Nations:

    [Article 2] “7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.”

    The question of domestic jurisdiction in relation to matters of domestic government and administration with respect to specific cases in the early years of the United Nations is discussed briefly in Leland M. Goodrich and Edvard Hambro, Charter of the United Nations, Commentary and Documents, Boston, World Peace Foundation, 1949 (second and revised edition), pp. 110 ff.

  5. Jan Christiaan Smuts, South African statesman, and one of the founders of the Union of South Africa, was Prime Minister of the Union in 1947.
  6. This is a reference to the government of Daniel F. Malan which came into office in May 1948. Dr. Malan was both Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs.
  7. E. H. Louw, South African Minister of Mines and Economic Development.
  8. G. Hayden Raynor, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson), Department of State, member of the Advisory Staff of the Delegation, acted in a liaison capacity between the Office of European Affairs and the Office of United Nations Affairs in the Department.
  9. The question of South West Africa was discussed only briefly at the meeting on September 29, at which time Mr. Gerig presented a Department of State position paper (SD/A/C.4/49 or US(P)/A/C.4/1, dated September 8, 1948, IO Files) which recommended that “a. South West Africa should be placed under the trusteeship system; b. The General Assembly should not, however, reduce the value of its resolutions by urging the Union of South Africa for the third time to submit a trusteeship agreement for South West Africa; and c. The General Assembly should recommend that the Union Government continue to supply information on South West Africa to the United Nations.” It was decided, however, that before any final decision were made a high-level U.S. officer should discuss the matter with representatives of the South African delegation.