IO/UNP Files: Lot 59D237, Box 7210, “Slates for UN Organs (1949)”1

Memorandum by Miss Sheila McCulloch of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs to the Director of the Office (Bancroft)


Subject: Commitments made to the Soviets on Distribution of Security Council Seats

Records in the Department indicate that there was no commitment made to the Soviet Union to select a nation of their choice for representation on the Security Council.2 The United States position in London based on USPCSC 1a, Memorandum No. 3 of August 22, 1945 was that “it would be desirable to adopt the practice of always including among the non-permanent members of the Security Council one member of the British Commonwealth, one country from Eastern and Central Europe, one country from Western, Northern, and Southern Europe, two countries from the other American Republics, and one country from the Near East and Africa.”*

Big Five discussion held in London during September 19453 considered the question of the selection of non-permanent members of the Security Council and “there was general agreement that an effort should be made to avoid seating smaller nations on both Councils (Economic and Social Council and the Security Council) and on the criteria for choosing members of these two Councils along the lines discussed … in Washington.”

[Page 266]

The Department answered Stettinius’4 Copre 119 stating that we strongly favored the slate for non-permanent members proposed in the memorandum of August 22. A final decision awaited discussion with Braden and the Secretary and the only question at issue, apparently, was the size of western Hemisphere representation. The Department’s final decision was that we should stand by the original slate for non-permanent members of the Security Council proposed in the memorandum of August 22.§ This was again confirmed in Preco 190, Telegram 9059, October 12, 1945 and Preco 289 November 16 which forwarded the Department’s position on Tentative Slates for the Secretary General, members and officers of the Security Council, etc.5 This document followed the position set forth in the August 22 memorandum with the additional language “subject to the condition that the country elected is capable of making an important contribution to the maintenance of international peace as criteria other than geographic distribution.”

The question of slates came up again in December. The minutes of the Big Five consultations make one reference to the Soviet attitude.

“Gromyko6 then changed the subject to the non-permanent members of the Security Council and Webster7 said that he thought something like Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Poland or Czechoslovakia, an Arab state and a Latin American state—Colombia or Mexico—would be about right. Gromyko asked if Belgium would not be preferable to the Netherlands and the professor indicated that the Netherlands, in his opinion, was a much greater power. Koo suggested that another Asiatic state should be considered, and Gromyko said that that meant only Iran or India. Gromyko said Iran should be included among the Arab states.”

At this time, however, the question of representation on the General Committee and distribution of offices of the General Assembly arose. [Page 267] There was a considerable exchange of this subject which has been dealt with in a memorandum from Mr. Sanders to Mr. Notter.**

The delegation to the First Session of the General Assembly was briefed on the subject of slates along the following lines:

“Regarding the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, Mr. Hiss stated that the Department’s position was that there should be elected to the six available seats one Western European member, one British Commonwealth member, two Latin American members, one from the Near East and Africa, and one from Eastern Europe. Mr. Hiss8 continued that the preliminary negotiations on the slate had already been taken up in London and the U.S. position on the composition of the slates had been explained to certain states. It had been made very plain in London, and Mr. Hiss wished to emphasize the point, that the United States has drawn up slates which the Department thought on balance would be reasonable, but that for most part the slates were not to be taken as inviolable and immutable. Since the Charter emphasized equitable geographic distribution of council membership, the Department had thought the states in the various areas should be consulted concerning their wishes and it was the general intention of the United States to support only a state which was supported by its neighbors. For instance, Egypt would be supported for the Security Council in the event that it was supported by the Arab League. In the event that the Arab League supported another Near Eastern power, the Department would have to reconsider its position. The United States needed to keep freedom of choice to be sure in the future that some entirely objectionable state was not put forward as a candidate which we would be committed to support under the geographic formula.”††

[Annex 1]



Memorandum No. 3

Selection of Non-Permanent Members of the Security Council

The Charter provides that in the election of the six non-permanent members of the Security Council due regard is to be “specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and [Page 268] to the other purposes of the Organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution.”

It is recommended that it would be desirable to adopt the practice of always including among the non-permanent members of the Security Council one member of the British Commonwealth, one country from Eastern and Central Europe, one country from Western, Northern, and Southern Europe, two countries from the other American Republics, and one country from the Near East and Africa. Eventually some provision will have to be made for a Far Eastern group. This is not of current importance as the only Far Eastern member country eligible for a non-permanent seat is the Philippine Commonwealth.

In order to assure continuously a strongly constituted Security Council it is important to bear in mind not merely the initial election but a series of elections. This is particularly true because at the initial election three non-permanent members will be chosen for terms of only one year, instead of the regular term of two years.

It is recommended that we should favor the following slate for the first three elections to the Security Council:

First Election Second Election Third Election
Brazil (2 years) Peru
Canada (2years) Australia
Netherlands (2 years) Belgium
Poland (1 year) Czechoslovakia
Egypt (1 year) Turkey
Venezuela (or Mexico) (1 year) Mexico (or Venezuela)

Our thought is that Mr. Stettinius would discuss this question (along with related questions of positions elsewhere in the Organization) in an exploratory way when he arrives in London particularly with the representatives on the Executive Committee of the Big Five and thereafter with the representatives of the three Latin American countries (Brazil, Chile and Mexico). Subsequently we would informally discuss these questions directly with all the Latin American countries concerned.

[Annex 2]

Memorandum by Mr. William Sanders of the Division of International Organization Affairs to Mr. Harley A. Notter of the Office of Special Political Affairs


Subject: London Commitments on Distribution of Offices of General Assembly.

The exchange of telegrams between the Department and the U.S. Delegation in London, and the pertinent memoranda of conversations, [Page 269] including three among the Big Five, do not disclose that any commitments, for the second session were made with respect to the distribution of offices in the General Assembly. The record in our office indicates that the distribution of posts agreed upon at London was limited to the first regular session.

1. Telegram Between the Department and the U.S. Delegation:

On December 8, 1945 (Copre 516)10 Mr. Stevenson reported that Gromyko would accept a General Committee of fifteen, “conditional on assurances that the U.S. will support the allocation of four seats on this Committee to Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, which will doubtless be elected one of the Vice-Presidents along with the other great powers.” Gromyko assumed that on this basis there should be four seats for the American Republics, including the U.S., five seats for all of Western Europe and the British Dominions, and one seat each for the Arab States and China. When Mr. Stevenson asked how long he would expect the U.S. to support four seats for Eastern Europe, Gromyko said “indefinitely” but added that after the first session, they would be glad to reconsider and “possibly would agree to allocate an additional seat to Western Europe and the Dominions by increasing the membership of the Committee.” Mr. Stevenson felt that we could safely support Gromyko’s proposal, but that it would not be appropriate to “give him any assurances thereafter beyond our obvious anxiety to see adequate representation of Eastern Europe at all times.”

The Department answered Mr. Stevenson’s cable on December 10 (Preco 381)10 by stating: “We feel that a maximum of three places for Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, would represent a fair geographic distribution. We would be willing to vote for the Soviet Union and two other Eastern European countries in the first General Assembly. While we cannot at present give any assurances beyond that meeting, we would give every consideration to the need for a fair representation of Eastern Europe in the circumstances at the time of the election, and taking count of past practice.”

The Department’s general line was of course related to the number of positions available. It stated in this telegram: “It appears to us that if there were to be two Vice-Chairmen and a Rapporteur of each committee, the total number of positions might be sufficient to make it feasible for us to vote for Eastern European candidates for two Vice-Chairmen and one Rapporteur as proposed by Gromyko. In such case this would be in addition to the three places on the General Committee.”


A telegram of December 15, 1945 (Preco 398)10 confirmed these instructions. It stated: “We feel that for the GA posts as a whole, the [Page 270] allocation of three posts to Eastern Europe is fair, and accordingly, are prepared to give general support to the allocation to Eastern Europe of three places on the General Committee, if you think general support as opposed to a mere commitment is expedient.” It went on to say we might vote for but not actively support an Eastern European candidate for one of the Vice-Chairmanships or Rapporteur. Finally, the telegram stated: “As regards any allocations beyond this point, we must reserve a free hand to consider the situation as it develops in the light of candidacies of other Member countries for General Assembly posts.”

A background instruction included in this telegram explained: “Unless there are enough posts to provide one for each member of the Assembly, a situation which we understand will not arise, we feel that not more than one of the constituent Soviet Republics, in addition to the Soviet Union, should have a post in the General Assembly. For example, if the Soviet Union and one constituent Republic should be elected to the General Committee we should not vote for the other constituent Republic for any GA post. If, on the other hand, the Soviet Union alone is on the General Committee, we should not vote for more than one constituent Republic for any posts outside the Committee.”


Mr. Stevenson then reported on December 14 (Copre 588)11 that he had made the following commitment:

“On a Committee of 14 we will vote for and make known our intention to vote for three representatives from the Eastern European States; we will vote for and make known our intention to vote for an Eastern European state for one Vice Chairmanship: this undertaking is limited to the first General Assembly. He (Gromyko) has also been told informally and expressly without commitment that an additional post by rapporteur (sic) is quite likely.”

This same telegram expressed the opinion that a committee of 14 would be acceptable to Gromyko, and went on to say: “In exchange for a commitment from U.K. on representation for Eastern Europe, he only had to offer no further objection (sic) to the General Committee and a disposition generally to support U.S. in things we wanted at the General Assembly not inconsistent with interests of the Soviet Union.”

A telegram from the Department of December 18 (Preco 417)11 asked for “any additional information you can give us on any assurances that may have been given among the Five Powers, bearing on the allocation of General Committee and other Assembly posts.” The telegram suggested consultation among the Big Five, and stated the assumption that “in any such discussions, you will not favor the allocation [Page 271] to the Eastern European states of any Assembly posts beyond the three General Committee posts and the one Vice-Chairmanship of a Main Committee.”
The last report from Mr. Stevenson on December 24 (Copre 671),12 a general discussion of slates, adds little additional information. Gromyko raised the question of officers of the Assembly and seemed surprised that the same officers would serve at both parts of the first session. For this reason he felt, “that the consideration of officers for the First Assembly was connected with the consideration of officers for the Second Assembly.” There was no discussion of officers for the Second Session, except that Koo (China) expressed readiness to support Norway for President at the first session and an Eastern European state for the second session.

2. Memoranda of Conversations at London:

The memoranda of conversations covering the question of distribution of offices in the General Assembly were transmitted to the Department in the telegrams described in (1) above. (See Attachments A and B.)13

3. Big Five Consultations:

On January 9, 10 and 11, 1946 at meetings of the Big Five there was a general discussion of the selection of members of the General Committee.14 Agreement was reached on the application of most of the principles of distribution discussed above, and specific candidates were chosen. (See Attachment C, D, and E.)13

4. Final U.S. Position on Slates:

The final developments on slates before the elections are shown in attachments F, G and H. It will be noted that the principles agreed to above were applied.

5. Results of Elections:

The results of the elections led to the following distribution of seats

  • President of the General Assembly—Belgium
  • Seven Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly

China U.S.
France Union of South Africa
U.K. Venezuela
[Page 272]

Committee 1

  • Chairman: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
  • Vice-Chairman: Luxembourg
  • Rapporteur: Ecuador

Committee 2

  • Chairman: Poland
  • Vice-Chairman: Philippine Republic
  • Rapporteur: Bolivia

Committee 3

  • Chairman: New Zealand
  • Vice-Chairman: Costa Rica
  • Rapporteur: Norway

Committee 4

  • Chairman: Uruguay
  • Vice-Chairman: Ethiopia
  • Rapporteur: Czechoslovakia

Committee 5

  • Chairman: Syria
  • Vice-Chairman: Yugoslavia
  • Rapporteur: Greece

Committee 6

  • Chairman: Panama
  • Vice-Chairman: Denmark
  • Rapporteur: Canada (1st Part of 1st Session)

    Australia (2nd Part of 1st Session)

  1. Miscellaneous subject files of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs for the years 1945–1957, as retired by the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
  2. The reference is to the records of the United States Delegation to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations which met at London, November 24–Deeember 23, 1945, and to the Executive Committee of the Preparatory Commission which had met also at London August 16–November 23, 1945. These records are in the Archives of the United States in Department of State Lot 60D224.
  3. USPC SC 1a Memorandum No. 3, August 22, 1945, Annex 1. [Footnote in the source text; printed p. 267.]
  4. This is a reference to the meetings of the Executive Committee of the Preparatory Commission.
  5. Copre 119, Telegram 9652 from London, September 19, 1945. [Footnote in the source text; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, p. 1449.]
  6. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., the former Secretary of State and at this time United States Representative on the Preparatory Commission.
  7. Preco 93, Telegram 8346 to London, September 22, 1945, Secret; Memo from Mr. Pasvolsky to Under Secretary Acheson, September 26, 1945, Annex 2. [Footnote in the source text; neither printed.]
  8. Preco 136, Telegram 8674 to London, October 1, 1945, Secret. [Footnote in the source text; not printed.]
  9. For Preco 289, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, p. 1475, footnote 2. The reference to Preco 190, October 12, 1945, is in error and cannot be verified.
  10. US/PC Gen 104, Tentative U.S. Slates for SYG, SG, etc., November 15, 1945. [Footnote in the source text. For contents of the document, see the Secretary’s Staff Committee Working Paper (SC–171/8), November 15, 1945, Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, pp. 14751479.]
  11. Andrei A. Gromyko, Soviet Representative on the Preparatory Commission.
  12. Sir Charles K. Webster, British Representative on the Preparatory Commission.
  13. Secret Memorandum of Conversation between Ambassador Gromyko and Adlai Stevenson, December 24, 1945 (USPC Gen (1) 1 Conversation 95). [Footnote in the source text; see London telegram 13582, Copre 671, December 24, 9 p.m., Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. I, p. 1506. (On October 16, 1945, Stettinius had returned to the United States because of ill-health and Adlai E. Stevenson, the Deputy U.S. Representative on the Preparatory Commission, became Acting Representaive.).]
  14. See Annex 3. [Footnote in the source text; printed herein as Annex 2, p. 268.]
  15. Alger Hiss, Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs, in charge of matters relating to the United Nations in the Department of State.
  16. USGA/Ia/Del Min./1 (Chr) US Del to GA, First Del Meeting, January 2, 1946. [Footnote in the source text; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, p. 117.]
  17. This document is from the files of the United States Delegation to the Preparatory Commission and is in Department of State Lot 60D224, Archives of the United States.
  18. Not printed.
  19. Not printed.
  20. Not printed.
  21. Not printed.
  22. Not printed.
  23. Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, p. 1506.
  24. Reference uncertain.
  25. For the minutes of these meetings, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. i, pp. 141147, 148151, 153156, respectively.
  26. Reference uncertain.