IO Files

Draft of Position Paper From Background Book for Colonial Policy Discussions


Item III, D, 2—Contributions Which Administering Members Might Make to the Smoother Functioning of UN Machinery


At the San Francisco Conference the United Kingdom took an important part in developing the Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories which became Chapter XI of the Charter. During the First and Second General Assemblies there was a feeling on the part of the United Kingdom and other Administering Members that certain non-administering Members were pushing Chapter XI too far. Some Administering Members therefore took a defensive attitude and were less cooperative in freely furnishing information both oral and written. At the Third General Assembly when attacks became numerous the United Kingdom attempted to answer each of these in detail. Inasmuch as this procedure did not prove successful, the United Kingdom at the Fourth General Assembly took an uncooperative attitude of non-participation in much of the discussion. They seemed to think that it was hopeless to try to cooperate on a reasonable basis with Members who were both ignorant and calculating.

The United States during the First and Second Assemblies opposed extension of machinery under Chapter XI, but during that time and since has gone along with the majority of the Assembly, and has tried throughout the channel discussions along constructive lines. The United States has not, generally speaking, come to the defense of the British or the French, and these Governments are inclined to feel that the United States has let them down. Our tactics, however, have not been unfriendly but resulted from our desire to avoid too close an association with other Administering Members in order to be in a position to exert influence with non-administering Members.

No basic agreement has thus been reached as to the proper role of the General Assembly and its Committees in relation to non-self-governing territories matters. Non-administering Members have taken [Page 469] the view that “colonies” do not really belong to the Metropolitan Governments who administer them. The Administering Members maintain that they do belong to them and that the powers of the Assembly are extremely limited. This basic difference of approach underlies much of the divergence which has arisen in United Nations discussions.

anticipated position of the united kingdom, france, and belgium

Certain of the Administering Members regard discussions within the United Nations on matters pertaining to dependent areas as a necessary evil, and therefore they are willing to continue to participate in them. However, they regard the Special Committee on Information under Article 73(e) as unnecessary. The United Kingdom, French, and Belgian delegations did not participate at the Fourth General Assembly in the Fourth Committee election of non-administering Members of the Special Committee, and indicated at the close of the Assembly that they could give no assurances that their governments would continue to participate in United Nations consideration of matters arising under Chapter XI.

recommended united states position

The United States has carefully examined its own experience and record of performance in handling matters arising under Chapters XI, XII, and XIII of the Charter in the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee as well as in the Special Committee and the Trusteeship Council. It believes that from this past experience certain principles can be drawn which will be useful for the United States delegations to bear in mind in the future. It also feels that other Administering Members may find the following conclusions of interest and may wish to consider the desirability of applying them. Of all the points noted below, point (1) is most important. To the extent it is followed the other points become relatively less important.

(1) As an Administering Member the United States believes that it has not only considerable obligation but also a very real opportunity to provide sound information to the United Nations on its own territories and to refute misconceptions of those who are uninformed or misinformed regarding conditions and developments in its dependent territories. In view of the great efforts and the records of achievement in recent years on the part of Administering Members in applying new concepts of administration with respect to their dependencies, there would seem to be no valid reason why the Administering Members, who willingly report in writing to the General Assembly on conditions in these territories and readily make available to the public their own reports on territorial problems, should be unwilling or reluctant to elaborate upon these achievements verbally in United Nations meetings. [Page 470] Although this suggested procedure may he regarded as redundant and therefore unnecessary insofar as any persons or governments are sincerely interested in learning the actual facts regarding territorial problems, nevertheless there are important psychological and educational aspects involved in the situation which could be met by this procedure. Administering Members have a great opportunity to take the initiative in reporting with pride on their accomplishments. Such procedure might go far toward changing the attitude of many Members of the Fourth Committee. It might well be regarded as a constructive approach to the general problems and tend to eliminate much of the tension which seems to result from the present tendency of the Administering Members to sit by in relative silence, waiting to fend off attacks by non-administering Members. If this procedure were followed it would doubtless have a three-fold beneficial result: (i) it would be a means for amply demonstrating the complexity of the problem; (ii) it would provide a useful exchange of information on technical problems; and (iii) it would be a means for propagandizing for democracy.

(2) The United States believes there is a need for Administering Members to answer questions and refute statements critical of their administration of territories. Inasmuch as their records of achievement will bear responsible scrutiny, the answering of questions and criticisms provides an opportunity to correct misinformation and misconceptions. Experience has shown that it is also necessary for Administering Members to make replies to the vicious and unwarranted attacks which are sometimes made for propaganda purposes and which seek to embarrass and undermine them. Such replies must be made to prevent the Soviet Government and its satellites from capitalizing on the silence of Administering Members by declaring that inasmuch as replies have not been made the charges have been substantiated. This type of tactics has the unfortunate result of influencing those Members who may entertain doubts or uncertainty regarding the validity of the charges.

The advantages to be gained by giving careful replies to questions have been demonstrated by experience in the Trusteeship Council where application of this procedure has shown that it not only serves to remove the uncertainties and misconceptions of some Members but also indicates that Administering Members are cooperating willingly in the Council’s work.

The situation in the Fourth Committee and to a lesser degree in the Special Committee is somewhat different. These bodies do not have the time, by comparison with the Trusteeship Council, to debate fully all matters brought to their attention. The Fourth Committee, comprised of a delegate from each Member Government, is far too large a forum to give attention to subjects in the detailed technical manner of the Trusteeship Council or even the Special Committee. Moreover its atmosphere unfortunately is sometimes too charged politically to produce objective discussions. Here the administering Members, particularly the British, are often subjected to unwarranted attacks and do not have enough time to prepare accurate and detailed replies.

To endeavor to make detailed replies to all such attacks and charges [Page 471] places a heavy burden upon the delegations of Administering Members. The atmosphere of discussions bearing upon dependent territories would be less clouded and protracted if Administering Members would assume that their records of achievement are sufficiently sound to bear a certain amount of hostile and ill-founded criticism, and realize that to attempt to answer such criticisms “off the cuff” and with sarcasm often causes them to appear in an uncertain and undignified light.

Therefore, it is believed that while sincere questions should always be met with the best answers available, and while ill-founded attacks should have equally considered answers when possible, these replies should often be brief and succinct and should be delivered in a moderate and self-assured manner.

(3) The handling of dependent area problems calls for an untold amount of patience on the part of Administering Members. In this respect the United States and other Members with democratic parliaments find the situation no different from that prevailing in other official bodies in which administrators or witnesses must appear. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that the representative or witness who makes the best impression, generally speaking, is he who answers the questions for the tenth time with the same amount of patience, equanimity and care that he employed in responding to the question initially.

(4) In handling problems of dependent areas within the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee as well as in the Special Committee and the Trusteeship Council, more should be done informally than in the past to discuss problems with other delegations. This is at times difficult due to time limits and large numbers of delegations. For its own part the United States believes that it should increase its efforts to have informal and friendly conversations, insofar as possible, with all other delegations. If other Administering Members would adopt this practice, it is believed that much would be accomplished toward dispelling the idea that Administering Members are banded together in opposition to the non-administering Members, and that the general impression of cleavage between Administering and non-administering Members would be initiated. Such conversations by United States delegations with other delegations should not be interpreted by other Administering Members as any reluctance whatsoever on our part to exchange views with them as fully as may be called for by any particular situation.