CFM Files: Lot M88, Box 2203

Draft Position Paper Prepared in the Bureau of United Nations Affairs1


Appointment of Secretary-General of the United Nations

the problem

Although the United States does not expect the matter to arise, it is possible that the British or French may bring up the question of the appointment of a successor to Trygve Lie as Secretary-General of the United Nations. The problem is to determine the position of the United States.


On the recommendation of the Security Council, the General Assembly on 1 February 1946 appointed Mr. Trygve Lie as the first Secretary-General of the United Nations, for a term of office of five [Page 88] years. Under the General Assembly resolution of 24 January 1946 on the terms of appointment of the Secretary-General (Annex A2) it is necessary to arrange for the extension of Mr. Lie’s term for another five years or for the appointment of a successor to Mr. Lie. This should be done not later than the end of the next regular session of the General Assembly. Under Article 97 of the Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. It is clear that such a recommendation is subject to the veto, and that a difficult problem will arise if all permanent members of the Security Council cannot agree on the nomination of any candidate. For this reason, preliminary consultations among the five permanent members will be necessary.


In the event that this subject is raised either by Mr. Schuman or Mr. Bevin3 or both, it is recommended that the following points be given to them as the preliminary views of this government:

In our view the appointment of the Secretary-General, including the renewal of the incumbent’s appointment for a regular five-year term, clearly requires a simple majority vote of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council concurred in by the five permanent members (by affirmative vote or through abstention).
This Government believes that preliminary consultations, in the first instance with France and the United Kingdom, and thereafter with the other two permanent members of the Security Council, are desirable.
We are at present inclined to favor a renewal of Mr. Lie’s term for a further five-year period on the ground that it now appears that he is the only candidate upon whom the agreement of the permanent members is possible and that his administration, despite certain shortcomings, has been generally satisfactory.
Nevertheless this Government stands willing to consider any other candidates who may be proposed, taking into account their ability and possible acceptability to the permanent members. Moreover, it may be desirable, for tactical reasons, for the consultations among the five permanent members to take place upon the basis of a list of candidates including Mr. Lie; in this case the United States may wish to propose additional candidates for consideration.
In the event that the Security Council fails to make an affirmative recommendation of a candidate by reason of the exercise of the veto or the failure to obtain seven affirmative votes, we believe that the General Assembly would be empowered to keep the office of the Secretary-General filled by the adoption of a simple resolution continuing the incumbent in office until such time as formal action of appointment or renewal of appointment becomes possible.
We would hope that at the outset France, the United Kingdom and the United States could reach agreement, first, on the selection of Mr. Lie, and second, on subsequent procedure and tactics.
If this can be done, we feel that Mr. Lie is entitled to be confidentially informed of the results of these discussions and the basis upon which consultations among the five permanent members would be held. He should also be advised of the contemplated procedure in the event the Security Council is unable to agree and urged as a matter of public duty to acquiesce in the procedure described in paragraph (e) above.4

  1. This paper was prepared for the forthcoming May meeting of the Secretary of State with the British and French Foreign Ministers in London. It had not been cleared at this time in other bureaus of the Department. Documentation on the London ministerial meeting is scheduled for publication in volume iii
  2. Annex not printed.
  3. Robert Schuman, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  4. The views set forth here were stated somewhat more briefly in a memorandum to President Truman, in anticipation that the question might arise when the Secretary-General was to call on the President on April 20 prior to Lie’s departure for an official visit to Europe. In the memorandum it was recommended to President Truman, that

    “… if the subject does come up, Mr. Lie be assured that we appreciate the difficulties under which he has worked and the job which he has done.… That, without committing the United States to support him Mr. Lie be urged as a matter of public duty not to foreclose the possibility that he might be drafted by loyal members of the United Nations to continue in office.” (330/4–1750)

    The subject did not arise, however.