Under Secretary’s Meetings: Lot 53 D 250, Box 1

Document Prepared in the Bureau of United Nations Affairs


Background Memorandum on Eastern European Representation on the Economic and Social Council


At the present time the membership of the Economic and Social Council includes the five major powers; four Latin American states (Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru); two Western European states (Belgium, [Page 106] Denmark); two Eastern European states (Czechoslovakia, Poland); four British Commonwealth states (Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan); and one Near Eastern state (Iran, if Pakistan and India are counted with the Commonwealth). [See Annex for present membership of ECOSOC.1]
The terms of Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Poland, the USSR and the United Kingdom expire December 31, 1950.
In line with the general agreement that the five major powers should be continuously represented on the Council, we intend to support the USSR and the UK for re-election.
We are further committed to support Uruguay (to succeed Brazil) and the Philippines (to succeed Australia).
We have not decided whom to support for the two seats to be vacated by Denmark and Poland. Sweden and Egypt are announced candidates, and it is assumed that the Soviet bloc will put forward an Eastern European candidate to succeed Poland.

the problem

It is necessary to decide whether an Eastern European state should be supported at the expense of one of the other candidates (Egypt and Sweden) for the two remaining seats, or whether it is preferable not to support a satellite this year, thus reducing Communist representation on ECOSOC to the USSR and one other (now Czechoslovakia).


It is recommended that, if other friendly Delegations agree that such a course is desirable, we should not support the election of an Eastern European candidate to succeed Poland.
We should immediately approach the British, French and Canadians on this subject to get their reaction.
If the reaction indicates that we will not cause serious disunity and an election deadlock, such as that which occurred when we supported India instead of the Ukrainian SSR in 1947,2 we should proceed on the assumption that our votes will be cast for Egypt and Sweden.


For political reasons, agreements regarding the distribution of Council seats were made at London in 1946 which gave the Soviet bloc of six states (USSR, Byelorussia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia) representation on the Councils and in other UN posts out of proportion to their number in the Organization.3 Thus, the Soviet [Page 107] bloc received three seats on the Economic and Social Council and two seats on the Security Council, at the expense of other states which were not given representation in the same proportion to their numerical strength (e.g. 20.Latin American states with two SC and four ECOSOC seats; 16 NE and ME states with 1 SC and 2–3 ECOSOC seats).
The perpetuation of this pattern of representation in succeeding council elections has made it difficult, and in some cases impossible to provide for equitable representation of other important groups of states. Thus, at the present time, no Arab state is included on the Economic and Social Council.
It is not believed that the reduction in the number of Eastern European states will materially affect the position of the Soviet group in the Economic and Social Council, although it is recognized that, prestige-wise, it will be a blow.
It is to the definite political interest of the United States to support an Arab state for election to the Economic and Social Council this year, and it would be difficult to explain to the Arabs the basis of a decision to support an Eastern European state at the expense of an Arab candidate. As regards Sweden, while it might be expendable in this connection, it is believed that it can make a substantial contribution to the work of the Council; Sweden has never had a UN Council seat; and, moreover, we would not wish to reduce the number of Western European states on the Council at this time, particularly since it would not be easy to regain that seat in the future, in the face of continuing demands from the Middle Eastern and Latin American blocs.


Present Membership of the Economic and Social Council

Term expires December 31, 1950:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Denmark
  • Poland
  • USSR
  • United Kingdom

Term expires December 31, 1951:

  • Belgium
  • Chile
  • China
  • France
  • India
  • Peru

[Page 108]

Term expires December 31, 1952:

  • Canada
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Iran
  • Mexico
  • Pakistan
  • United States

  1. Brackets appear in the source text.
  2. For documentation on this matter, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. i, pp. 145 ff.
  3. For the 1946 discussion at the London General Assembly, see ibid., 1946, vol. i, pp. 117 ff.