Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: CF 20

Report of Subcommittee D to the Foreign Ministers1



Item 7: The Colonial Question

1. subjects discussed

Colonial questions in the United Nations

2. colonial questions in the united nations

It was agreed that Ministers should be asked to take note that further conversations on this important problem were considered desirable and should be held as soon as possible.2 The main issues it was desired to discuss were:

(A) Non-self-governing Territories

International accountability to the United Nations in respect of Colonial policies and activities:
The question of principle.
The attitude to be adopted towards the Special Committee on information transmitted under Article 73 (e).
The submission of political information to the United Nations.
Problems in connexion with the definition of the conception of “non-self-governing territory.”

(B) Trust Territories

The relative functions of the United Nations and of the administering authorities and the tendency of the United Nations to concern itself with administration as well as supervision of the Trust Territories.
The relationship between the Trusteeship Council and the General Assembly and the question of whether the Trusteeship Council [Page 1094] is obliged to carry out any decision of the Assembly or has the power to reach its own conclusions on the point at issue.

(C) Any other questions concerning the General Assembly’s Resolutions of December 1949 relating to Chapters 11, 12, and 13 of the Charter

In considering the above it was agreed to take into account both the present world situation and the implications of the emergence of dependent peoples, and also political and administrative realities in the Colonies. It was also agreed that the tactical and public relations aspects of this question should be carefully studied.

3. africa

The French, American and British representatives each made a statement on the approach of their respective Governments to African problems. Their respective views are set out in the three Annexes to this Paper.

The French representative explained, in regard to Africa south of the Sahara, that it was important to prevent the progress of African peoples being retarded or diverted by interference from irresponsible and possibly malevolent critics in the United Nations or elsewhere. It should be recognised that the future of Africa was a matter of great importance to the democracies of Western Europe and the Americas and it was thus essential that they should co-operate in the development of Africa’s social and economic standards by the provision of all appropriate assistance. These views are set out in Annex I to this paper.

The American representative explained that his Government was appreciative of the achievements of the Colonial Powers in Africa and the object of the United States in interesting itself in Africa was to co-operate with those Powers in developing the part Africa could play in the world. He then outlined the recent thinking of the State Department concerning United States policy towards Africa. These views are set out in Annex II to this Paper,

The British representative was in general agreement with the views expressed by his French and American colleagues. He emphasized that continuing collaboration between the Colonial Powers on African questions already existed, particularly between France and the United Kingdom in West Africa, where very close Anglo-French co-operation was especially important for the solution of the pressing political, social and economic problems of that area. He welcomed the intention of the United States Government to interest itself in the future of Africa since he felt that co-operation and assistance of the United States in international bodies and in other ways would help greatly [Page 1095] to mitigate the effects of ignorant and irresponsible criticism on the strength and stability of the Colonial Powers in Africa. These views are set out in Annex III of this paper.

It was agreed

that the three countries are basically in agreement as to the broad lines to be followed in the political development of the peoples of Africa and to the achievement of improved economic and social conditions; and to this end recognise the importance of developing the existing co-operation among France, the United Kingdom and the other African Powers, and of establishing close co-operation between those countries and the United States;
that the fact that such a large measure of agreement on principles had been reached on this important matter should be drawn to the attention of the Secretaries of State.

4. recommendation

That the questions and policies raised in the annexed statements should be considered in detail at a later date.

Annex I

Declaration by the French Delegation on Item 7 of the Agenda (Colonial Question)


In January 1950 the United States Government asked the French Government to inform them in general terms of French policy in the territories in black Africa administered by France and asked that questions concerning the economic development and the future of black Africa, as well as the resolution of certain particular points which might be the subject of subsequent conversations, should be included in the Agenda of the tripartite London Conference.

The French Government, which understands the United States Government’s interest in a continent whose geographical situation and the social evolution of whose inhabitants are of interest to all the countries of the Western community, has accepted the principle of the conversations thus suggested.

The French Delegation is able to communicate the following to the other Delegations:

The French Delegation considers together with the United States Delegation that the various Governments administering territories in Africa bear the heavy responsibility of this administration.
The policy pursued too constantly by certain delegations on the Trusteeship Council and at the United Nations General Assembly [Page 1096] tends, from motives which appear often to be of a political and even demagogic character, to undermine the authority of the administering powers.

It is impossible to over-emphasise the consequences of such action, the results of which are to maintain or to provoke dissatisfaction amongst the populations of African territories and to provide a source of agitation which can only harm the peaceful development of the education of these peoples, to the advantage only of subversive elements.

A favourable result has already been achieved since the Governments concerned, and among them the United States Government, have decided to examine in the course of the above conversations all the colonial problems included in the Agenda of the international conferences at Lake Success in order to concert their action so far as possible.

By the establishment of the institutions of the French Union, the French Government have created conditions which appear to it the most likely to assure the progress and political development of the African territories in the French Union. This progress can only come about progressively and with the passage of time and would be compromised by the development of subversive movements which would place in jeopardy the security of Africa itself, as also the security of the countries of the Western
The political progress which the French Government is thus pursuing can only be assured in harmony with the social and economic development of the African peoples and of the African territories.
Social development is one of the pre-requisites of normal economic development. In order to secure it with all the breadth of vision and the speed which are necessary, the French Government, in agreement with the other Governments interested in Africa, has undertaken a work of inter-African collaboration in the technical field. An organisation for the co-ordination of this work, undertaken since 1945, has just been set up (the Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa).
Economic development will only show lasting results if it is conceived henceforward in a new spirit. All action tending to favour the installation of undertakings intended only for drawing immediate profits from the African territories and without interest for Africa itself would risk impeding political progress whilst maintaining the conception of exploitation of the “colonialist” type, which the French Government for its part have renounced.
But to create conditions suitable for the healthy development of enterprises in Africa, the economy of the territories must first receive basic equipment (power, communications, etc.). The French Government considers that this basic equipment should be concentrated in certain zones where particularly favourable conditions are to be found. An example of what might be a comparable enterprise is the African zonal industrialisation plan, the study of which has been undertaken by M. E. Labonne, and the application of which is to take place forthwith.
The importance of such plans is such that France must be able to rely on foreign assistance. The political, strategic and economic [Page 1097] consequences of their execution are in addition so considerable that the other countries of Western Europe and the United States would no doubt wish to interest themselves with them.

For the execution of these plans it will be necessary to seek all the available resources of the countries of Western Europe who see therein a means of manifesting their solidarity, as well as the United States who are interested, as is Europe, in African development.

In particular France would hope to obtain certain personnel requirements from certain of her European neighbours.

Africa, for political, social and climatic reasons, cannot be considered, despite her low density of population, as suitable for the unconditional immigration of surplus European population.

On the other hand, and once the economic and social development plans have been formulated, the cooperation of other countries might be sought on this point, either in regard to technical personnel (doctors, engineers, etc.) or in regard to qualified labour for certain works for the purpose of basic economic equipment (public works) or finally in regard to colonisation in the strict sense of the word, which can be contemplated in certain definite areas once the economic and industrialisation development plans have been put under way.

This combination of endeavours should ensure suitable conditions in the future for the liberation of the populations concerned from the material servitudes which still weigh upon them, and will also assure at the present time the factors of stability and calm which the French Government are anxious to maintain in this continent.

Annex II

U.S. Statement on Africa

The United States aim is to get its views on and attitude to African problems fitted into a cohesive long range policy. The Lourenco Marques conference produced a series of tentative conclusions upon which such an attitude might be built and these conclusions may be summarized as follows:

It is the common interest of the western powers to have in Africa conditions of political, economic, and social stability sufficient to resist domination by unfriendly movements or powers either through aggression or subversion. Long-range as well as short-range stability should be the object.

The advancement of the social, political, economic and educational condition of the African people and of harmonious relations between the Africans themselves and between the Africans and the governments with which they are associated is to be desired.

The U.S. believes in the advancement of the economic, and, where suitable, the strategic advantages to France and the United Kingdom of their colonies and trust territories. The U.S. strongly desires that [Page 1098] equal economic treatment be given to American capital and American nationals who engage in trade in the African colonial areas.

The U.S. favors the progressive development of all dependent peoples towards the goal of self government and the development of dependent territories, where conditions are suitable, towards independence. The U.S. is sympathetic to the efforts which the French and British Governments have taken towards the development of such conditions.

The U.S. appreciates the fact that the peoples in so-called “Black Africa” have not yet achieved a full knowledge and understanding of modern political, economic and social institutions; but that there must be an orderly guided development of these peoples towards political maturity which only time and patience can provide.

The U.S. favors the strengthening of the relationship between the metropolitan powers and the colonial territories so long as the people within the territories desire such development.

The U.S. believes that an increase in total African production and trade and greater participation of Africa in world trade will be beneficial not only to Europe and the U.S. but to the African peoples. In so far as possible the U.S. is prepared to assist the United Kingdom and France in their efforts towards this goal.

The U.S. wishes to develop its trade, transportation and investment interest in Africa whenever and wherever possible and practicable. The U.S. desires to have access to raw materials, air and sea facilities, air routes and communications points and to have guaranteed rights of equal economic treatment in the African territories.

The U.S. believes that the possibilities of European immigration to Africa should be carefully studied with due regard to the serious social, economic and political problems which such immigration may create.

With regard to the United Nations activities affecting Africa, the United States will give careful consideration to the views of the metropolitan powers in determining the position which the U.S. may adopt on specific issues. At present this matter is being carefully studied.

The United States desires the fullest possible mutual co-operation and understanding with the United Kingdom and France on African matters and their understanding of the U.S. The U.S. assures France and the United Kingdom that whatever may be U.S. interests with regard to Africa, it is the U.S. desire that they be co-ordinated with France and the U.K.

[Page 1099]

Annex III

Future of Africa: Statement of British Views

The statements of the French and United States representatives (Annexes I and II), which seem themselves to indicate a substantial measure of agreement between the two countries on the lines of policy to be adopted in Africa, are in their general objectives in accord with the British conception of future policy in Africa. British policy in Africa is very briefly summarised in the succeeding paragraphs.

1. political development

The main aim of British policy is to build up the dependent territories in West, East and Central Africa into strong and stable self-governing states within the British Commonwealth of nations. For this purpose political institutions have for many years operated in the territories and are in process of being developed into Legislatures fully representative of all the peoples of the territories, the rural people as well as those in the towns in West Africa and the immigrant as well as the African communities in East and Central Africa. This policy is at the present time being carried into effect in the following ways:—

In West Africa new constitutions are in process of being brought into force under which representatives of the people will play a full part, with their official colleagues and under the leadership of the Governors, in the formation of policy and the direction of executive action. New legislatures will be established consisting very largely of popularly elected representatives of the people.
In East and Central Africa the immigrant communities have long played their part in the legislatures of the territories. More recently African members have been included in the legislatures in increasing numbers; their political education is proceeding in this and other ways so as to enable them to play a full part in the future, side by side with representatives of the immigrant communities, in the political and administrative life of these territories.
Increasing numbers of local people are being appointed to higher administrative and technical posts in the Government service of the territories.
Great emphasis is laid in all the territories on the development of modern, efficient and representative local government systems, since the sound and orderly political development of the territories and the growth of economic and social services is believed to depend to a very large extent on the existence of an effective system of local government.

The harmonious development of the African territories towards the objective of responsible government within the British Common-wealth [Page 1100] will depend on the wisdom and skill with which relations are conducted between the Governments and the people of the territories and between different sections of the people themselves. In this process Governments and people must give every encouragement to the forces of moderation, stability and goodwill and must resist the unreasonable demands of extremists. World opinion can exercise a great influence on the African territories and, if British policy is accepted as being sound and progressive, we believe that we are entitled to ask for the support of world opinion in discouraging extremist pressures and encouraging all those elements in the territories which are making for smooth and harmonious progress.

2. economic development

Self-governing political institutions must be based on soundly developed economic resources, which will sustain the services needed by a modern community. The requirement in the dependent territories in Africa is to develop the basic utilities—transport, water and energy. Special efforts must be made by Governments to this end. All territories have important schemes for the extension of highways and systems of feeder roads; ports and inland waterways are being improved; railway networks are being strengthened and re-equipped and careful plans are being made for new railways, some of regional significance, such as the proposed link between the Central and East African systems. The improvement of rural and urban water supplies is of the first importance for agriculture and industry. One aspect of water control is the development of hydro-electric power; the great power station at Jinja in Uganda is now in course of construction and the potentialities of the Volta River in the Gold Coast and the Zambesi and Shire Rivers in Central Africa are being actively studied.

The productive resources of Africa are primarily agricultural. Here the accent is on greater productivity by improving plant strains, better control of disease, more modern methods of cultivation, and more systems of agricultural organisation. The great problem is to increase output and at the same time to conserve and in some cases restore the fertility of the soil. The first task of agriculture in Africa must be to feed the growing population; the second to supply tropical commodities which enter into world trade. Marketing methods have been devised for many of the main crops designed to guarantee a fair return to the producer and protect him from fluctuations in world prices. Systems of inspection and grading have been introduced in association with marketing schemes to raise the quality of the product and establish its reputation on world markets. Where experiments [Page 1101] in new crops and new methods are required, pilot schemes are set up by Government which, if successful, will be extended on a cooperative basis.

Vigorous efforts are being made to develop the mineral resources of the territories. Basic geological surveys are being undertaken to establish the potentialities and to stimulate prospecting for fresh development.

External investment, British and foreign, is encouraged in the African territories on equal terms, subject only to safeguards designed to protect the legitimate interests of the local inhabitants and the balance of payments position of the sterling area, in accordance with the provisions of the Havana Charter and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Economic policy in the African territories is thus calculated to promote the fullest possible use of their natural resources for the benefit of the inhabitants and the growth of world trade. African Governments accept responsibility for developing the basic services necessary to provide the framework for expanded private investment. Finance for development comes in part from grants under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act; in part from loans raised by Colonial Governments on the London market; and in part from the surplus revenue balances of Colonial administrations.

Development must not only increase the capital equipment of the territories, but also stimulate remunerative activities which will enable the territory to bear the recurrent charges of social services and afford a sound basis for progressive and self-reliant progress towards self-government.

3. social development

Territories which are progressing towards self-government need not only the development of their economic resources, but the men and women to operate political and economic institutions. To produce these men and women modern educational systems are being built up. Three University Colleges have been established and are being developed at Ibadan in Nigeria, near Accra in the Gold Coast and at Makerere in Uganda for the East African territories. Higher Colleges of Arts, Science and Technology are to be established in Nigeria, the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone. Technical education facilities are being extended in all the African territories and large expansions are also taking place in normal secondary and primary education, with particular emphasis on teacher training. Large numbers of men and women are coming to this country and to the United States for further education to fit them for higher posts in the Government, for professional work and for posts in industry and commerce.

[Page 1102]

Throughout the African territories the policy of mass education or community development is being actively applied. Mass education has been defined as a movement designed to promote better living for the whole community with the active participation and, if possible, on the initiative of the community. It is being pursued both in the urban and rural areas and embraces all forms of betterment; not only education and the spread of literacy; but agriculture and soil conservation; health and hygiene; town and village improvement; and the encouragement of co-operation. At the same time all the African territories are developing and improving their preventive and curative medical services.

4. co-operation with other african countries

Most of the main problems of Africa, particularly in the technical and economic fields, are problems which cannot be solved by individual territories in isolation, but demand common action over wide regions of the Continent. This principle has long been recognised by British policy and close co-operation between the British territories in the three regions of Tropical Africa has been secured through the East Africa High Commission and Legislative Assembly and through consultative bodies in West and Central Africa.

But co-operation between the British territories alone is insufficient; the main problems of Africa are not confined by international frontiers. Since the war an active programme of common international action has been pursued between the Governments with responsibilities in Africa south of the Sahara, namely France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa. A series of international conferences has been held in Africa and Europe covering all the more important technical and economic fields, in particular transport, scientific research, measures against locusts, the tsetse fly and rinderpest, fisheries, nutrition, the problems of labour, soil conservation, and rural economy generally. This programme will be continued under the aegis of the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa south of the Sahara set up in January, 1950.

Co-operation in the economic field between the European countries with responsibilities in Africa is secured through the Overseas Territories Committee of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation. In the political and administrative fields it has been recognised that closer contacts between the African territories and a closer understanding of each others’ problems are necessary, and the Governments of these territories are now pursuing these contacts, as a regular part of their work, at all levels of the Government machine from Governors-General and Governors down to administrative [Page 1103] and technical officers in the field. Representatives of the peoples of the territories are at the same time being associated with the progress of international co-operation in Africa.

It is recognised that, although the United States Government has no direct responsibilities in Africa, there are many advantages to be gained from the closest contact and understanding with the United States Government as part of the policy of international co-operation in Africa; United States representatives are regularly invited to attend the technical conferences referred to above. The closest contact is also maintained with the Economic Co-operation Administration with a view to making the greatest possible use of the resources at their disposal for the economic development of Africa.

  1. The cover sheet attached to the source text indicates that the plenary meeting of tripartite officials did not have the opportunity to examine this report. The meetings of Subcommittee D leading to this report were reported upon in Secto 130, May 4, and Secto 165, May 5, from London, pp. 952 and 953, respectively. This report was approved by the American, British, and French Foreign Ministers at their meeing on the morning of May 13; see Secto 246, May 13, from London, p. 1052.

    Some papers in the files of the Department of State appear erroneously to attribute this report to Subcommittee Q concerned with Near Eastern questions.

  2. Bilateral (American-British, American-French, and American-Belgian) conversations on the colonial question in the United Nations were subsequently held in Washington in July 1950. For documentation on those talks, see vol. ii, pp. 434 ff.