Editorial Note

The problem of Eritrea was considered in the Ad Hoc Political Committee of the United Nations between November 9 and 26. At an early stage a number of delegations indicated support for a federation plan as suggested by the Burmese and South African members in the report of the United Nations Commission for Eritrea, GA (V), Suppl. No. 8. Ethiopia stated its distinct preference for union, while Italy, concerned with the future status of the Italian minority in Eritrea, argued in favor of independence. The United States initially stated that it favored incorporation of the territory into Ethiopia, but expressed willingness to support a compromise proposal for federation.

After suspension of debate in the Committee for several days, a compromise federation plan was submitted under the sponsorship of 14 members of the Committee. The United States formally presented this plan to the Committee on November 20, 1950. The United States Delegate pointed out that the plan did much to reconcile the wishes of the inhabitants of Eritrea, the interests of peace and security in East Africa, and the rights and claims of Ethiopia. Eritrean unity would be preserved and self-government for Eritrea would be assured by its establishment as an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia under the Ethiopian Crown. The federal government would have jurisdiction over defense, foreign affairs, currency and finance, foreign and interstate commerce, and external and interstate communications, including ports. Eritrea would assess and collect the necessary taxes and maintain its own police system. The religious and civil rights of minorities in Eritrea would be guaranteed. A single nationality would prevail throughout the federation.

The 14-state plan also provided for a United Nations Commissioner, assisted by experts, to prepare a draft constitution for Eritrea and to assist an Eritrean Assembly in its consideration of the constitution. The Federation would come into effect after approval of the Eritrean constitution by the Eritrean Assembly, the United Nations Commissioner, and the Ethiopian Emperor. During the transition period, until September 15, 1952, the United Kingdom would continue as the administering authority and would take the necessary steps leading [Page 1688] to the convening of an Eritrean Assembly and the organization of governmental organs staffed by Eritreans.

On November 26, the 14-state plan was adopted by the Ad Hoc Political Committee of the United Nations by a vote of 38 in favor, 14 against, and 8 abstentions.

For the discussions on the 14-state plan in the Ad Hoc Political Committee from November 8 through November 25, see GA (V), Ad Hoc Political Committee, pages 221–355.