IO Files

Minutes of Twenty-third Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Paris, November 30, 1951


[Here follows list of persons (47) present.]

The Delegation continued the discussion, begun the day before, on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of expenses of the United Nations. Mr. Hall stated that he had nothing to add to what [Page 181]he had said previously in his presentation. Mr. Vorys recommended that the position of the Delegation be that it seek an adjustment in the assessments scale in order to achieve the 33⅓% ceiling for the U.S. contribution. He took this position not so much on the basis of domestic U.S. law as from a feeling that a time of relatively full adjustment in terms of ability to contribute was at hand (a position he knew would be attacked by other Delegations) and that the U.S. should seek to have its contribution confined to what the General Assembly has previously agreed was just; namely, a maximum contribution of one third of the total. He felt that when General Eisenhower1 and Foreign Minister Schumann2 [sic] had said that the present situation was likely to continue for ten years, the world had come as near to a condition of “normalcy” as was possible. Therefore, it would be wise to seek, on the basis of principle, a reduction in the U.S. assessment. The U.S. should not say that it would not pay the difference between one third and the present assessment, for in fact one third of the forthcoming budget might be larger than we had paid in the past. The sole basis should be that the General Assembly itself had agreed that one third was a normal maximum contribution.

Mrs. Roosevelt asked Mr. Vorys if he felt that the U.S. could achieve acceptance of that position in the Committee. He answered that he had been reluctant to talk too much with other delegations about the matter in the absence of a clear decision by the U.S. Delegation. He added that he and Mr. Hall had however talked with a few Committee 5 delegates about the matter. Stone of Canada3 had seemed sympathetic to the U.S. view. In a talk with the Mexicans and Brazilians, during which they brought the matter up, the Brazilian had said that he saw merit in the U.S. position and would be willing to forego the proposed decrease in his country’s contribution in order to offset in part a reduction in that of the U.S. Byron Price4 of the Secretariat had mentioned that Secretary-General Lie had heard of the U.S. desire to reduce its contribution to the one third ceiling and had said he was thinking about the matter. Price himself had stated that he did not think the time propitious for advancing such an idea.

Dr. Tobias indicated that he had been present at the Non-Governmental Organization luncheon at which Mr. Vorys had discussed this matter, and had noted in particular their reactions. He said there had been disappointment that the U.S. might have to contemplate such a step at this time. The Non-Governmental Organization representatives [Page 182]recognized that the Act of Congress was on the books and that the normal United Nations expectancy of a one third maximum was logical. The general feeling had been, however, that some way should be found to indicate to the Non-Governmental Organizations and others what would result from a decision of this sort in terms of cutting important services rendered by the United Nations, especially since the actual difference in money was relatively small. They indicated they would be willing to work toward asking Congress to appropriate the difference. They realized also that taking a position of this kind might tend to damage the strength of domestic U.S. law if they were to argue against the mandate of Congress. The seriousness of the situation, nevertheless, seemed to be an overriding consideration, and made it very desirable for the U.S. Delegation to try to give every indication of its awareness of the dilemma in which it found itself. For example, they had suggested an abstaining vote, or an indication that partial payment of the total assessment would be followed by attempts to have Congress appropriate the remainder at its next session. Dr. Tobias felt we were faced with a situation where we could not adhere only to the letter of the law. Quoting the Scriptures, he said “The letter killeth”, and especially here the letter of the law might well kill. The best way of summing up the situation seemed to be that the U.S. would be “penny wise and pound foolish” in view of the great amounts of financial aid it was giving to individual countries, when it decided to reduce its United Nations contribution by such a small amount. For the reasons he had expressed, he hoped the Delegation would decide to abstain in the voting and then explain its position to the public at home.

Mrs. Roosevelt thought that there were two possibilities from which the Delegation could choose. It could authorize an abstention, or a negative vote with an explanation of the reasons therefor. She called the Delegation’s attention to the legal position the Department had taken as expressed in Gadel 277, and suggested that it should also be considered by the Delegation in determining its position. In this connection, Mr. Fisher remarked that he felt there were two decisions the Delegation had to make. The first was what the Delegation should try for, and how much effort it ought to make on behalf of whatever it decided to pursue. The second decision should be what the Delegation would do in case its efforts under the first decision did not succeeds He thought a sincere and honest effort was called for, in seeking to obtain a reduction in the U.S. assessment. If the Delegation members who would be making this effort felt, however, that pushing this position to the extreme would cost infinitely more in other areas, then the existence of “exceptional circumstances” might be indicated. The attempt should be made, in other words, but if it were found to prejudice the overall national interest, we should consult to the fullest [Page 183]degree with Congress. Our constitutional duty required us to use every legal method to protect the overall national interest. It would be very unfortunate if the U.S. were to be voted down on its demand to reduce its contribution to one third and then hinted that perhaps it would not pay. The implications in this for other states would be extremely dangerous. It was up to the Delegation to make a “college try”, to obtain a reduction.

Ambassador Gross5 said he had been on Committee 5 in 1948 when the General Assembly resolution had been adopted which recognized that the maximum contribution should be one third. He was troubled by several problems in addition to those mentioned by Dr. Tobias and Mr. Fisher. The law itself, he felt, was a “good cog” but it was fashioned for a “slightly different kind of machine”. He thought it was fairly well understood that the “commitments” in the United Nations only arose out of the Charter. So said the lawyers. He asked Mr. Vorys whether, if the 33⅓% contribution position were adhered to, this would mean taking matters out of the hands of the Contributions Committee and putting it into the full Fifth Committee.

He referred to paragraph 17 of the Contributions Committee Report in which it was apparent that a decision on the matter of the U.S. contribution could not be made in a vacuum. Other states would be affected by whatever action we insisted upon. Whose contribution would rise if ours went down? Where would the re-adjustment be made, and would there be time for whatever group was to do this to accomplish their task? Ambassador Gross expressed the view that it would be dangerous to open the question of the assessments scale in the Fifth Committee where we might be swamped by the “have not” states; it might be better to adhere to the recommendations of the Contributions Committee where there was a fair balance between the “have” and “have not” states. Ambassador Gross also pointed out that in paragraph 12 of its Report, the “policy of the Contributions Committee”, as stated there, was one most accurately reflecting that of the General Assembly as a whole and as favorable as possible to the U.S.

Lastly, Ambassador Gross thoroughly agreed with Mr. Fisher that a “commitment” as foreseen in the legislation did not generate an “obligation”. It was the apportionment as agreed upon by the General Assembly which generated the obligation. He felt for the reasons stated that there was room for arguing that the US ought to vote against the Contributions Committee Report. The members of the United States Delegation might be criticized for not voting against it. In analyzing the “apparent spirit” of Public Law 188, he said that when Congress had considered enacting it, someone must have known [Page 184]that a United States vote by itself did not commit the United States, but that only the apportionment by the General Assembly could do that. The law, then, might have been an effort on the part of Congress to offset any additional moral obligation on its part. If the Delegation were to decide and vote against the Report of the Contribution Committee, this would leave the question in Congress’ hands as to whether to comply with the decision of the Assembly. For these reasons he felt the United States Delegation should vote against the Report and not go any further by way of explanation which could rivet the situation so that Congress could not comply even if it wished to do so.

Senator Cooper said that his position was that legally the individual members of the Delegation were directed by law not to vote for anything over a one-third contribution for the US. This did not mean, however, that the United States Delegation should stop working to make it possible for the Congress to give more. He hoped that it might be possible to postpone General Assembly action for a while in order to work along those lines.

Mr. Vorys thought that the Delegation should make every effort to persuade the United Nations members to apply the 33⅓% principle this year. The Delegation should try this out on other Delegations now. He said in answer to Ambassador Gross’ previous remarks that of course he realized this would mean an upward adjustment in the Contributions of other countries. He felt that foremost among these upward adjustments should be those of the Soviet bloc countries.

Mr. Vorys said that if the law prohibited the United States Delegation from committing the United States to anything more than a one-third contribution, that bound the members of the Delegation. In regard to the question of Charter obligations, he said that some people had pressed the view that a levy by the General Assembly acting under the Charter constituted a legal obligation. He had taken an opposite view. He felt that any such doctrine would be extremely unfortunate. He also expressed the view that the Delegation should not be so concerned with trying to get the Congress to change its views. What the legislation required was that the United States Delegation should try to get the UN views changed. If not successful in that undertaking, then the Delegation would have to decide how to cast its vote in such a situation.

Ambassador Sayre6 was much impressed by the need for trying to get the United States contribution down to one-third. But he felt it should also be considered that the Delegation was under a duty to try to effectuate the will of Congress in the best way possible. The United States could adopt a “take it or leave it” attitude, or it could [Page 185]try to work for the reduction to one-third in a year or two. The latter would seem to him to be the better way if the law could be construed to permit such an endeavor. He thought that with the general world situation and the disillusionment with the United Nations in many quarters it might endanger matters considerably if the United States refused to pay more than the one-third this year. Similar attempts to restrict contributions might well begin all around the world.

Looking at the law, he felt that a “commitment” could not come from the casting of a United States vote in one way or another. The law provided for exceptional circumstances, and should the Delegation take the view that there was some degree of flexibility provided for in the law, it could abstain on the present report of the Contributions Committee and seek to obtain a promise from the United Nations that in the next two years the United States contribution would be reduced to the one-third maximum. He hoped that the Delegation would agree that “exceptional circumstances” did exist and that the Delegation should not be held too rigidly by the law before them.

Mr. Mansfield joined with Mr. Vorys in complimenting the advisers of the Delegation for their talents in ironing out differences in viewpoints. He felt those talents should be applied to the present situation. He pointed out that he and Mr. Vorys were in the position of having to go back and explain their actions before Congress. In regard to a suggestion by Mrs. Roosevelt that the Delegation meet with a group of Congressmen arriving for the weekend, he thought it a very good idea. He felt it necessary to point out however that they were all Democrats and might not reflect the views that Congress as a whole would take. He added that Senators Benton and McMahon had expressed the view at Strassbourg that the Congress would not appropriate more than the one third. Since time was not too pressing on this matter he suggested meeting with the Congressmen of the group referred to by Mrs. Roosevelt, and also with the members of the Appropriations Committee who would be in Paris shortly.

Mr. Sandifer7 said that in regard to the question of whether or not there had been “consultation” in connection with the “exceptional circumstances” proviso of the law, those who felt that every reasonable effort had been made to consult were acting from a very conscientious viewpoint. They too would have to face Congress, and the Appropriations Committees. He felt that the leeway provided for in the law through the existence of “exceptional circumstances” indicated that Congress did not intend to tie the hands of the Executive branch. When every reasonable attempt had been made to achieve consultation, the law had been satisfied. This was not an isolated problem. It related to the overall complex of United States obligations [Page 186]in the world. He felt that it would be very difficult to convince other delegations that these were normal times in the sense of the 1948 General Assembly resolution. He referred to the fact that within the Specialized Agencies a one-third contribution by the US had been achieved only because the membership of those agencies had been increased. The USSR had successfully blocked the expansion of the United Nations membership and so the problem was not one of normal times. In view of these considerations, Mr. Sandifer suggested that the Delegation approach the problem on the basis of what was politically feasible in the General Assembly without undermining the basic position of the United States. This, he felt, was what the Congress must have meant. He thought that it would be feasible to seek to achieve the reduction to one-third in one more year after the present. He mentioned the tremendous effort by Mr. Stuart Rice for the United States in the Contributions Committee to obtain the full reduction. As it was, he had only been able to obtain that of 2.02%. Even this was much more than in previous years. Mr. Sandifer was convinced that regardless of the talents of the political officers, this was a case where no amount of “arm twisting” could get the full reduction this year. It did seem possible to achieve the 33⅓% goal in one more year, however. He therefore suggested as a possible compromise position, which he would be willing to recommend to the Department, that the US agree to accept the scale recommended by the Contributions Committee if the General Assembly would adopt a clear-cut mandate to the Contributions Committee to reduce the United States contribution to 33⅓% next year. This was, of course, on the assumption that the Congressional Committees did not state that the Delegation must insist upon the reduction to 33⅓% this year.

On the question of the existence of “exceptional circumstances”, Miss Strauss felt that the repercussions of a negative vote from the US would be so dangerous to the UN itself that this matter should be made the basis of an appeal to the people of the United States. She felt sure that if the public were fully presented with the situation, they would indicate to Congress their desire that the United States should pay this year what the Contributions Committee had recommended. The hands of Congress were tied, too, and only through a ground-swell of public opinion could the position be changed.

Ambassador Jessup8 asked if, in view of the time element, the Delegation ought not to authorize Mr. Vorys to make the effort he had suggested. He understood that Mr. Fisher and Ambassador Gross agreed with this approach.

Mrs. Roosevelt agreed that the United States should go “all out” to ascertain the chances of success for a United States move of this sort. [Page 187]Mr. Vorys said he thought the matter so vital that the full weekend should be used to ascertain the views of the other delegations.

Mr. Sandifer wondered whether the decision of the Delegation would be to announce that the United States position was to work for the reduction, or simply to seek information as to whether a possible move by the United States would be successful. Mr. Hall felt that a United States effort to change the recommendations of the Contributions Committee would be a matter of such importance that the Department should take it up on the highest governmental level. Mr. Vorys said that the answer to Mr. Sandifer’s question would be that the decision was only to explore. He could, of course, refer to the existence of Public Law 188, but not state that the Delegation had decided to vote against the report and seek the reduction to one third.

Mr. Ross9 said that the Delegation must be sure that the United States was working as a team on this matter. He wanted the political officers to be sure that the approach to be taken was one of “reconnaissance in depth” in a first démarche. Mrs. Roosevelt said that the approach would be to clarify the dilemma with which the Delegation was faced. Mr. Ross felt that it would be bad politics in the United Nations to expose our internal difficulties. We should argue on the merits for a one-third reduction, a policy the United States Delegation had followed since the beginning of the United Nations. He added that the political officers could get from Mr. Hall the appropriate points to make in such an argument.

Mr. Cohen was disturbed at the way this matter was being approached. All would agree with Mr. Vorys, he said, in making the “college try” for obtaining a reduction. But at the same time the United States should be careful not to prejudice its other positions by trying to obtain information as to what the situation would be if the United States sought to open up the Report of the Contributions Committee. He only wanted to be sure what kind of action the Delegation was authorizing, and was not certain how far the exploration could go without prejudicing our other interests. As it was a matter of great importance to all countries, we might be opening a Pandora’s Box.

Mr. McKeever cautioned that regardless of what the exploration consisted, the Delegation should be extremely careful not to let this develop into a public debate. The damage that could be done to the interests of the United States would far outweigh the differences in amounts of the assessments.

Ambassador Dreier10 suggested that in view of the present state of mind of the Latin Americans over the ICJ slate, it would be unwise to approach them at all. Mrs. Roosevelt thoroughly agreed with him [Page 188]on this point. When Mr. Nolting asked whether the United States would also explain that reducing the United States contribution would constitute a raising of the contributions of other countries, Mrs. Roosevelt said that this was understood to be the case, but since this matter had to be handled with the utmost delicacy, it would not be wise to bring that point up.

Mr. Vorys said that he had mentioned confidentially to the members of some delegations the problems facing the United States Delegation. Mr. Hall added that this had been only to our best friends. To India and Pakistan and countries similarly situated we would have to argue on principle. So far, he admitted, there had been no bad reactions. He advocated adoption to Mr. Ross’ suggestion.

Ambassador Gross said he was very impressed with the suggestion of Mr. Sandifer, and of course agreed with Ambassador Jessup that he favored giving the matter a try. Mrs. Roosevelt agreed too, saying that Messrs. Mansfield and Vorys would continue as in the past to express themselves as Congressional members of the Delegation. The staff would seek what it could get on the basis of its regular consultations. Mr. Ross could not agree that this was a “try”. We would only be “raising the question” with other delegations and getting them to come out of the Committee Five atmosphere into the broader plane of political considerations, and would ask them whether we could not get on with the previous intentions of the General Assembly to limit the maximum contributions to one-third. We would let only just enough be known to provoke their reactions to this idea.

Mr. Sandifer suggested that any liaison be done only after consultation with Messrs. Ross and Hall.

Mrs. Roosevelt remarked that Mr. McKeever was right in stating that this should not be made a matter of public debate, and that it would do great damage to our political efforts. However, she said, this had not been taken into consideration when Congress had enacted the law.

[Here follows a short statement about a matter not on the agenda.]

  1. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
  2. Robert Schuman, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. T. A. Stone, member of the Canadian Delegation to the General Assembly; he was Chairman of the Fifth Committee.
  4. Byron Price, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Administrative and Financial Services.
  5. Ernest A. Gross, Deputy United States Representative at the United Nations, member of the United States Delegation.
  6. Francis B. Sayre, United States Representative on the Trusteeship Council, member of the Advisory Staff of the U.S. Delegation.
  7. Durward V. Sandifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs, one of two Senior Advisers on the Advisory Staff of the U.S. Delegation.
  8. Philip C. Jessup, Ambassador at Large, member of the U.S. Delegation.
  9. John C. Ross, Deputy United States Representative on the Security Council, and one of two Senior Advisers on the Advisory Staff of the U.S. Delegation.
  10. John C. Dreier, United States Representative on the Council of the Organization of American States and member of the Advisory Staff of the U.S. Delegation.