UNP Files, Lot 59 D 237, “Italian Membership”

The Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Ambassador in Italy (Dunn)


Dear Jimmy: I want to make more detailed comment than was given in the Department’s telegram1 concerning your suggestion that the Italians be encouraged to request permission to participate in discussions, in General Assembly committees, of a wide range of subjects in the political, security, economic and social fields.

As you may know, the question of granting general participation in the General Assembly to non-members has arisen several times in the past in connection with the membership problem. In April 1948, on the occasion of one of the Soviet vetoes of Italy’s membership application, Senator Austin2 referred in general terms to the possibility [Page 289] that the General Assembly might hear the views of non-members. The Canadians made fairly detailed suggestions to this effect, involving the creation of a status of “associated states” and the modification of some rules of procedure of the General Assembly. Dr. Arce, the Argentine delegate to the United Nations, made a similar suggestion. In discussions in New York, the British were definitely opposed to all these suggestions, and Italy and most non-member states involved showed extreme sensitiveness to the implication that they were being offered “second-class membership”. We did not, therefore, pursue the matter further. During the consideration of the membership question in the General Assembly in December 1950, El Salvador proposed a resolution which would, among other things, invite the states which have been excluded from membership as a result of the veto, to send observers to the committees of the General Assembly. This provision was rejected by 27 votes to 11, with 16 abstentions. We voted against it, without in any way campaigning. We understand that Mascia opposed it strongly.

Your suggestion is somewhat different in that it would base Italy’s participation on Italy’s interest in the particular matter concerned. The General Assembly has proceeded cautiously in dealing with the problem of requests for participation by non-members and, in the absence of specific rules of procedure, has treated each case on an ad hoc basis. It has in practice limited the participation of non-member states to those problems in which they have a special interest. Even in such cases, it has further limited the participation of certain states in specific instances because they wished to utilize the Assembly as a propaganda forum without being willing to assume the Charter obligations of peaceful settlement.

Italy could claim a special interest in some United Nations questions in the discussion of which it has not hitherto participated. For example, since non-members might participate in measures against aggression and might even be asked to do so, Italy might have a special and individual interest in the discussion of such measures. We would accordingly see no objection to Italy’s participation in such debate if it so requested. Wherever Italy could make a case for the view that it had a special and individual interest in a matter under discussion, the General Assembly committee concerned would probably grant a hearing readily.

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A somewhat different question would be raised by a request to participate in the discussion of a matter in which Italy had only a general interest—as a member of the international community. To grant participation in such a case would alter considerably the practice heretofore followed and would probably involve practical difficulties. A general arrangement for Italy’s participation in General Assembly discussions on the scale suggested in your telegram would in effect permit any non-member state to join in the discussion of practically any matter. It would, moreover, be obvious that such an arrangement has a bearing on the problem of United Nations membership—a problem in relation to which it does not seem useful for the United States to initiate action at the present time. Accordingly, we are reluctant at this point to take the initiative in encouraging Italy to raise the question of a general arrangement for its participation in General Assembly committees.

We will, however, give further consideration in the Department to this question in the course of our preparations for the next General Assembly. In the meantime, our delegation in New York will of course be glad to consult with Guidotti. We will consider sympathetically any Italian request that may be made, to participate in the discussion of matters in which Italy can show some special interest. Of course, we are seriously concerned over the problem of bringing Italy and other deserving states into full participation in the United Nations as rapidly as possible. For example, as indicative of our desire to increase ad hoc Italian participation whenever feasible our Delegation to the present session of the Trusteeship Council has been instructed to favor having the Council invite the Italian representative to sit regularly in the Council and to participate fully, except for the right to vote, in all deliberations relating both directly and indirectly to Somaliland.

With regards and every good wish,

Sincerely yours,

John D. Hickerson
  1. Telegram 3297, February 1, 2 p. m., to Rome, supra.
  2. Warren R. Austin, United States Representative at the United Nations. In March 1948 the United States initiated and actively promoted an effort to have the Security Council reconsider and favorably act upon Italy’s application for membership in the United Nations. This was terminated by a negative vote of the Soviet Union on April 10 (the question being a substantive matter and the Soviet Union a permanent member of the Security Council whose negative vote constituted a “veto”). For documentation on the United States démarche regarding Italian membership in March and April 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 1, pp. 173 ff.