UNP Files, Lot 59 D 237, “Membership General IV (Beg. 1951)”

Memorandum by the Acting Director of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs (Wainhouse) to the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson)


Subject: Possible Congressional Resolution on Participation by Non-Members in General Assembly Proceedings Without Vote

1. Background

In one of your recent appearances on the Hill you indicated that you would think over the question of a possible Congressional resolution on the above subject. Various ideas along that line have, from time to time, been mentioned during United Nations discussions of the membership problem. Most recently, (late in the 5th session of the General Assembly) El Salvador presented a resolution providing in effect that the nine states presently barred from membership by the veto be invited to send observers to sessions of the General Assembly. Such observers would be enabled to express their views and furnish information when so requested by a member state delegation, both in the main committees of the General Assembly and in the Interim Committee. This proposal was rejected by 27 to 11, with 16 abstentions, the United States joining in the negative vote.

Since that time Embassy Rome has raised the question of finding means to afford Italy a wide measure of participation in General Assembly proceedings. In your letter of January 30, 1951 to Ambassador Dunn you stated that we would “consider sympathetically any Italian request that may be made to participate in the discussion of matters in which Italy can show some special interest”. Since that time the Trusteeship Council (February 23) has adopted a resolution [Page 303] requesting the General Assembly to consider the “question of the full participation of Italy in the work of the Trusteeship Council”.

2. Discussion

Finding some means of bringing non-members, at least those which the Assembly has felt to be qualified for admission, into reasonably broad and regular participation in General Assembly proceedings may prove increasingly desirable the longer the present impasse on the membership problem continues. Indeed, unless the log-jam on membership is soon broken, some such arrangement may well prove necessary if the concept of universality is ever to be approximated within a predictable period. Procedurally, this would be possible through broadening the provisions for non-member participation already applied by the Assembly in special cases such as the Greek case, Palestine and the Italian Colonies. Given the present world situation, it might be desirable for the United States to take the initiative in spurring the Assembly to promote or at least not oppose an arrangement which would bring non-members in some measure into the United Nations fold even if without the full benefits of membership. It might be difficult for the Soviets to oppose such a step, even if they could not claim credit for it. Much would depend, of course, on whether non-members as a group would regard such an arrangement as a form of “second-class membership”. It is possible that their regular presence at General Assembly sessions and their consequent identification with the United Nations would tend to diminish political opposition to their admission as members.

In the light of these considerations, the question warrants further study and review prior to the convening of the sixth session of the General Assembly. However, we do not think that encouragement should be given to the House at present to adopt a resolution pointing in that direction. The views of other important and friendly member states would need to be obtained, as well as the reaction of at least those non-members friendly toward the United States. Our position on the membership problem itself will need to be reviewed later this summer. Until we are closer to the next General Assembly it would be wise to retain a flexible attitude both on the membership problem or on any alternative procedures which might in part compensate for the lack of progress on the membership issue. Such flexibility of approach would be compromised if we were to give undue emphasis now to specific procedures which are, in reality, lesser aspects of the larger political problem involved. Should the weight of our thinking by late summer incline toward some broad formula for participation by non-members, suitable proposals for appropriate procedural arrangements can be worked out at that time. Under present conditions, UNP feels that it would be well not to tie our hands by encouraging Congressional proposals of the type described.

[Page 304]

3. Conclusions

Any Congressional inquiries on this subject could be answered along the following lines:

  • (a) A Congressional resolution advocating broad participation by non-members in General Assembly proceedings without vote would not be helpful at this time;
  • (b) The Department is, however, giving careful study in preparation for the next session of the General Assembly, to possible arrangements for granting to non-member states fuller participation in the proceedings of committees of the General Assembly.