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

Memorandum Drafted in the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs1


Participation of Non-Members in the General Assembly


The unlikelihood that the USSR will agree to the admission to United Nations membership of the great majority of States who still remain outside, forces serious consideration of alternative arrangements, not subject to the veto, for securing participation for these states in the United Nations. The obvious possibility, which has frequently been suggested in the past, is some form of participation in the General Assembly. The general support for the drastic step taken in the resolution on Uniting for Peace may have laid a political basis for a similarly strong assertion of authority by the General [Page 306] Assembly to remove what is generally regarded as a scandal in the United Nations.

In its practice, the General Assembly already makes provision for participation of non-members in its proceedings. This participation on a strictly ad hoc basis is, however, limited both in purpose and in scope. In general, its purpose is to hear particular testimony needed in order to settle some problem, or to give a fair hearing to all parties involved. Its scope is limited to the making of statements and answering of questions, each intervention being specifically authorized by the Committee concerned.

The question involved here is, therefore, whether some general arrangement beyond existing practice can be devised which will provide a means for participation by non-members that will be satisfactory from the points of view both of general policy and of General Assembly procedures.


1. Non-Member States Which Might be Involved

Fourteen applications for United Nations membership are pending:

(a) The General Assembly has determined that nine states whose admission has been blocked by Soviet use of the veto are qualified for membership:

Austria Italy
Ceylon Republic of Korea
Finland Nepal
Jordan Portugal

Only Italy has shown a strong interest in participation in the General Assembly. However, depending on circumstances, Austria, Ceylon, Jordan, Korea or Nepal might welcome such an opportunity.

(b) Five Soviet membership candidates have not received majority support:

Albania Rumania
Bulgaria Mongolian Peoples’ Republic

If the USSR opposed a plan for participation in the General Assembly, the Soviet applicants would refuse participation; strong Soviet opposition cannot, however, be assumed.

(c) The following may seek United Nations membership in the near future:

Vietnam Japan
Laos Federal Republic of Germany
Cambodia Libya

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Some or all of these would probably desire the privilege of participation in the General Assembly. Although all would at present meet with objection in the General Assembly, these objections will possibly decrease.

(d) Switzerland, whose traditional neutral position bars it from United Nations membership, might be interested in some participation in the General Assembly.

(e) Finally, the diminutive states—Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino—might wish to participate if they were given any encouragement.

2. Nature and Extent of Participation

  • (a) In the past any arrangement for participation of non-members in the General Assembly has been made on a strictly ad hoc basis on agenda items in which they were able to demonstrate direct interest. In such cases particular conditions have been attached to their participation, limiting it generally to committee and subcommittee proceedings and to such oral and written statements as the committee may permit, each intervention being specifically authorized.
  • (b) Possible Types of Participation
    • (1) Relatively full participation—short of voting—might include a seat in any committees in which all Members have the right to be represented and perhaps even in the plenary meetings of the Assembly itself, with the privilege of making oral statements and submitting proposals and procedural motions.
    • (2) An intermediate degree might be participation in some or all committees on which all Members have the right to be represented, with privilege of making an oral statement on the substance of each item at a time authorized by the Chairman, and of having written statements circulated to all Members.
    • (3) The minimal privilege might include participation as an official observer, involving nothing beyond the issuance of tickets for admission to meetings of committees and plenary sessions of the General Assembly, and circulation of documents.

Alternative (1) would be too far-reaching if granted to many non-members. Practice—and a strongly stated United States position in 1947—is against participation of non-members in plenary meetings. If allowed at all it should perhaps be in the general debate; the use of Rule 67 reduced to a formality the plenary debate on most committee reports and it would be undesirable to do anything to add to debate on such questions.

Full participation in procedure—on the analogy of Security Council practice concerning non-members—would probably slow the General Assembly proceedings up unduly, especially if granted to Soviet satellites.

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Alternative (2) would seem adequate, with perhaps the additional privilege of making a statement in the general debate of the plenary Assembly.

3. Possible Undertakings to be made by Non-Members as a Condition of Participation

(a) Acceptance of the Principles of the Charter

The non-member might be required to accept formally the relevant parts of Article 2 of the Charter along the following lines which would be written into the basic General Assembly resolution:

“—— accepts the obligations set forth in Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular obligations—

to settle its international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered (Article 2:3);
to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations (Article 2:4);
to give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the Charter and to refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations may take preventive or enforcement action (Article 2:5).

(b) A voluntary financial contribution by each non-member to the United Nations budget. This should be small—i.e., less than the minimal contribution of members, which is .04% (ca. $16,000 on the present budget). Such a contribution might in theory be (a) a means of covering the expenses resulting from non-member participation, including documents, and (b) a token contribution to the maintenance of international security.

(c) Undertaking to be bound by United Nations decisions or actions in the consideration of which the non-member has participated, to the same extent as are members of the United Nations.

Such a provision as (a) would furnish a basis for developing the participation of key non-member states in United Nations collective efforts. It is, of course, not certain how many non-member states would accept such conditions. Probably a number of friendly states could be induced to accept. The provision would establish a single standard for all non-members, including Cominform countries, by which the Cominform countries would exclude themselves.

4. Alternative Arrangements for Determining which States may Participate.

A General Assembly resolution might be adopted, offering the type of participation decided upon to

a) any state

b) a list of named states

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c) any state whose application for United Nations Membership is pending;

d) any state which accepts specified obligations—perhaps any or all of those outlined under (3) above;

e) a combination of the above alternatives might involve automatic grant of the privilege of participation to certain states or categories of states, such as (b) and (c) above, and ad hoc Assembly action in any requests by other states.

The above alternatives offer a range from individual selection of a single state to a blanket arrangement including the Soviet satellites and anything else that could be called a “state”.

Alternative (a) would appear to be too broad—it would make expulsion of even diminutive states difficult.

Alternative (b) might include a long or short list; it seems likely however that the list would become long. Such a list might include all of the states included under, (a), (b) and (c) of paragraph 1 on pages 1 and 2.

The assumption of obligations by the non-Member states as a condition for use of the privilege has certain advantages. However, a broad grant of the privilege, on as non-political a basis as possible, would revive much support in the United Nations and it might be difficult for us to secure an arrangement that would include our friends and exclude the Soviet satellites. This is particularly true since the concessions to the non-Members are not great in any case.

5. Certain Problems of Arrangements for Non-Member Participation

  • (a) Questions will arise concerning the United States attitude toward admission to this country, and privileges and immunities while in this country, of representatives of non-member States who are seeking to participate in the General Assembly pursuant to a general arrangement. The answers are not clear, and it seems essential to secure the opinion of the Attorney General on these points before moving internationally. UNI is now preparing a communication to the Attorney General.
  • (b) Such arrangements would lengthen General Assembly sessions, and could conceivably make obstruction by Soviet satellites more extensive.
  • (c) Non-Member States might regard such arrangements as “second-class membership” and refuse to participate. Obviously, advanced consultations with some of them would be necessary.

6. Recommendation

It is suggested that, if it seems clear that the problems set forth under 5 (a) can be solved, we might work out a draft resolution which would in effect invite a long list of States—including the Soviet applicants and some or all of these listed under 1 (c) to participate in the [Page 310] main committees (and perhaps the plenary General Assembly) to the extent of making a statement on the substance of each item.

We might inform the UK, France and at least certain Latin American governments that we could vote for a resolution along these lines if the majority of the General Assembly and of the non-member States desired it. It would be preferable for some other States—perhaps El Salvador—to make the formal proposal.

  1. Paul B. Taylor drafted the memorandum, but it represented completed staff work by UNP as a whole. On the same date, May 1, it was circulated by the Office Director (Wainhouse) to other components of the Bureau of United Nations Affairs for study.