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

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs ( Hickerson ) to the United States Representative at the United Nations ( Austin )1


Subject: Membership Question and Related Matters

Before formulating our position on the membership question and related matters, we should like to have the views of certain other United Nations Members. In view of past exchanges of views on the membership issue with the UK, France and Canada, particularly in connection with the Foreign Ministers meeting in London in 1950, it is requested that you have preliminary discussions with their United Nations delegations concerning the possible approaches to these matters. We would wish that these discussions be kept strictly confidential and that, in particular, no other delegations, including Commonwealth delegations, be informed. There are outlined below various alternative courses of action for your use in such discussions. It should be made clear that the United States has not yet formulated its position on these alternatives. It is also important to avoid creating the impression that these are questions to which the United States attaches particular importance at this time. Rather, they should be regarded as long-standing problems which may arise at the Sixth Session of the General Assembly and which therefore merit consideration.

A. Membership Question

It has been the position of the United States, and generally that of the UK, France and Canada, to support the admission to membership of nine applicants (Austria, Ceylon, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, the Republic of Korea, Portugal, and Nepal) and to oppose the admission of five (Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Mongolian Peoples’ Republic and Rumania). All fourteen applications have been rejected in the Security Council through Soviet vetoes of non-Soviet candidates and majority decisions against the Soviet candidates.

The present General Assembly resolution on membership, adopted last year, merely requests the Security Council to keep pending applications under consideration in accordance with the terms of previous resolutions. Annual reconsideration is not necessary and did not, in fact, take place in 1950. Thus the membership question could remain dormant, without any action being taken, or a proposal for reconsideration of applications this year might be submitted.

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There appear to be two other alternative courses:

To agree to consider a single applicant, or a small number of applicants (See Section C below on Special Provisions Concerning Italy).
To support a general arrangement in which all 14 applicants, plus Libya, Spain, Japan, the Associated States of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and the Federal Republic of Germany would be cleared through the Security Council at the outset and the General Assembly would determine when to admit them to membership. (For a form of this arrangement, see Department’s telegram 281, September 16, 1950.)2

In the past the possibility of amending Article 4 of the Charter to eliminate the veto from Security Council voting on membership applications and to establish the principle of United Nations membership as being universal rather than selective has been suggested from time to time. In view of the confusion that such an amendment might raise in the minds of the American people in connection with the Chinese representation issue, this alternative would not be feasible at present.

B. Non-Member Participation in the General Assembly

You will recall that at the Fifth Session, El Salvador submitted a proposal to permit the nine vetoed applicants to participate in General Assembly proceedings. On the assumption that it will not be practicable this year to admit new Members to the United Nations, the question would arise whether some arrangement for participation by non-Member States in the General Assembly would be desirable.

Possible alternative arrangements for participation by non-Members in the General Assembly might include the following:

  • (1) The General Assembly might adopt a resolution providing that, upon specific request therefor by a non-Member State, the General Assembly would decide whether to grant the State a general privilege of participating without vote in main committees of the Assembly. This participation might for example, include speaking under the same rules as Members on any matter before the committees and of making proposals on matters of substance but not of procedure.
  • (2) The General Assembly might, under the item on Italy’s full participation in the Trusteeship Council, grant the privilege to Italy in the first instance; if other non-Member States subsequently requested the same privilege, the General Assembly could decide on those requests (see Section C below on Special Provisions Concerning Italy).
  • (3) As an alternative to any general arrangement, the General Assembly committees might, more liberally than heretofore, grant participation in their proceedings to non-Member States in the discussion of particular matters in which such States are interested.

Arrangements for non-Member participation would not, of course, be considered as a substitute for admission to membership. Moreover, [Page 332] such arrangements would be useless unless desired by qualified non-Member States. Italy has thus far indicated no desire for the privilege of participation in the General Assembly without full membership rights. The attitude of non-Members might, however, depend upon the circumstances in which the proposal was made. Questions might also be raised as to consistency with the Charter and as to whether or not the arrangement could be extended to the satellite countries.

C. Special Provisions Concerning Italy

For a variety of reasons, including in particular its trusteeship responsibilities, Italy would appear to have a claim to special consideration. Three possible steps, outlined below, for increasing Italy’s participation in the United Nations might be considered by the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly under the item submitted by the Trusteeship Council requesting the General Assembly “to include in the agenda of the Sixth Regular Session the question of the full participation of Italy in the work of the Trusteeship Council.”

  • (1) A General Assembly recommendation that the Security Council reconsider Italy’s application as a special case during the session on the special ground that the only satisfactory way to remove Italy’s handicap in discharging its trusteeship responsibilities is to have full voting participation in the United Nations.
  • (2) A proposal for an amendment to Article 86 of the Charter to give Italy membership in the Trusteeship Council. The first sentence of paragraph 1 could be revised to read: “The Trusteeship Council shall consist of the following States.” (“States” being substituted for “Members of the United Nations”.) Subparagraph (a) of paragraph 1 could be changed to read “those States administering trust territories. …” (“States” being substituted for “Members”.) Probably subparagraph (c) would also have to be revised to read: “as many other Members elected for three-year terms by the General Assembly as may be necessary to ensure that the total number of members of the Trusteeship Council is equally divided between those states which administer trust territories and those which do not.” (The phrase “Members of the United States” being replaced by “States”.)
  • (3) As an interim measure pending admission to membership, an invitation to Italy to participate without vote in main General Assembly Committees.
John D. Hickerson
  1. The source text was attached to the Wainhouse memorandum, July 18, supra, and was dated July 18. Internal evidence based on documentation both in the Department of State and the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) files suggests that the letter was sent dated July 19.
  2. Not printed.