Department of State Instruction to the United States Delegation to the Sixth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations1
Information on the Implementation of Trusteeship Council and General Assembly Resolutions Relating to Trust Territories: the Report of the Secretary General
The problem is to determine the position of the United States Delegation to the Sixth Session of the General Assembly on the question of the implementation of Trusteeship Council and General Assembly resolutions relating to Trust Territories.[Page 656]
1. On the general question of the implementation of General Assembly and Trusteeship Council resolutions, the United States Delegation should base its position on the following two factors:
- The United States does not consider that the nature of the obligations arising from recommendations by the General Assembly or the Trusteeship Council on trusteeship affairs differs from that arising from recommendations by the General Assembly on other subjects.
- With respect to the nature of the obligation arising from such recommendations, the United States considers that, although such recommendations do not have the force of law, they should be accorded the greatest respect and every effort should be made to carry them into effect.
2. The United States Delegation should seek, insofar as possible, to minimize any discussion of the nature of the obligation arising from recommendations concerning trusteeship and to avert the introduction or adoption of any proposal thereon in the Fourth Committee. Should a proposal be introduced which would attempt to establish or recognize a legal obligation on the part of administering authorities to implement recommendations of the General Assembly or the Trusteeship Council on trusteeship affairs, the Delegation should initially take the position that such a proposal is concerned with an aspect of the general question of the nature and extent of the obligations imposed on Members by all recommendations of the General Assembly and therefore involves matters which are beyond the scope of the Fourth Committee. The Delegation might, on the above grounds, (1) seek to have such a proposal withdrawn or (2) if appropriate, favor referring the question to the Sixth Committee. If substantive action in the Fourth Committee cannot be averted by these or other means, the Delegation should (1) oppose such a proposal or (2) if necessary, favor amendments to make the proposal acceptable in terms of the position set forth in Recommendation 1.
3. The Delegation should take into account the foregoing considerations in any discussion of specific issues covered by the Report of the Secretary General pursuant to Resolution 436 (V). Should the question of further reports by the Secretary General arise, the Delegation should take the position that there is no need for such reports since, pursuant to Trusteeship Council Resolution 128 (VI), the Reports of the Trusteeship Council to the General Assembly include information on the implementation of resolutions, and should, if necessary, vote against a proposal for further special reports by the Secretary General, making clear that it was doing so on the procedural grounds outlined above.
4. If the question of the implementation of General Assembly recommendations in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands is raised, [Page 657] the Delegation should take the position that the United States is making and will continue to make every effort to carry out the views of the General Assembly, subject to security considerations and without prejudice to the status of the Territory as a strategic area. If the Secretary General’s report pursuant to Resolution 436 (V) includes data on the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the United States should not object to inclusion in the Secretary General’s report of data on the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands for the information of the Assembly.
The question of the implementation by administering authorities of recommendations of the General Assembly and the Trusteeship Council relating to trusteeship matters has received increasing attention at recent sessions of the Assembly. The General Assembly at its Fourth Session adopted four resolutions, (320(IV), 322(IV), 323 (IV), and 324(IV)), dealing respectively with political, economic, social and educational advancement in trust territories. Each of these resolutions included a recommendation that the Trusteeship Council include in its report to the Assembly a special section on the implementation by administering authorities of recommendations in each of these fields. Accordingly the Trusteeship Council at its Sixth Session adopted Resolution 128 (VI) in which it resolved to include in future reports to the Assembly special sections on the implementation of recommendations of the General Assembly and information on the application of the recommendations of the Trusteeship Council. As a result of this decision separate sections on implementation were included in those parts of the Council’s report to the Assembly covering its Sixth and Seventh Sessions which were adopted after the passage of Resolution 128 (VI). Thus, for example, the Council’s report on British Togoland, adopted at the Seventh Session, includes in Part I, under each of the functional fields, a section which quotes each previous recommendation dealing with that field, followed by detailed information on the implementation of that recommendation based on information from the annual reports by the administering authorities and the statements made by the representative and special representative of the administering authorities during the Council’s discussion of the annual report on the Territory. It should also be noted that the Trusteeship Council’s Provisional Questionnaire, upon which the annual reports of the administering authorities are based, includes as question 246 the following: “What has been done to implement the suggestions and recommendations of the Trusteeship Council and the General Assembly?” Annual reports have included, in varying degrees of detail, information in response to this question.
Despite the action noted above, however, a draft resolution was introduced into the Fourth Committee at the Fifth General Assembly by the [Page 658] Mexican and Cuban delegations which requested the Secretary General to prepare a list of Assembly and Council resolutions, and to report annually to the Assembly on the implemental action pursuant to these resolutions, setting forth the reasons for delay in cases where no implementai action has been taken. The United States opposed this resolution on the grounds that it would result in a duplication of effort, was unnecessary, ill-timed, and might result in confusion. Other administering authorities also opposed the draft resolution, chiefly on procedural rather than substantive grounds; however, in commenting on the draft, the United Kingdom delegation stated that the administering authorities were not required automatically to apply resolutions of the General Assembly or the Council; they considered those resolutions as mere recommendations and felt bound to accept them only if they judged them to be compatible with the conditions in the Territory concerned and in accordance with the essential aims of the Trusteeship System. Shortly after this unfortunate statement, the Philippine delegate, stating that he could not agree with the British statement, introduced an amendment to the preamble of the draft resolution, the first paragraph of which read as follows:
“Considering that the Administering Authorities have a clear obligation to implement the recommendations of the General Assembly and the Trusteeship Council in matters relating to Chapter XII and XIII of the Charter;”
In introducing and defending this amendment, the Philippine delegation made it clear that this amendment referred to a “binding obligation”, resting upon a legal basis.
In discussing the above amendment at a subsequent meeting, the United States urged the Philippines to withdraw the amendment since it had only a tenuous connection with the draft resolution and raised the broad issue of relations between the General Assembly and Member States with respect to Assembly resolutions, a matter which affected the work of all Committees of the General Assembly. The Cuban delegation also urged withdrawal of the amendment, although it supported the principle and would vote for it as a separate draft resolution. The Indian delegation stated that it supported the principle of the amendment but would abstain in the vote since it regarded the amendment as unnecessary. The Philippines thereupon withdrew the amendment but reserved the right to submit it at another time as a separate resolution. In withdrawing the resolution, the Philippines attempted to refute the various arguments which had been advanced against it and, in particular, took exception to the United States view that the principle raised the question of relations between the General Assembly and Member states. In the Philippines view the principle concerned only relations between the Assembly and administering authorities of trust territories. Following the withdrawal of the [Page 659] amendment, the draft resolution was adopted by the Fourth Committee by a vote of 31–11–5 and in the plenary by a vote of 33–11–12. In both cases the six administering authorities voted negatively.
In view of the background of this question, it is possible that the question of implementation will be a major issue in the Fourth Committee of the Sixth Assembly and that the Secretary General’s Report called for in the above resolution will serve as a point of departure for a discussion of the nature of the obligations of administering authorities arising from recommendations with respect to trusteeship. Furthermore, there is a strong possibility that an attempt will be made to introduce a proposal along the lines of the Philippine amendment of last year. Such a situation poses a difficult problem for the United States since, while making every effort to strengthen the General Assembly and respect for its actions, it might be forced to support a restrictive position with respect to the legal obligations deriving, from Assembly recommendations. While the United States position on the substance of the issue is clear, (see Recommendation 1, (b)), it would obviously be preferable for the United States to avoid, if possible, emphasizing the negative aspect of that position. A discussion of the question might very well result in other administering authorities stressing the non-obligatory character of Assembly recommendations. Furthermore, a divisive debate on this issue could well have unfortunate effects on United States efforts to encourage both administering and non-administering Members to adopt a broad, constructive and cooperative attitude in United Nations’ discussions of colonial affairs.
In view of the consideration outlined above, it is believed that the United States should make every effort to keep discussion of this question to a minimum and, by appropriate informal consultation, to avert the introduction of any proposal dealing with the nature of the obligation arising from recommendations concerning trusteeship. While it would be preferable that no proposal on this subject be debated in the Fourth Committee in view of the implications which such a debate would have with respect to Assembly actions in other fields, such an outcome may prove impossible. Should a proposal along the lines of the Philippine amendment of last year be introduced, the United States should seek to prevent its adoption without, if possible, taking a position which would emphasize the legal limitations inherent in the obligations attaching to Assembly or Council actions. This might be achieved by taking the position that such a proposal raises the broad issue of the nature and extent of obligations imposed on all Members by Assembly recommendations and therefore extends beyond the scope of the Fourth Committee. This would provide a basis, without taking a position on the substance of the proposal, for urging that the proposal be withdrawn or referred to the Sixth Committee. The latter tactic may be useful since the Sixth Committee is less likely [Page 660] to be influenced by the political and emotional factors which are inherent in Fourth Committee discussions and therefore less likely to support the thesis that recommendations of the Assembly and the Council with respect to trusteeship differ from other recommendations in that they impose on administering authorities a legally binding obligation for implementation. This was the main argument advanced by the Philippine delegation at the Fifth Assembly in support of its amendment and, judging from the brief discussion of the issue at that time, there may be considerable support for this argumentation among non-administering members. Briefly stated, this argument holds that the Assembly under Article 18 (2) makes “binding decisions” with respect to trusteeship rather than “recommendations” as in the case of matters involving international peace and security; furthermore, resolutions of the Assembly on trusteeship affairs were directed to states, not as Members of the United Nations, but as Administering Authorities of Trust Territories, who are regarded as “agents”, responsible to a higher authority and bound by its decisions. While this argument is believed to be susceptible of refutation along the lines outlined below, the atmosphere of the Fourth Committee may indicate that the Sixth Committee would be a more sympathetic forum in which to debate what is essentially a legal issue.
If, however, neither withdrawal nor reference to the Sixth Committee appears feasible, a proposal of the type anticipated might successfully be opposed in the Fourth Committee by refutation of the argument outlined above without taking a definitive position on the issue of the obligation involved in Assembly action. Thus without debating the issue of the nature of the obligation involved, the enthusiasm of many non-administering members for a legally binding obligation with respect to trusteeship matters may be dampened if the position can be established that—whatever the nature of the obligation is—it does not differ from that placed upon all Members by Assembly actions. The following points might be used to establish this position:
- Article 10 of the Charter provides that the Assembly may discuss and make “recommendations” with respect to any questions and matters within the scope of the present Charter, except as provided in Article 12.
- While Article 18 (2) provides that “decisions” of the Assembly on certain questions (including trusteeship matters) shall be by a two-thirds majority whereas “recommendations” are specifically mentioned only with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security, it cannot be concluded that this represents an attempt to differentiate with respect to the obligation involved between “decisions” and “recommendations”. It is obvious in the context of the Charter that the term “decisions” is employed to describe all actions adopted by the Assembly which may include recommendations, requests, expressions of opinion or desire, etc. If it is argued that the term [Page 661] “decisions” in this instance implies a particular sort of obligation, it would follow that the same sort of obligation must arise in those matters covered by Article 18 (3) where it is provided that “decisions” on “other questions” shall be made by a simple majority. A similar deduction would have to be made with respect to Article 67 concerning actions of ECOSOC and Article 89 concerning actions of the Trusteeship Council.
- Furthermore, Articles 81, 85 and 87 provide that the relationship between a state, in its capacity as an Administering Authority, and the General Assembly shall be established by individual trusteeship agreements and that the actions of the Assembly and the Council in carrying out their functions shall be in conformity therewith. There are no provisions in the trusteeship agreements adopted thus far upon which it could be concluded that administering authorities have accepted an obligation with respect to Assembly actions, the nature of which differ from that of other Member states.
If despite refutation along the above lines, there does not appear to be sufficient opposition to ensure the outright defeat of a proposal of the type envisaged here, the remaining alternative would be amendment of the proposal to make it acceptable in terms of the the fundamental position of the United States as set forth in Recommendation 1 (b). Consideration of this alternative has been left to the last, however, since as was stated before, it is preferable that no proposal of any type be adopted on this question. Since the United States considers that the obligation attaching to recommendations of the Assembly in the case of trusteeship affairs does not differ from that in other cases, any proposal or amendment to a proposal which would emphasize the legal limitations involved in the obligation with respect to trusteeship would, ipso facto, imply that the same limitations applied in all other cases. Obviously such an implication would be undesirable in view of United States’ efforts to strengthen the Assembly and to emphasize the general responsibility of Members to respect and implement its recommendations. While it is difficult to foresee all of the tactical possibilities which might arise in consideration of a proposal of this type, it should be borne in mind that a situation might develop in which the objectives of the United States might be achieved by abstention.
Although a proposal of the type dealt with above is likely to be the major problem which will arise in connection with the agenda item on implementation of Assembly and Council resolutions, it is possible that a proposal may be made to require further reports by the Secretary General of the type submitted this year. In its original draft form, Resolution 436 (V) called for annual reports by the Secretary General; this was changed in a subsequent revision to provide for one report covering action up to the present time. While the United States and other administering authorities opposed the draft resolution in both forms, as unnecessary and repetitious, proponents of the resolution [Page 662] pointed out that it would be advantageous to Members to have all the information available to date on this subject collected into one document for ready reference. Even if this consideration were of sufficient importance to justify the report called for in Resolution 436 (V), it would not appear to have any validity with respect to further reports, particularly on an annual basis. As was pointed out before, the Trusteeship Council includes sections on implementation in its annual report to the Assembly. There appears to be no justification for changing the position adopted by the United States on this issue at the Fifth Assembly, and the United States should therefore oppose further reports by the Secretary General on implementation.
The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, administered by the United States, has been designated as a strategic area under the terms of the Trusteeship Agreement, and Article 83 (1) of the Charter provides that all functions of the United Nations relating to strategic areas shall be exercised by the Security Council, which shall avail itself of the assistance of the Trusteeship Council in performing those functions relating to political, economic, social and educational matters. Relations between the Security Council and the Trusteeship Council with respect to strategic areas were the subject of a resolution adopted by the Security Council at its 415th meeting on March 7, 1949, (S/1280), which requested the Trusteeship Council to perform on behalf of the Security Council to the functions specified in Articles 87 and 88 of the Charter, subject to any decisions made by the Security Council with respect to security considerations. The Trusteeship Council was also requested to submit to the Security Council its reports and recommendations on strategic areas. Three such reports have been submitted to the Security Council thus far but have not been discussed in that body.
On the basis of a strict interpretation of the Charter, the General Assembly may be regarded as exercising no functions with respect to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. However, should the question of implementation of General Assembly resolutions in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands arise, the United States should avoid a narrow, legalistic position which might arouse suspicions as to the actions or intentions of the United States in the territory or which might prejudice the United States efforts to promote a cooperative and progressive attitude toward trusteeship affairs. While making a brief and general reservation with respect to the status of the territory as a strategic area, the United States should state that it is making and will continue to make every effort to carry out the views of the Assembly and the Council. Should the Secretary General include in his report information on implementai action by the United States as administering authority, the United States might state, if appropriate, that it has no objection to the inclusion in the Secretary General’s [Page 663] report of data for the information of the Assembly on the implementation of resolutions in the Trust Territory.
Although neither, the Fourth Committee nor the General Assembly took action on this item until January 1952, this position paper is printed here as of interest in this phase of Department’s policy formulation.↩