IO Files

Department of State Instruction to the United States Delegation to the Sixth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations 1

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SD/A/C.4/89

The Question of South West Africa

the problem

The problem is to determine the position which the United States Delegation should take with regard to the question of South West Africa.

recommendations

1. The Delegation should favor continued efforts to achieve agreement, consistent with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, with the Union of South Africa on the future status of the territory of South West Africa.

2. The Delegation should support the position of the Ad Hoc Committee on South West Africa as outlined in its report to the Assembly and any action by the Assembly urging the Union to reconsider its stand and accept the Committee’s offer of further consultations on the basis of the Committee’s draft agreement.

3. If there appears to be any possibility of further consultations with the Union along the lines proposed by the Committee, the United States should endeavor to discourage any action by the Assembly which might prejudice such consultations.

4. If the Union maintains its stand that the Committee’s proposal is unacceptable to it as a basis for further consultations, the Delegation should attempt to moderate any unduly critical or condemnatory action by the Assembly but should support any reasonably moderate action such as (a) urging the Union to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, (b) recommending resumption [Page 691]of reporting by the Union on South West Africa or (c) recommending acceptance by the Union of the Committee’s draft agreement.

5. The Delegation may indicate its willingness to examine any further suggestions as to procedures for implementing the Court’s opinion. However, it should not indicate support for any procedure which would wholly divorce the General Assembly from the supervisory machinery.

6. If the question is raised as to whether the United States, as one of the remaining Principal Allied and Associated Powers, would be willing to be one of the contracting parties to an agreement with the Union the Delegation should indicate that the United States would be willing to do so if the United Kingdom and France agreed and if the agreement is approved by the General Assembly.

7. With regard to the petitions attached to the report of the Committee on South West Africa the Delegation should take the position that as they have been forwarded to the Union Government in conformity with the procedures of the former Mandates System it would be preferable that no action be taken pending receipt of comments from the Union Government during the six months period allowed for the transmission of such comments.

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The question of South West Africa is on the Assembly’s agenda by virtue of General Assembly Resolution 449 A (V), of which the United States was one of the co-sponsors. Paragraph 3 of the operative part of this resolution “establishes a Committee of five consisting of representatives of Denmark, Syria, Thailand, United States of America and Uruguay, to confer with the Union of South Africa concerning the procedural measures necessary for implementing the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and to submit a report thereon to the next regular session of the General Assembly”. Paragraph 4 “authorizes the Committee, as an interim measure, pending the completion of its task referred to in paragraph 3, and, as far as possible in accordance with the procedure of the former Mandates System, to examine the report on the administration of the Territory of South West Africa covering the period since the last report, as well as petitions and any other material relating to the Territory that may be transmitted to the Secretary-General, and to submit a report thereon to the next regular session of the General Assembly.”

With regard to paragraph 3, the report of the Committee recounts the activities of the Committee, including the proposal made to it by the Union of South Africa, the counter-proposal made to the Union by the Committee (in the form of a draft agreement for South West Africa), and notes the unwillingness of the Union to accept the Committee’s [Page 692]counter-proposal as a basis for further consultations. The Committee, while thus having reached an impasse at the time of the adoption of its report, continued to hold the door open for further consultations on the basis of its own counter-proposal.2

The United States played an active role in the work of the Committee and considers that the Committee made a careful and commendable effort to achieve agreement with the Union. We regret that the Union has been unable to accept as a basis for discussion the draft agreement submitted to it by the Committee. We consider this draft agreement fair and reasonable; furthermore, it is doubtful if any proposal containing less than the principle set forth therein could be considered to be in conformity with the Court’s opinion or would be approved by the General Assembly. We hope, therefore, that the Union will reconsider its stand and accept the Committee’s offer of further consultations on the basis of the substance of the Committee’s proposal.

While there are difficulties inherent in further delays on this question, the United States considers that it would be advantageous for the Committee to continue consultations with the Union if the latter shows any willingness to consult further on the basis of the substance of the Committee’s counter-proposal. However, should the Union maintain its position that it can not accept the Committee’s counterproposal as a basis for discussion, it is difficult to see any useful purpose that could be served by endeavoring to continue consultations. In the face of such an attitude on the part of the Union, the United States, in order to maintain a consistent position, would be obliged to support action by the Assembly urging the Union to implement the Court’s opinion and while the Delegation should endeavor to avoid condemnatory action by the Assembly, it could scarcely oppose a resolution which contained certain critical implications.

With regard to paragraph 4 of Resolution 449 A (V) the report of the Committee states that the Committee was unable to comply with the General Assembly’s instructions because no reports were submitted. So far as the examination of petitions is concerned the Committee reports that it considered two communications addressed to the Secretary General on the question of South West Africa, accepted them as petitions and, in accordance with the procedures of the former Mandates System, transmitted them to the Union Government for comment. Copies of the petitions are attached to the Committee’s report. It would not seem appropriate, therefore, to take any further action on these petitions, both of which were addressed to the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on South West Africa, pending the receipt of comments thereon by the Union Government during the six months period allowed for the transmission of such comments under the procedures of the former Mandates System. Should new petitions be [Page 693]brought up for consideration in the Fourth Committee, they would have to be judged on their merits and the Delegation would consult the Department as necessary.

In connection with the examination of any further suggestions as to procedures for implementing the Court’s opinion, the United States could not support procedures which would wholly divorce the General Assembly from the supervisory machinery because such procedures would not be in conformity with the advisory opinion of the Court. The Court arrived at the conclusion “that the General Assembly of the United Nations is legally qualified to exercise the supervisory functions previously exercised by the League of Nations with regard to the administration of the Territory, and that the Union of South Africa is under an obligation to submit to supervision and control of the General Assembly and to render annual reports to it”.

The Union, in its proposal to the Committee, suggested that it might make an agreement with the remaining Principal Allied and Associated Powers of World War I (i.e., United Kingdom, France and United States) establishing its responsibility toward South West Africa. The representative of the United States on the Committee was authorized to state that the United States was willing to be one of the contracting parties to an agreement such as that proposed by the Committee if the United Kingdom and France agreed and if it was approved by the General Assembly. There appears to be no reason why this position should be altered.

  1. The General Assembly was to convene in Paris on November 6. For information regarding the composition and organization of the U.S. Delegation, see pp. 2 10 and 37 44.
  2. Regarding the work of the committee and its report, see footnote 1, p. 682.