Editorial Note

On November 16 an event had occurred in the Fourth Committee with important consequences for the ongoing debate on the report of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Fourth Committee voted favorably on a nine-power (Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines) joint draft resolution which provided that the Committee would hear petitioners from the Herero and Nama peoples of South West Africa in the person of certain named chiefs or headmen and/or other spokesmen designated by them (UN Doc. A/C.4/L.136; for text, see UN Doc. A/C.4/190 which has the same text, GA (VI), Annexes, agenda item 38). The joint draft resolution was adopted by 37 votes to 7, with 7 abstentions. The United States abstained from voting.

The United States Delegate, Ambassador Francis B. Sayre, made a statement to the Committee just before the vote. He said that “largely for the reasons put forward by the Danish representative” and partly because the Ad Hoc Committee of which the United States was a member had already expressed its view on the question, the United States Delegation would abstain. The Danish Delegate, Mr. Lannung, in an earlier statement had emphasized that he did not believe that the Fourth Committee was entitled to grant hearings in this case without the consent of South Africa. (GA (VI), Fourth Committee, page 19)

This was the basis of the position set forth by Dr. Donges, the Delegate of South Africa, in a strong statement which drew a distinction between the Committee’s powers with regard to trusteeship territories vis-à-vis Non-self-governing Territories outside the United Nations trusteeship system. “The United Nations Charter contained no provision for the hearing of oral petitions from non-self-governing territories.” [Page 700]At the conclusion of his statement, Dr. Donges cautioned the Committee:

“The Committee would make its own decision; all he could do was to draw its attention to the implications involved in accepting the draft resolution. He had done so to the best of his ability and, whatever the outcome, the responsibility would rest on the shoulders of the Committee.” (GA (VI), Fourth Committee, page 18)