Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson)1

  • Subject:
  • Problems arising at the Tenth Session of the Trusteeship Council
Participants: M. Pignon, French Representative on the Trusteeship Council
M. Hure, French Delegation to the United Nations
M. Shrick, Attaché, French Embassy
Assistant Secretary Hickerson } UNA
Mr. Benjamin Gerig
Mr. William I. Cargo
Mr. Ward Allen, EUR

At his request, M. Pignon called on Mr. Hickerson to discuss certain questions which will arise during the tenth session of the Trusteeship Council.

Organization of a Visiting Mission to Investigate the Ewe Question Pursuant to the Resolution of the General Assembly

M. Pignon recalled that the Assembly resolution on the Ewe question gave the Trusteeship Council the option of sending a special mission to investigate the Ewe question or, alternatively, of entrusting this task to the regular visiting mission which would go to West Africa during 1952. He said that the French Government was completely in favor of the regular mission and strongly opposed the formation of a special mission for the purpose envisaged. He elaborated this point at some length, indicating French apprehension of establishing a special mission because of the precedent which this might constitute and also the view of the French Government that more local agitation would result from a special mission than from a regular mission. Mr. Hickerson indicated that the Department also favored a regular mission to carry out the study of the Ewe problem.

Turning to the question of the date at which a mission might carry out its work in connection with the Ewe question, M. Pignon said that the French Government desired the mission to arrive as late as possible. He pointed out that the elections to the Representative Assembly of French Togoland are scheduled for March 30 and said that it would be undesirable for the visiting mission to arrive during the election campaign. He then pointed out that the Assembly resolution on the Ewe question asks that the mission undertake a study of the operation of the Joint Council for Togoland affairs which is to be established. He observed also that the same resolution requires the administering [Page 1185] authorities to consult with the population regarding the composition of the Joint Council. M. Pignon said that it would not be possible to complete these consultations, to establish the Joint Council, and to have it in operation before July 1. This date, therefore, would be the earliest date that it would be possible for the Mission to be received in French Togoland. He said further that the electoral procedure in British Togoland was still more complicated and that the British, so he had been informed, would be unable to receive the Mission before September 1.

In order to avoid conflict with the General Assembly resolution, which requests the Trusteeship Council to examine the report of the Mission on the Ewe question in time to place the matter before the General Assembly at its next session, M. Pignon believed that a special session of the Trusteeship Council should be convened during the General Assembly. (Subsequently it was pointed out that this might be a second part of the eleventh session of the Council rather than a special session.) The Council would consider the report of the Mission on the Ewe question and thereafter the Assembly would consider the matter, thus complying with the Assembly resolution. In response to Mr. Hickerson’s inquiry, M. Pignon indicated that the Mission would probably need to spend one month in the two Togos. It could then, M. Pignon thought, prepare its report on the Ewe question and despatch it to the United Nations, thereafter carrying out its other functions in the two Togos and the Cameroons.

Mr. Hickerson said that the French proposal seemed to him an ingenious one and noted that it arose from the desire of the French to proceed as far as possible with the organization and functioning of the Joint Council before the arrival of the visiting mission in the territory. He said that, assuming the United Kingdom was in agreement with this procedure, the United States would support it as a reasonable means of implementing the Assembly resolution.

M. Pignon asked whether the United States had any views as to the composition of the Mission. Mr. Hickerson said that we thought that Belgium and Australia would be good choices as administering members. M. Pignon expressed full agreement with this suggestion. As for the non-administering members, Mr. Hickerson said that any of the non-administering members of the Trusteeship Council, except the Soviet Union, seemed to us to be acceptable. It was pointed out, however, that Thailand and the Dominican Republic had just served on the Trusteeship Council’s visiting mission to the trust territories of East Africa.

Administrative Unions

M. Pignon referred to the resolution of the General Assembly on the subject of administrative unions. He pointed out that this resolution [Page 1186] made specific references to the position of the trust territories of the Cameroons and Togoland within the French Union. M. Pignon said that the French Government was anxious for the study on this subject to be undertaken by the Trusteeship Council. They did not wish this to be left to the General Assembly or to the newly established Assembly Committee on Administrative Unions. Mr. Hickerson said he saw no difficulty on this point.


With reference to the General Assembly resolution requesting the Trusteeship Council to establish a standing committee on petitions, M. Pignon said that the French would “cause no difficulty” with regard to the establishment of the standing committee. The French were of the view, however, that the committee should not be in session continually. M. Pignon also felt that it should be permitted to determine which petitions could be disposed of at once by the Trusteeship Council and which, on the other hand, should be discussed in the presence of the special representative from the trust territory concerned and in conjunction with the examination of the annual report on that territory. It was pointed out to M. Pignon that this was substantially the practice followed at the present time. However, it was also noted that the Trusteeship Council’s Rules of Procedure provide for the possibility of examining petitions of an urgent character at an earlier date than would normally be the case. Mr. Hickerson indicated that the general point which M. Pignon had in mind seemed reasonable.

Participation of the Inhabitants of Trust Territories in the Work of the Trusteeship Council

Mr. Hickerson indicated that he was aware of the apprehension of the French Government in connection with the resolution on this subject adopted by the General Assembly. He stated that the United States, too, was opposed to any development in the nature of “dual representation” in the Trusteeship Council which would, in effect, provide some form of special representation for the indigenous inhabitants of trust territories in addition to the representation for France, for example, as the administering authority. The United States felt that such a procedure would be contrary to the spirit of the trusteeship arrangements. However, the United States believed that a moderate implementation of the Assembly resolution could be undertaken without endangering the position of the administering powers. It seemed feasible to the United States for the Trusteeship Council to recommend to the administering authorities that, where practicable, they attach indigenous persons from the trust territory concerned to their Trusteeship Council delegations. He observed that the French and British governments had already used indigenous persons on their delegation [Page 1187] to the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly. Mr. Gerig commented that the United States had had a Puerto Rican member on one of its delegations to the Special Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories. M. Pignon indicated his concurrence with what Mr. Hickerson had said and added that he found no difficulty with the formula which the United States had in mind.

Petitions Relating to the Unification of French and British Cameroons

M. Pignon called attention to a petition which had recently been sent to the United Nations suggesting unification of the two Cameroons. He said that this represented no substantial opinion in the territories. While he was not overly pessimistic on the matter, he feared that efforts might be made to give rise here to a new Togo problem. He observed that the General Assembly strengthened such tendencies when it became aware of them and also said that the United Nations. Secretariat might well exert an unfortunate influence in the matter. Mr. Hickerson said that he recognized the danger, but that he did not know specifically what could be done except to continue, as we had done in the past, to urge a more moderate and temperate approach to such problems.

  1. Drafted by William I. Cargo, Officer in Charge, Trusteeship Affairs.