IO files, SD/A/C.4/115

Position Paper Prepared in the Department of State for the United States Delegation to the Eighth Regular Session of the General Assembly

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Cessation of Transmission of Information Under Article 73(e) of the Charter in Respect of Puerto Rico

the problem

Since 1946 the United States in pursuance of Article 73(e) of the UN Charter has transmitted annually to the Secretary General information on Puerto Rico as a territory “whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government”. With the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico under the constitution promulgated on July 25, 1952 the United States Government and the Puerto Rican Government concluded that the people of Puerto Rico have attained a full measure of self-government and that it was no longer appropriate to transmit information on Puerto Rico under Article 73(e). In accordance with Resolution 222 (III), the United States Government informed the United Nations of this decision and transmitted appropriate documentation for the information of UN Members in communications dated January 19 and March 20, 1953. These communications are presently under consideration by the General Assembly’s Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories which will report thereon to the Eighth General Assembly.

The problem confronting the United States is twofold: (1) to ensure that UN Members have the fullest possible understanding of what the Puerto Rican people have achieved in fulfillment of their freely expressed wishes, and to obtain maximum support for the US view that this constitutes a full measure of self-government; and (2) to have the General Assembly take note of the developments and the consequent [Page 1450]US decision to cease reporting on Puerto Rico in an acceptable resolution.

The United States has a strong case. However, some UN Members may be inclined to consider the Puerto Rican case not only on its merits but also in relation to other aspects of the highly controversial colonial problem. Moreover, the desire of some non-Administering Members to strengthen the role of the General Assembly in colonial affairs may result in the injection into the discussion of such complicating issues as (1) competence: i.e. the role of the General Assembly in making the decision on reporting under Article 73(e); (2) the question of granting an oral hearing to the Independence Party (a minority political party in Puerto Rico); and (3) proposals to grant the special status of “associate member” of the Committee on Information to Puerto Rico.

united states position

1.
The Delegation should freely provide information, both in UN meetings and informally in response to questions, regarding the constitutional position and status of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the political, economic, social and educational development of Puerto Rico. It is hoped that a prominent official of the Puerto Rican Government will be attached to the Delegation for this purpose.
2.
While it is hoped that the UN will not seriously question our decision to cease transmitting information on Puerto Rico and that the issue of the competence of the General Assembly will not be raised in an acute form, the Delegation should make every effort to avoid controversy over the question of competence. Regarding this general problem of which authority has the right to determine when a territory has achieved “a full measure of self-government” and therefore need no longer be reported on under Article 73(e), the Delegation should be guided by the following position: We believe that each Administering Member is responsible for determining the constitutional position and status of territories under its sovereignty, and the decision with respect to reporting under Article 73(e) on specific territories rests solely with the Administering Member concerned. We do not believe, however, that the interpretation of the expressions “non-self-governing territories” and “territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government”, since they appear in the Charter is a matter for unilateral determination by individual Administering Members. We believe, therefore, in view of Article 10 that the General Assembly, for example, has the authority to discuss and attempt to define the above expressions, to recommend to Administering Members generally the consideration of any definition it might adopt, or even to express the opinion in general terms on the principles which [Page 1451]have guided or may guide Members in deciding on which of their territories they will transmit information.
3.
The General Assembly will have before it a draft resolution on Puerto Rico recommended by the Committee on Information. We consider that the United States was fully justified in ceasing to report on Puerto Rico and would vigorously oppose any resolution which stated the contrary view. Our opposition to any such resolution would not be based on the view that the General Assembly is not competent to criticize our decision but rather on the view that our decision is right. We would, however, vote for a resolution commending our action. If a resolution is proposed which clearly raises the issue of competence, the Delegation should consult the Department as to its voting position.
4.
The Delegation should bear in mind the desirability of avoiding any action by the General Assembly which would result in carrying over the question to a later session.
5.
The Delegation should oppose any efforts to grant oral hearings to any of the groups from Puerto Rico which have petitioned the UN to be heard on this item. In so doing the Delegation should maintain that it would be inappropriate for an organ of the General Assembly to hear the views of a domestic political party, whose views were rejected by the Puerto Rican people in a free democratic election.
6.
The Delegation should oppose any proposal to extend to Puerto Rico a continuing status in connection with the work of the Committee on Information for example as an “associate member” of the Committee. Such a proposal would imply an unwillingness on the part of the General Assembly to accord due recognition to the full measure of self-government which Puerto Rico has achieved and a lack of understanding of its constitutional position within the Federal system.

comment

By 1948 several administering authorities had ceased to transmit information to the UN under Article 73(e) on certain of thir non-self-governing territories. This led to the adoption of Resolution 222 (III) wherein the General Assembly considered it essential that the UN be informed of any change in the constitutional position of any non-self-governing territory as the result of which the responsible government concerned thinks it unnecessary to transmit information in respect of that territory under Article 73(e). This resolution also requested the administering authority concerned to communicate to the Secretary General appropriate information regarding the change in status of the territory. The United States supported this resolution and has complied fully with its provisions in the present case.