4. Instruction From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions1



  • Tenth General Assembly Agenda Item Concerning Charter Review

Reference is made to CA–5098 of March 17, 1954.2

It will be recalled that under Article 109 of the UN Charter, the proposal to call a review conference is automatically on the agenda of the tenth General Assembly when it convenes this September. At the San Francisco Conference in 1945, many states, disturbed by the major-power veto, attached great importance to this Charter provision, but such few expressions of opinion as have come to the [Page 5] Department’s attention to date do not indicate a comparable reaction today. For example, Australia, a strong supporter of this provision at San Francisco, has approached us and is, we understand, approaching Canada, France, the Netherlands, the UK, and New Zealand to express doubts about a decision at this time to hold a conference.

In this country there is widespread public interest in the question of a review conference. A Senate subcommittee has been holding hearings on the question for the past year, and both the Secretary and Ambassador Lodge have stated publicly that we favor a review conference. Most recently, on May 3, Ambassador Lodge told the Senate subcommittee: “…3 the United States should support the holding of a Charter Review Conference. A Charter Review Conference held at the proper time is necessary.” In January of last year, the Secretary stated before the same subcommittee that “the United States expects to favor the holding of such a review conference.”

Under Article 109, a decision to hold a review conference is to be taken at the tenth General Assembly by a majority vote and by a vote of any seven members of the Security Council. Therefore, with a view to sounding out the Foreign Office’s position on this question and explaining ours, the Mission is requested, unless it perceives objections, to discuss informally with the Foreign Office the statements of the Secretary and of Ambassador Lodge quoted above. It should point out that Article 109 speaks of “reviewing”, not of “revising”, the Charter, and emphasize that it is a review conference, which may or may not lead to revision, that we have in mind. The Secretary himself has warned against any attempt to rewrite the Charter, and has stated that the “United Nations as it is, is better than no United Nations at all.” The Mission should also indicate that it is our belief that a review conference offers possibilities of accomplishment—first, through procedural agreements which would not involve the amending process, and second, through agreement on a limited number of amendments, which the U.S.S.R. might be induced to ratify by the force of world opinion in support of them.

Specifically what in our view these agreements or amendments should be we are not yet prepared to say, and we would expect that other governments are in a similar position at this stage. Later, however, we anticipate extensive consultations on any proposals we might wish to make and, we would hope, on any proposals that others might be considering. In this way useless and perhaps disruptive public debate of proposals that fail of general acceptability might be avoided.

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It is also our belief that the review process itself could increase general understanding and support of the United Nations by making clear, on the one hand, the flexibility and potentialities of the Charter as it stands and, on the other, the limits beyond which sovereign states are still unwilling to go in undertaking multilateral commitments.

If the question arises of what we consider to be the “proper time” mentioned by Ambassador Lodge, the Mission should indicate that we have not yet taken a position on timing; that we regard this as a matter for the General Assembly to decide and that, in so doing, the latter will presumably take into account the time required to prepare for a conference. FYI. The Secretary has indicated that he does not desire a conference until after 1956. End FYI.

In addition to any indications of whether the Foreign Office attitude is favorable, neutral, or unfavorable to a decision by the tenth General Assembly to hold a review conference, and of how firm this attitude is, the Department would, of course, be interested in any views the Foreign Office may have on the exact nature of possible Assembly action and on the timing of a conference. The Department would also be interested in receiving the Mission’s estimate of the amount of local public interest in a Charter review conference.

USUN is being requested to make a similar approach to friendly UN delegations in New York.

FYI. We understand your British colleague has been instructed to make known to the Foreign Office his Government’s opposition to any definite decision at the tenth GA concerning the convening of a review conference and also to attempt to discourage emphasis on this question in the speeches at the San Francisco commemorative meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 310.1/6–755. Confidential. Sent to 46 posts and repeated to 7 others.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., 310.1/3–1754) For a summary of the U.S. position on Charter review in 1954, see the statement by Dulles and the editorial note, in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. III, pp. 187195.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text.