317. Memorandum From Samuel Belk of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

SUBJECT

  • The 19th General Assembly Opens

The SYG’s language as he opened the GA is interesting:

“In view of the differences of opinion which have arisen among Member States regarding the conduct of the Nineteenth Session I have been in consultation with several delegations for the past week with the [Page 689]sole purpose of avoiding a confrontation. In this connection I may mention that there is an understanding to the effect that issues other than those that can be disposed of without objection will not be raised while the General Debate proceeds. [Italics mine]2 I hope all delegations will agree with this procedure. As far as today’s meeting is concerned there is general agreement that on the above basis we may proceed with the following items of business:

1)
Appointment of the Credentials Committee.
2)
Election of the President.
3)
Admission of new members.

I would recommend that the Assembly may proceed accordingly.”

Following this, a highly nervous Sosa Rodriques managed to get the Credentials Committee appointed by the Assembly “without objection” (interpretation: “I don’t care”). Next, Alex Quaison-Sackey of Ghana became President of the 19th GA “without objection” because (1) the other two candidates withdrew and left him as the only candidate, and (2) Quaison-Sackey reportedly had $150,000.00 to spend on behalf of his candidacy from the coffers of Accra. This is not a happy choice for us, but what can you do when it was already agreed that an African would be the GA President for this session, and the other two African candidates withdrew.

Quaison-Sackey, as a first order of business made a sharp, anti-colonial speech that might have been drafted by Nkrumah himself.

He then proceeded to get three new members admitted (Zambia, Malawi and Malta) “without objection”. Quaison-Sackey then adjourned the Assembly until 10:30 tomorrow. At that time representatives of the new member states will speak and most likely a number of other welcoming speeches will follow. That should occupy the day.

Next, the Assembly will go into the general debate which could easily occupy the time between now and Christmas recess. So much for the non-voting General Assembly for the time being.

The important work now at hand is what the Secretary can accomplish with the Russians beginning with another lunch with Gromyko tomorrow. There are four items—requiring no vote—on which there could be forward movement and, as of now, it is the Secretary’s plan to propose them to Gromyko:

1)
The establishment of a voluntary fund into which the Russians can make a contribution and take care of their debt to the Organization. The Russians have agreed to this in principle, but the terms of reference have not yet been worked out.
2)
The creation of a Committee to take a new look at long-range-financing or, alternatively, refer the matter to the already existing Committee of 21 (Finances).
3)
An agreement with regard to the membership of councils—the membership of the Security Council and ECOSOC will change at the end of the year and this should not be delayed.
4)
A means whereby the SYG can continue to expend funds at the current rate until a new budget can be agreed upon.

This is where we now stand. The key to where we emerge is in the Secretary’s pocket.

A mildly humorous sidelight on the afternoon’s procedures was the dropping of the language “by acclamation” for “without objection” because it was argued that the former could be interpreted as a unanimous affirmative vote. Therefore, the business accomplished was “without objection”, but with applause. One purist in Harlan’s office yelled: “Oh no! They can’t applaud! They’re voting!” End of report.

SEB
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Nations, Memos, Vol. 1. Confidential.
  2. Brackets in the source text.