372. Letter From the Representative to the United Nations (Goldberg) to President Johnson 1

Dear Mr. President:

The Secretary-General has raised with me the matter of the failure of the United States to accede to the United Nations Convention on Privileges and Immunities approved by the General Assembly in 1946,2 and he has asked me to bring this matter to your personal attention. He considers it most important for the United States to accede to this Convention in order to fill certain gaps in the protections afforded to the Organization and its members. I am enclosing a copy of the Aide Mémoire prepared by the Secretary-General’s Legal Counsel setting forth his views on this matter.3

This Convention was submitted to the Congress in 1947, and it was deferred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They issued reports recommending approval. However, no final action was taken.

The principal effect of accession to the Convention would be to provide full diplomatic privileges and immunities for the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretaries of the United Nations and to provide immunity from arrest for delegates to the General Assembly and other temporary meetings. I am advised that the Justice Department has some reservations about extending immunity from arrest to General Assembly delegates, but I do not share these. I am attaching a memorandum of my views on this matter.

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The United States has been criticized both privately and publicly at the United Nations for its failure to accede to the Convention, particularly since 92 other Member States have acceded to it. Lists of those acceding and those not yet parties are attached.

I share the Secretary-General’s strong view that the United States should accede to this Convention and I recommend that it be resubmitted to the Congress for approval.4


Arthur J. Goldberg
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol 3. Confidential.
  2. For text, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941–1949, pp. 125–129.
  3. None of the attachments is printed.
  4. In a November 9 letter to Goldberg, Bundy reported on the state of efforts to steer confirmation of this treaty through Congress. He also stated that Goldberg’s letter had not been forwarded to the President pending completion of staff work. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 3) Goldberg concurred in this decision in a letter of November 12 to Bundy. (Ibid.) The Senate did not take action on the treaty.