421. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

1140. US Participation in Comite of 24. I believe present moment appropriate for careful reconsideration of question of continuing US participation in Committee of 24. Much of the argumentation, pro and con, is already available to Dept. In general, remarks contained in USUN’s 5472, June 30, 19662 remain valid; in fact, situation confronting US in committee has deteriorated somewhat since then. Fol are main points:

1. Arguments for Leaving Committee:


Committee Violations of UN Procedure:

There is an increasing tendency of committee, under its radical Afro-Asian leadership, to disregard not only UN rules of procedure but also basic parliamentary principles of fairness and equal treatment of delegations. This tendency has at times interfered with ability of US delegation to record US positions promptly and effectively. Dept will recall that chairman’s anti-Western bias became extreme enough this session [Page 910] to warrant formal objection by US del. Even though we might not wish to press this point in UNGA statement, leaving the committee at this time would be interpreted as impressive indication that the US not prepared condone departures from procedures and principles which we consider essential to the UN’s future healthy functioning.


Negative Role of US on Committee:

Observations made last year about committee’s role and achievements remain pertinent today. It is difficult to point to one “colonial country” which committee has helped on path to independence. What has happened in recent years is that general tenor of committee’s debate and resolutions has become increasingly and aggressively anti-Western. Serious consideration of colonial questions has diminished to point where only pro forma attention is given to problems of the populations and to actual developments in areas concerned. This trend is probably a natural consequence of frustration resulting from discovery that administering authorities will not accept direction from Committee in matters concerning their own colonies. This mounting ASAF condemnation of “imperialists” has made committee ideal vehicle for Soviet bloc propaganda attacks on West. Soviet bloc dels not only help lead chorus but vote resounding “yes” to virtually all of committee’s draft resolutions. There is solid evidence that Tanzanians, plus certain other ASAF delegations, conspire frequently with the Soviet del, and it is sometimes difficult to determine which is the leader.

By contrast, role of US on committee is essentially defensive and negative. We seek, within limitations mentioned para (1) above, to straighten record insofar as US policies toward colonial areas are concerned. However, given inherent conservatism of these policies as well as radicalism of committee, there is little if any possibility for US initiatives and positive role. We consistently abstain on or vote against Committee’s resolutions, since we are unable accept extreme measures proposed.


Little Prospect for Improvement:

There seems to be little grounds for hope that situation in committee will improve substantially. While present chairman, Malecela of Tanzania, will not remain indefinitely, it is generally assumed that chairmanship must go to an Afro-Asian. Moderate Afro-Asians of Committee not only appear have no interest in job but seemingly feel it is inevitable and perhaps appropriate that militant “anti-colonialist” hold down job (Iraq is currently most frequently mentioned as replacing Malecela when he steps down).

2. Arguments Against Leaving Committee:


Unfavorable ASAF Reaction:

Claim is often made that ASAF’s would interpret US abandonment of committee as sign lack of interest in solving problems of Southern [Page 911] Africa. Indeed, Soviet bloc would seek to place such interpretation on our action, and to obtain maximum mileage from it. I would expect sharp reaction from certain militant ASAF dels at time announcement made, milder criticism from some others (although some moderate ASAF’s would probably rejoice quietly over blow to Committee 24 prestige). I doubt that reaction would be long-lived. Committee by now fairly widely known as outlet for views of Soviet bloc and ASAF radicals rather than as effective instrument for solution African and other colonial problems. Hence I doubt that many ASAF’s would seriously consider US move as diminishing what chances there may be for progress in this field.

Conversely, under circumstances described para 1–B above, it can hardly be argued that US continuation on committee helps us in our relationship with ASAF’s. Instead, contrary is true: membership continually highlights conflict between US positions and those of ASAF’s, especially on African issues which are of basic importance to many of them. If we left Committee 24 we would still have occasion express US views on colonial problems in Fourth Committee, but would not be forced argue these questions at UN repetitively throughout the year.


Loss of Ability To Influence Committee Action:

Another argument sometimes raised against leaving is that as member US can hope exert some influence on Committee action on agenda items like Fiji, Gibraltar, and other small territories, i.e. items which are of secondary importance to ASAF’s but quite significant to certain Western members. This argument obviously more valid for UK than US. In any event, past experience suggests that while Western dels may secure changes of peripheral importance in these lesser agenda items, even here they cannot deflect main thrust of committee action.

It can of course be argued that our ability keep Puerto Rico off committee agenda would be jeopardized if we were not on committee. Obviously we would not be in position exercise rights of reply when Soviet bloc and other dels raise question suddenly, although we could ask to take part if and when debate scheduled. To date our ability resist unfavorable decision has stemmed from fact that slim majority in committee appears sympathize with US. Provided we continue lobbying as necessary here and in capitals, this favorable voting line-up need not change. We could probably count on friendly dels committee working group as well as on Secretariat sources to warn us in advance if chairman proposes new step.


Possible Opposition From Other Western Dels:

Possibly one or two other Western members of committee might not welcome US decision to leave committee. However, most likely any disagreement would focus on timing rather than principle. As Dept [Page 912] aware, UK and Australia already considering same step, and have urged we consult closely. Australia might well decide join us. UK has apparently decided tentatively take no action until after XXII GA, although UKUN says US decision leave during GA might influence UK thinking. In any case, US need not feel honor bound to act in concert with UK, since UK in past two years has avoided debate on major committee problems by boycotting Africa trip despite US urging to contrary. Italy, Finland both known to be “fed up” with committee, although we do not know their current views on resigning.

3. Conclusions:

It will be clear to Dept from foregoing that I have been led to conclusion that continuing participation by US not in our net interests. By remaining on the Committee we highlight our differences with the ASAF’s, costing us in terms bilateral relations ASAF countries and also in terms ASAF support for UN measures we consider important. Moreover, by participating in committee’s work we are contributing our support to a body which no longer merits it.

Accordingly, I recommend Dept give me discretion to announce US withdrawal at most propitious time.3 US could explain withdrawal by stating we have participated fully in repeated and exhaustive consideration of all Committee 24 problems for several years, at headquarters and in Africa, and now believe time has come to let some other country make whatever contributions it can to their solution. We would promise continuing US interest and cooperation when US territories under consideration.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 UN. Confidential.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 78188, December 2, the Department of State affirmed its general agreement with Goldberg’s recommendations and sketched out a series of approaches to take prior to formally withdrawing from the Committee of 24. (Ibid.)