317. Editorial Note

During 1964 human rights issues in the form of racial discrimination and the policy of apartheid began to emerge as issues in multilateral bodies as many African states gained their independence and joined the United Nations. During ICAO’s first major session of 1964—the Meteorology and Operations Divisional Meeting—African states reacted negatively to the presence of South Africa and Portugal. The United States expressed its dismay at the encroachment of political issues into technical fora and enlisted neutral nations to help. (Telegram 1018 to Bern and telegram 442 from Bern, both January 15, 1964; Department of State, Central Files, AV 3 ICAO)

By July the Organization of African Unity announced a new policy of isolation of states that practiced apartheid, a position that threatened to disrupt the ICAO’s upcoming African-Indian Ocean Regional Air Navigation Meeting in late November by excluding South Africa and Portugal. On November 10 the Department told the U.S. Mission to the United Nations that “Department understands ICAO Secretariat and ICAO Council President Binaghi well aware of problem, consider exclusion action illegal and undesirable, and are already taking steps to attempt head off expected African action.” The Mission was instructed to solicit the Secretary-General’s intervention and to emphasize the “desirability of confining technical meetings to technical problems and leaving political issues to appropriate UN bodies.” (Telegram 1135 to USUN, November 10; ibid.) The Mission responded that the Secretary-General was getting “cold feet” on such matters and wished the ICAO “to handle the matter itself.” (Telegram 1646 from USUN, November 13; ibid.)