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

3537. Subj: US Participation in Comite of 24. Ref: A) USUN 8082 Nov. 26, 1968; B) USUN 3486 Dec. 2, 1970.2

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Two years ago the US delegation recommended that the US should leave the Comite of 24. We noted then that the Comite has produced absolutely no positive results, multiplies points of friction between the US and Afro-Asian group, and generally detracts from effectiveness and credibility of UN in whole colonial area (reftel A).
While Dept generally concurred with USUN reasoning, Secretary Rusk decided leaving Comite of 24 should not be a final act of an outgoing administration. USUN and Dept subsequently reasoned that it would be unwise for such departure to be first act of an incoming administration. Last January we reasoned that we should be patient for one more year, for two reasons: A) election of moderate and objective chairman, Amb Nicol of Sierra Leone; B) possibility US might have some influence on program of action to be worked out as part of Tenth Anniversary of Declaration against Colonialism.
Nicol has in fact been a good chairman, but Comite of 24 has sunk into general apathy interrupted by bursts of activity on proposals pressed by Soviets and radical Africans which emerge as its final product. We made extensive and genuine effort this year to reach agreement with moderates on a Program of Action which would be realistic and constructive in terms of working toward the end of colonialism. We were not successful in informal consultations because Tanzanians and Bulgarians, backed by Soviets and other radicals, rejected any attempt to modify Program of Action drafted principally by Tanzania and Bulgaria. Moderates either could not or would not stand up to them. We presented 15 amendments in Comite of 24 and explained them most carefully and in most conciliatory manner possible. Nevertheless all 15 amendments were rejected. Rejection much regretted by chairman, by Under Secretary Djermakoye and SYG. Nevertheless Comite of 24 now has a Program of Action adopted by GA which virtually ensures it will continue to be unproductive and to detract from the effectiveness and credibility of UN in colonial area. I therefore believe that time has come for us to withdraw from membership on this Comite. I noted that Italy is doing so and UK, which has for ten years rejected even any thought of leaving Comite, is now seriously considering possibility.
I suggest our notice of withdrawal not be given to Pres of GA before last day of session. Alternatively we can write him in January. We would not want our notice of withdrawal to have repercussions on important issues such as seabeds and High Commissioner for Human Rights which currently before comites of GA.
We recognize that there will be some adverse reaction from some of our African and Asian friends when we announce our decision to leave. We believe this could be minimized by discussing with them in advance the reasons for our decision. We can point out to them [Page 101] that our trial extension of our membership during past two years produced no evidence that there could be any material improvement in Comite’s work. Furthermore, members of Comite are by now fully aware that it produces nothing of consequence and we doubt that their disappointment over our decision will be long lived. As for product of Comite it is not likely to get appreciably worse than it is now, whether we stay on or leave. In any case, we can participate on items involving US interests, as other non-members of Comite do. Moreover, we shall have an opportunity to participate in GA consideration of all these questions, and recent developments in Fourth Comite suggest that our chances of meaningful influence are better there than in Comite of 24—a point we can make in explaining our move to friendly Africans and Asians. Finally, scene of greatest interest to Africans on main colonial problems—Rhodesia, Namibia, and Portuguese territories—has been shifted to Security Council, where they can be discussed in a more serious fashion. (Italians citing forthcoming membership on Council as reason for leaving Comite of 24.)
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 8–4. Confidential.
  2. Telegram 8082 is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXXIII, Document 436. In telegram 3486, December 3, Yost reported that Italy was considering withdrawing from the Committee of 24. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 8–4)