In accordance with the so-called Gentlemen's Agreement reached in SanFrancisco in 1945
one of the non-permanent seats of the Security Council has been considered a Commonwealth
Seat and by 1955 had been occupied in turn by all the Commonwealth members of the United
Nations, excluding the United Kingdom, which has a permanent seat, and South Africa, which
chose not to run. With the election of Australia for a two-year term beginning January 1, 1956, a
second round was started and Canada stands next in line. The two newest members of the
Commonwealth, Ceylon and Ghana, have only recently been admitted to the United Nations and
have not displayed any interest in running for election to the Council.
Because of the considerable expansion of membership of the United Nations during the last
two years there is a likelihood that conventions governing the allocation of seats will break down
or be disregarded. It is important, however, to attempt to maintain the institution of a
Commonwealth seat, not only because it contributes to Commonwealth solidarity but also
because it affords by far the best opportunity for countries like Canada to have a regular
opportunity to serve on the Council. But by the same token it is in our own interest to do all we
can to ensure that the newer members of the Commonwealth, without whose participation the
statistical justification for a Commonwealth seat in an expanded United Nations would
disappear, are convinced that it is to their advantage to remain on the Commonwealth roster. For
this reason some thought has been given to the desirability of yielding our turn to one of the
Asian members and in particular to India (since at this stage Ceylon appears neither well
equipped nor anxious to assume such heavy responsibilities) and of standing for election to the
Council two years later.
The principal advantages of such a course are:
It might serve to arrest any tendency on the part of Asian members to drift away from the
Commonwealth roster on to the roster of an Asian seat should one be provided by amendment of
It would also constitute effective evidence of our understanding of the legitimate aspirations
of the Asian members of the Commonwealth and be well calculated to strengthen their belief in
the value of Commonwealth association.
It would afford opportunity for Asia, which is undoubtedly under-represented at present, to
be represented on the Council without interference with existing conventional allocation of seats
while in the interim it might be possible to reach agreement on an expansion of the membership
of the Council.
It would relieve us from accepting further burdensome responsibilities at a time when our
available resources are already under severe strain. Two years from now our present
engagements in Indo-China and the Middle East may be substantially reduced, whereas
membership in the Security Council in 1958-9 would inevitably involve us in a great many
additional complex and difficult disputes one of which, the question of Kashmir, is particularly
embarrassing for a Commonwealth country.
Soundings were accordingly taken to determine what would be the reaction of some of our
principal friends and allies if we were to stand down. As a result it has become clear that, among
others, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States would very much
prefer Canada to be a candidate because, even though they recognize the force of arguments in
favour of passing the seat to Asia, they believe that the next two years will be particularly
important for determining the future role of the United Nations. Moreover India has indicated
that it would be glad to support Canada's candidature for the Security Council and we have had
informal indication that Pakistan, while it would vigorously oppose the candidature of India,
would readily support that of Canada.
There are a number of additional reasons why Canada should consider standing for election,
Canada has played an active role in the United Nations and is regarded by many members as
a country which can be counted upon to help find acceptable solutions to difficult problems; if
we run, therefore, our chances for election appear to be very good.
If in the next few years the Gentlemen's Agreement is to break down we might, in addition
to losing the principle of a Commonwealth seat, forfeit our opportunity to serve on the Security
Council for a long time to come.
Japan has announced its candidature for the seat occupied this year by the Philippines under
a temporary arrangement designed to break the deadlock with Yugoslavia in the 1955 elections
for the Eastern European seat. Voir/See Volume 21, Document 3. With
the support of the United States Japan may well succeed in winning election, in which case Asia would secure representation.
The election of Canada to the Commonwealth seat and of Japan to the Eastern European seat
might serve to persuade both the USSR and India that in their own interests they should support
the widespread move for a limited expansion of the Security Council which, for different
reasons, they have previously opposed; this in turn might serve to maintain respect for the
convention upon which the institution of the Commonwealth seat depends.
If we are to run, it is important that we should announce our candidature as soon as possible
and on balance, after having discussed the matter with our Commonwealth colleagues during the
Prime Ministers' Conference, particularly with the Prime Minister of India, it is my considered
opinion that even though election to the Security Council would impose heavy additional
responsibilities upon us, we should not be justified in declining to accept the obligations of
membership in the Council at this juncture4.
JOHN G. DIEFENBAKER
3 Le 11 juillet 1957, le Cabinet
convenait que le Canada devait se faire élire au Conseil de sécurité. Le 1 octobre suivant, le Canada était un des pays élus au Conseil, ayant reçu 72 votes sur les 78 inscrits. Les autres pays étaient le Panama, avec 74 +votes, et le Japon, avec 55votes.
On July 11, 1957, Cabinet agreed that Canada should stand for election to the
Security Council. On October1, 1957, Canada was one of the countries elected to the Security Council, receiving 72 votes out of a total of 78 ballots cast.
Canada was joined by Panama, which received 74 votes, and Japan,
which received 55votes.