Volume #26 - 39.|
UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
ISSUES BEFORE THE FOURTEENTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 15 TO DECEMBER 13, 1959 SUBDIVISION
Extract from Final Report on the Fourteenth Session|
of the General Assembly
AGENDA ITEM 61|
October 8th, 1959|
QUESTION OF RACE CONFLICT IN SOUTH AFRICA RESULTING FROM THE POLICIES OF APARTHEID OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA|
3. As in previous sessions, the Delegation was prepared to abstain if a vote were taken on the inscription of the item. Our view was that the Assembly had the right to discuss the item but that we doubted the value of continuing United Nations discussion on this subject in the absence of any fundamentally new approach to the question. However, in the event, there was no vote either in the General Committee or the General Assembly on the inclusion of this item in the agenda of the fourteenth session.
4. Canada has never made any secret of its dislike of the discriminatory racial policies followed by South Africa but recognizes that the problem is an extremely difficult and complex one and has always been prepared to abstain on any resolution which was either immoderate in terms or called for any action which amounted to intervention in the Union's internal affairs. During the thirteenth session the main sponsors of past resolutions on the subject decided to abandon the strongly condemnatory type of resolution introduced in previous sessions and instead made an effort to meet the views of countries such as Canada, New Zealand and the United States which had been unwilling to join in recriminations. In informal conversations with the sponsors the Canadian and other delegations were able to influence materially the terms of the resolution finally submitted. This re-affirmed the obligation of all states under the Charter to follow policies promoting the observance of human rights and only in its concluding paragraph expressed "regret and concern" that South Africa had not yet responded to Assembly appeals to reconsider its racial policies. Last year the Canadian Delegation abstained on the preamble which recalled earlier resolutions but supported the operative paragraphs and in view of the moderation of the resolution voted in favour of the resolution as a whole. Only 5 delegations (Australia, Belgium, France, Portugal and the United Kingdom) voted against and 4 abstained (Dominican Republic, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain). Strong opponents of apartheid such as India regarded the outcome, with more delegations supporting the resolution than ever before, as a signal victory.
5. With the experience of the thirteenth session in mind, a large group of African-Asian delegations led by India this year introduced a similar resolution in the hope that they would be able to win the support of an equal or greater number of delegations. The Indians and Ceylonese told us (and it may well be true) that the African members of the African-Asian caucus were pressing for a much stronger resolution (and indeed Liberia threatened publicly in committee to introduce a resolution warning the Union of possible expulsion from the UN). However, our informants say the Asians persuaded the Africans that by sticking with the present relatively mild resolution, a sweeping majority vote could be obtained. When it came to be known that Australia and Belgium might switch from a negative vote to an abstention this year, the elated sponsors were anxious not to lose Canada's vote and the Indians went so far as to make formal representations in Ottawa to this effect. However, the Canadian position as set forth by the Minister was that the tone of the resolution was stiffer than in 1958 and not calculated to promote agreement between South Africa and the majority of members of the United Nations. Furthermore, in conversations with the Delegation, the Minister made it clear that he did not wish to support a resolution that might affect the attitude of South Africa toward the Commonwealth.
6. Concerning the specific wording of the resolution, the Delegation had reservations about preambular paragraph 4, which criticized the past policies of South Africa in particular, rather than (as last year) setting forth the ideal way in which harmony and respect for human rights might best be assured in any multiracial society. Similarly, there were misgivings about the ambiguous last operative paragraph which "appeals to all member states to use their best endeavours as appropriate to achieve the purposes of the present resolution." This was considered capable of being interpreted as sanctioning an intolerably wide interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign country. The addition of the adjective "deep" before the words "regret and concern" in operative paragraph 3 were also thought questionable. On instructions the Delegation did not discuss possible revisions to the text with representatives of other countries since this might have implied a readiness on our part to compromise.
7. Our votes in Committee were as follows:
Preambular paragraph 1: Abstain
Preambular paragraph 2: Yes
Preambular paragraph 3: Abstain
Preambular paragraph 4: Abstain
Operative paragraph 1: Yes
Operative paragraph 2: Yes
Operative paragraph 3: Abstain
Operative paragraph 4: Abstain
The Resolution as a whole: Abstain
In plenary also we abstained on the resolution as a whole.
Procedure in Committee
. . .
9. The most telling points made against South Africa were: (1) the fact that it was the only country in the world that openly and formally made racial discrimination a part of government policy; and (2) the indications that the Union's discriminatory policies had been given even wider application during the past year as evidenced especially by the complete ban on non-white students in existing institutions of higher learning.
10. Canada did not speak at any point in the debate, although the Delegation had contem-plated making a brief explanation in advance of the vote. The statement which had been prepared was designed to explain that we neither desired nor intended to vote against a resolu-tion whose general aim was that very laudable one of promoting the observance of human rights, but that we were unable to vote affirmatively for something which, taken in its entirety, was unlikely to contribute to the end it sought. Canada therefore intended to abstain on the resolution as a whole and vote for those three parts which we considered constructive and general reaffirmations of the human rights mentioned in the Charter. In response to a last-minute Indian appeal we agreed not to commit ourselves before the vote in order to allow time for the matter to be considered once again by the Minister in Ottawa. After Ottawa had been consulted that evening and we finally registered our vote the next morning there seemed little point in re-opening this sensitive issue by explaining our vote, especially at a time when the Committee was clearly anxious to press on to the next item.
11. On the resolution as a whole the vote was 67 to 3 (France, Portugal, United Kingdom) with 7 abstentions (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, Netherlands, Spain). The only changes as compared with last year's vote in committee was that Australia and Belgium shifted from a negative vote to an abstention, while Canada moved in the opposite direction from an affirmative vote to an abstention.
Action in Plenary
12. There were no substantive statements, explanations of vote or votes by paragraphs in plenary. The draft resolution as a whole was adopted by 63 votes to 3 (France, Portugal and the United Kingdom) with 7 abstentions (Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Italy)72. The differences between committee and plenary were caused by the fact that the vote was called earlier than expected and Australia and Spain, who had intended to abstain, did not arrive in time to record their positions. Luxembourg, absent in committee, abstained in plenary. The Representative of Italy later informed the Secretariat that he wished to be recorded as having voted in favour of the draft resolution rather than as abstaining.
13. No specific action is called for by the Department as a result of the decision taken by the General Assembly on this subject this year. In dealing with this item next year, however, one of the most important considerations may be the attitude of South Africa towards remaining in the Commonwealth. Our vote will probably depend on the Government's estimate of this situation as much as on the terms of the resolution itself.
Note: The Rapporteur's report on this item (Doc. No. A/4271) is printed as Annex I.?
72Pour le texte de la Resolution 1375 (XIV), voir Yearbook of the United Nations 1959 (New York: United Nations, 1960), p. 59. For the text of Resolution 1375 (XIV), see Yearbook of the United Nations 1959 (New York: United Nations, 1960), p. 59.