Volume #27 - 118.|
UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
FIFTEENTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Memorandum from Special Assistant to Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
October 14, 1960|
SOUTH AFRICAN ITEMS AT THE 1960 GENERAL ASSEMBLY|
You asked that the Departmental memorandum of October 4 on this subject be shown to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister has now examined the memorandum and has authorized me to report to you that he was very favourably impressed by it. He commented specifically on its economy of language and its logical presentation, and he approved the direction of the reasoning. Accordingly, as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, guidance for the Delegation based on the memorandum would certainly be acceptable.97
[Ottawa], October 4, 1960
SOUTH AFRICAN ITEMS AT THE 1960 GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The Commentary Items on Race Conflict in South Africa, Treatment of Indians in South Africa, and South West Africa give the Delegation most of the pertinent background information and also suggest general lines for use in speeches (regardless of how we vote) but in effect leave all substantive decisions on voting to be taken by yourself in the light of all the circumstances prevailing at the time the issues come to a head in the Assembly. For your own consideration we append some supplementary comments on:
A. Policy considerations involved for Canada; and
B. Suggested tactics on specific items.
A. POLICY CONSIDERATIONS INVOLVED FOR CANADA
In addition to those general considerations mentioned in Section E of the Commentary Article on Race Conflict in South Africa there are other points which you may wish to bear in mind. In the past Canadian policy on the three South African items has in part been based on the premise that the best hope of moderating the South African position was to abstain on resolutions directly critical of the Union in order to lessen the chance of its leaving the United Nations. At the same time we have shown by voting affirmatively on some paragraphs and by our statements in the debate that in principle we disapproved of racial discrimination. It has been hoped that by this means we could at once demonstrate the general Canadian opposition to racial discrimination and yet be in a position to exert a friendly influence behind the scenes which would help persuade South Africa to change its racial policies. Recent events, especially during the past year, indicate that it is questionable whether this policy now has much chance of accomplishing the objects mentioned as long as the current South African government remains in power. It is quite conceivable, however, that events elsewhere in Africa as well as internal pressures may, in time, lead to a change of government in the Union; in the event all our thinking about the Union would have to be re-examined and the following comments might prove to be no longer valid. At present, though, there are two main factors which lead us to suggest a somewhat different emphasis in our policy.
(1) There is no evidence whatever that Canada has influenced South African racial policies in the past or that we are likely to do so in the near future. Regardless of the oft-repeated views of well-disposed countries like Canada, the present Union government has steadily intensified the application of apartheid. This policy has led to the denial of more and more basic rights to Europeans as well as Africans until now, as the Bishop of Johannesburg recently observed, the Union has many of the characteristics of a police state. The South African Government gives every impression of having a completely closed mind on this subject by its exasperating refusal to make a token gesture of compromise or even to consent to listen to the private comments of its friends (as shown by Mr. Louw’s performance at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting). Even the events in the Congo have not convinced the Union of the need for promoting educational and political advancement of Africans, along British rather than Belgian lines. Indicating his intention to be at least as self-confident and unyielding as before, Prime Minister Verwoerd said recently that “we shall be going to the United Nations to maintain our point of view and not to lie down. If our standpoint had been understood by the U.N. the situation in the Congo would not have arisen … There are those who speak of partnership and of concessions. Belgium made concessions and the Congo was the heritage.”
The Union government’s attitude towards the Commonwealth is another indication that South Africa is unlikely to be swayed by any friendly influence which Canada may exert. Pretoria is going ahead with its plebiscite on republicanism despite the unmistakable warning from Commonwealth Prime Ministers that by doing so the Union’s continued membership in the Commonwealth would be placed in jeopardy. In subsequent public discussion of the Commonwealth connection, the present political leaders of South Africa have given no indication that they are concerned about preserving fraternal ties with Canada or that they are aware that in the past Canada has gone out of its way to be moderate and understanding in its consideration of South African questions. Their only concern seems to be to preserve Commonwealth trade preferences with the United Kingdom. Although the questions of racial policy and of Commonwealth membership are not formally linked, they are likely to be associated together in the minds of Commonwealth leaders and it would seem advisable to keep in touch with other Commonwealth missions at the U.N. on their thinking on both these matters.
(2) Canadian policy on these items may be getting out of touch with changing international and domestic opinion. International opinion is becoming more outspoken on this question, mainly because South African policies are increasingly antipathetic to current international conditions in which non-white peoples are becoming more important and are demanding recognition of the equality of all races. The situation has been exacerbated, of course, by the blatant Soviet attempts to exploit this colour sensitivity and lingering anti-colonial sentiment in an effort to woo the new nations, particularly in Africa. Reflecting this changing atmosphere, ten Western nations (including the United States, New Zealand and Italy as well as Canada) switched their votes from abstention to the affirmative on the apartheid resolution in 1958 and there has been a similar shift on the other two items. Last year all these nations (except Canada) continued to support the resolution and in addition Australia and Belgium changed from a negative vote to an abstention while The Netherlands has since said that in the future it will also move from a negative vote to an abstention on resolutions approximating the 1959 one. There have, of course, been many indications, beginning with Mr. Macmillan’s “winds of change” speech, that the United Kingdom is finding it increasingly difficult to count on any domestic support for South African policies. It might also be kept in mind that, as a whole, the colonial powers are less likely to have strong feelings about our vote on these issues than are the emergent countries; some of whom are also members or prospective members of the Commonwealth and our very good friends: India, Malaya, Ghana, Nigeria and the West Indies.
It is difficult to assess how Canadian public opinion views the question at present. On the one hand the Sharpeville shootings last spring strongly reinforced the trend towards outright and unqualified condemnation of South Africa. On the other hand, the events in the Congo and particularly the man-handling of Canadian troops by Congolese soldiers may have served to convince many Canadians that no Africans - wherever they live and whatever superficial veneer of civilization they may have acquired - are capable of governing themselves. As a corollary there may be some feeling in Canada that the white minorities who wish to retain political control over the Africans may well have some arguments in their favour. The most important consideration, however, is that the Canadian Government seems formally committed to a policy of opposition to racial discrimination wherever it appears and a policy of interest in the political and economic development of the peoples of Africa. The Prime Minister's several forthright statements deploring events in South Africa and your own expressions of friendship and respect for the emergent countries of Africa are so well known that Canadian policy at the U.N. will be expected to mirror them.
It would be very difficult indeed to work out a policy reconciling all the various considerations. However, by moving to a somewhat less negative but still moderate position Canadian policy could probably be brought more into line with the changed situation of today. By speaking out clearly and voting for any moderate resolution and by opposing or abstaining on any harshly condemnatory resolution we could demonstrate to Canadians, Afro-Asians and South Africans alike that the Canadian Government is concerned about the problem and anxious to encourage the South African authorities to begin moving in the right direction. We could probably increase the effectiveness of this policy by making it known in the corridors in advance that while we did not wish to co-sponsor any resolutions, we were prepared to co-operate informally with other members working toward reasonable resolutions on the three subjects. It would be useful to keep in particularly close touch with Australia and New Zealand which are in much the same position as ourselves and with Pakistan which has remained very moderate in its approach to South African questions. If at the same time we made it clear that we would not countenance extreme resolutions calling for such things as boycott or expulsion and that all we are seeking is to encourage South Africa to make gradual changes for its own good, we could in large measure avoid getting the Union's back up.
The changed situation in South Africa this year and the intensification of racial conflict in other parts of Africa would make it unlikely that we would be accused of inconsistency this year should we shift our vote. In any event it can be explained that our long-term objectives remain the same and the shift represents only a change in tactics, in the altered circumstances, to reach those objectives.
The tactical problems involved for these items may be quite different this year. In the past, differences of opinion over the substance of the apartheid resolution have for the most part been ironed out quietly in the corridors. However, this year the Africans and some Asians may be adamant in demanding an extreme resolution mentioning boycott and expulsion or both on any of the three items and this might lead to competing resolutions and a split in the ranks of the normal supporters of resolutions on the subject. The Scandinavians, some Latins, and moderate Asian delegations such as Japan, Turkey, Pakistan and the Philippines might refuse to support a boycott resolution but would be prepared to support a milder one as in the past. Such a development might present the Canadian delegation with a good opportunity to work with moderate elements for the drawing up of a reasonable resolution capable of attracting broadly based support.
More detailed suggestions on possible courses of action on each item are attached.?
B. SUGGESTED COURSES OF ACTION
South West Africa
All the indications are that the African nations plan to make their main assault on this item because they believe that the South African position is weakest here. Indeed, there is little that can be said in defence of the Union's conduct of the mandate and there is probably widespread international agreement with the recent Times editorial which said "no amount of ingenious chicanery can obscure the simple basic facts about South West Africa. It was placed under the mandatory system of the League of Nations in order that its wretched tribesmen might be given a new deal in the light of decent world opinion. Instead of fulfilling this obligation of honour the South African Government, quibbling barefacedly about the succession from League to United Nations, has swallowed South West Africa into its vile scheme of apartheid . There is only one verdict possible in this sorry business. A mandate has been stolen and the thieves are vainly protesting their innocence."
In order to continue our past efforts to promote an atmosphere conducive to fruitful negotiations the delegation might abstain on any resolutions which are generally condemnatory or which would have the effect of extending the degree of U.N. supervision of South West Africa beyond the limits envisaged by the Court in its advisory opinion of 1950. Nor would you likely wish to support a resolution along the lines of the Nkrumah proposal calling on the Union to turn over the mandate voluntarily to the independent African states. We would not object in principle if South Africa were prepared to surrender South West Africa to such a condominium under the International Trusteeship System (for we have supported condominium mandates in the South Pacific) but it would be difficult to support this particular resolution because it seems unrealistic and unlikely to accomplish anything at present. There is no chance that the present Union Government would surrender South West Africa (with the possible exception of a tribal reserve in the North) to any other nation, least of all to the African states. Furthermore, even if South Africa did agree, such a precipitate transfer of authority would cause severe financial hardship in South West Africa whose economy and lines of communication are closely linked with the Union. If the Africans press this proposal we might raise the question of how they would propose to supply enough trained administrators, technicians, and capital to run the territory.
As in the past the delegation could support a broad resolution of a mild nature appealing to South Africa to reconsider its position. It might also work with others toward the setting up of a negotiating body acceptable to South Africa along the lines of Mr. Louw's letter of July 29, 1960 to the Committee on South West Africa.
However, in order not to leave the impression that Canada condones either the practice of apartheid in the territory or Mr. Louw's attempts to vilify the character of every petitioner, and in order to show that we are prepared to move with the changing times in Africa, the delegation might be instructed to vote with the Asians and Africans on minor issues. There no longer seems much value in abstaining as a matter of course on all hearings of petitioners, especially now that the International Court has advised that they are permissible. Even the Scandinavians vote for the hearings on the grounds that they are bound to be held anyway. Our voting would have more point to it if we voted to hear those petitioners who are reasonable individuals possessing a real knowledge of conditions in the Territory and abstained, as the Scandinavians and moderate Asians and Latins do, only on dubious petitioners (such as the three young Americans who appeared last year after having visited the Territory only briefly). The delegation might also vote in favour of any moderate resolution expressing regret at the loss of life resulting from action taken by the police and soldiers at Windhoek. If the resolution also requested the Union to provide compensation to the families of the victims we might abstain on that clause. Provided the resolution as a whole was not intemperate, our support of it would be in line with the Canadian government's publicly-expressed regret at the tragic situations which have given rise to loss of life as a result of the way in which the Union has applied the policy of apartheid. It would also be consistent with Canadian policy if the delegation supported any resolutions along the lines of the committee's recommendations on increasing the opportunities for residents of the Territory to study abroad.
Treatment of Indians in South Africa (Item 70)
Clearly you would wish the delegation to oppose any call for economic sanctions or threats of expulsion. The delegation might also abstain on any resolution which as a whole condemns South Africa, calls upon the Union to revoke specific legislation, or declares that South Africa's treatment of its Indian community constitutes a threat to peace. To be consistent with past policy the delegation would also abstain on any clause implying the automatic inclusion of the item on the agenda of a future session, e.g., "invites the parties concerned to report to the General Assembly regarding the progress of negotiations" but it would support the 1958 formula which used the phrase "invites reports regarding any progress which may be made in the negotiations." (This wording has the advantage of conceding indirectly that no progress may be made during the year and therefore no report may be necessary.)
You may wish to leave no doubt that Canada is anxious to do whatever it can to promote more harmonious race relations in South Africa and better understanding between South Africa on the one hand and India and Pakistan on the other. The delegation might therefore make it known in the corridors that we are willing to support a moderate resolution on the lines of those we supported in 1949 and in 1958 calling for the holding of direct talks between the parties without prejudice to their respective juridical stands. We could also support any resolution which seeks to remind all member states of their obligations under the Charter and appeals in general terms for a revision of South African racial policies. If a situation develops in which some delegations are soliciting support for an extreme resolution you might wish to have the Canadian delegation take part in devising a milder competing resolution.
If the circumstances seem suspicious such a resolution might include a proposal to refer the question to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on whether the Cape Town Agreements and the U.N. Charter impose any legal obligations on South Africa in respect of its treatment of Indians. Alternatively, a slightly different clause might be suggested appealing to the governments concerned to attempt to reach an agreement through direct negotiation, mediation, or conciliation and failing that, to submit the question to the International Court. Proposals along these lines were suggested in 1946 and 1947 and supported by a number of delegations including Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Scandinavians, and Brazil. Although they were opposed by India and defeated by a narrow majority in those years it is possible that the Indians and their supporters would be willing to consider such proposals now that they have seen the ineffectiveness of so many other types of resolutions.
Race Conflict in South Africa (Apartheid Item)
It would not seem appropriate to support any resolution which is unduly condemnatory in tone, or singles out South Africa unduly without bearing in mind the prevalence of racial discrimination elsewhere, or calls for economic sanctions, or threatens the expulsion of South Africa from the U.N., or proposes anything which amounts to intervention in the Union's internal affairs. Any resolutions brought forward could, of course, be examined paragraph by paragraph to see whether there might be certain sections on which we should vote differently than on the resolution as a whole (as we have done in the past). The delegation will presumably take steps to make it clear that Canada abhors racial discrimination wherever it occurs and is anxious to do whatever it can to promote better race relations in South Africa. To emphasize this attitude the delegation might therefore make it known in the corridors that we were prepared to support any moderate resolution along the lines of that which we supported in 1958 or possibly (as a reflection of rising international concern) somewhat stronger in tone as distinct from substance. The delegation could also indicate that Canada would be willing to consider any new, positive, non-condemnatory approach to the problem. One possibility might be to broaden the existing mandate to the Secretary-General (under Security Council Resolution of April 1, 1960) to explore the question with the South African Government. If a situation develops in which some delegations are soliciting support for an extreme resolution, the Canadian delegation could usefully take part in devising a milder competing resolution designed to win the backing of a broadly-representative group of moderates. In any event, it is recommended that the delegation make a formal statement during the debate setting forth clearly the Canadian position.
If a suitable opportunity should arise the delegation might be authorized to intimate privately to the South African delegation that the position of South Africa's friends would be easier if the Union itself made some gesture to international opinion by modifying some of the harsher aspects of its racial policies.98
97 Note marginale :/Marginal note:
98 Le principal débat sur l'apartheid a eu lieu à la reprise de la quinzième Session, en 1961, et sera couvert dans le volume 28.