Volume #17 - 217.|
SIXIEME SESSION DE L'ASSEMBLEE GENERALE A PARIS, PREMIERE PARTIE, 6 NOVEMBRE-21 DECEMBRE 1951
AFRIQUE DU SUD-OUEST
Le chef de la délégation à l'Assemblée générale des Nations Unies|
au secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 20 novembre 1951|
TRUSTEESHIP COMMITTEE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY|
Reference Our telegram No. 46 of November 17? and United Nations documents
Before the opening of the present session of the Assembly we had informal indications from United Kingdom sources here that at least some of the critical nonadministering countries might be persuaded to adopt a more moderate line towards the administering authorities. Unfortunately, in its first four meetings, the Trusteeship Committee became involved in a series of procedural arguments which can have given little comfort to the "colonial" powers.
2. From the standpoint of the great majority of the Committee, South Africa is, of course, the villain of the piece. When the South African Delegation requested at the first meeting on November 14 that the item on South-West Africa be given second place in the Committee's agenda, this was a signal for a preliminary attack, led by the Cuban and Guatemalan representatives, on the South African position. It seemed to us that the South African request - based on Dr. Donges' desire to return early in December to his Cabinet duties in South Africa - was a reasonable one to which the Fourth Committee might well have acceded. But so unpopular are the South Africans in United Nations circles that it is futile for them to expect to have a favour granted without conceding some quid pro quo. In this case the critics used the South African request as an occasion for raising the question on granting hearings to representatives of the Hereros and other elements of the indigenous population of South-West Africa. This the South Africans bitterly opposed, and for a time it appeared that their request for the early consideration of this item would be rejected. The adjournment of the first meeting, however, enabled the United Kingdom Delegation to arrange a compromise whereby, in return for agreeing to the South African request, the Committee would resolve to treat the matter of granting hearings as a prior question, to be taken up before the first item on the Committee's agenda. This compromise was approved, and the Committee thereupon agreed without difficulty on the arrangement of the rest of its agenda (our telegram No. 46 of November 17).
3. The Committee then turned to the prior question of whether it should grant hearings to representatives of indigenous populations (U.N. documents A/C.4/SR.202, 203 and 204). A request for.such a hearing from certain representatives of the Ewe peoples was readily approved, after the United Kingdom Delegation had stated its willingness that they should proceed to Paris and be heard as petitioners from a trust territory. A request for a hearing from representatives of the Hereros and other South-West African tribes, however, gave rise to heated controversy. The discussion centred on a nine-power draft resolution (U.N. document A/C4/190) introduced by Guatemala, proposing that the Fourth Committee should grant hearings to these representatives, and expressing the wish that the South African Government would facilitate their "prompt travel" from South-West Africa to Paris.
4. Sir Alan Burns, the United Kingdom Representative, pointed out that the Charter provided only for hearing and discussing petitions relating to trust territories; since South-West Africa was not a trust territory there was no provision whereby petitions from that territory could be heard by the United Nations.
5. This argument was subsequently developed by the South African Representative, Dr. Donges, who gave four reasons for opposing the nine-power draft resolu-tion. In essence these were:
(a) that it substituted another authority (the Fourth Committee) for the Ad Hoc Committee set up by the General Assembly to consider the matter, and that it disregarded the specific instructions in resolution 449 (V) of the General Assembly as to how petitions from South-West Africa should be dealt with;
(b) that the Ad Hoc Committee had submitted in its report a number of proposals regarding the appropriate body to deal with petitions from South-West Africa; that the Committee's report was still to be considered; and that the adoption of the resolution might endanger the success of the Ad Hoc Committee's work;
(c) that the draft resolution conflicted with the Court's advisory opinion as to the procedures which should be employed with regard to reports and petitions from South-West Africa, and if passed would be a "slap in the face" to the Court, the General Assembly, the Ad Hoc Committee, and to South Africa itself;
(d) the passage of the draft resolution would be an "unwarranted slight" to South Africa.
6. Strong as the South African argument appeared to be from the legal point of view, it had little effect on the Committee, most of whose members did not attempt to refute the argument adduced by Dr. Donges and by the United Kingdom and Australian representatives, who spoke in his support. Judge Ingles (Philippines), however, claimed that there was a difference between, on the one hand, a petition to air grievances such as that provided for under Article 87 of the Charter and, on the other, an oral hearing such as that now requested by the representatives of South-West Africa; and that the Committee was entitled to consult all sources of information so as to form a fair opinion. Other delegations pointed to the precedent of the hearings on the Palestine question, and implied that the Committee would not be going beyond its authority in hearing representatives from South-West Africa.
7. On the whole, however, the argument in favour of granting the hearings was an emotional one, derived not so much from logic as from an active distrust of South African motives. When the vote was taken 37 delegations supported the resolution; only 7 countries (Australia, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom) opposed the resolution; while 7 more (Canada, China, Denmark, Israel, Norway, Peru and the United States) abstained.
8. The Canadian Delegation did not take part in the debate. The Canadian abstention, which was cast on the Minister's instructions, was based principally on the belief that at this early stage in the Committee's proceedings it would be impolitic for Canada to appear to stand firmly in the camp of the administering authorities on this issue. Moreover, although the legal case against the adoption of the resolution was strong, the Delegation considered that certain factors existed which weakened the South African position. For one thing, the Assembly had in the Palestine case granted hearings to representatives of a former mandated area, and had in 1949 granted a hearing to the Reverend Michael Scott, the designated representative of the South-West African peoples. For another, as the Philippine representative pointed out, the resolution, by proposing that a hearing be granted and by omitting mention of a petition, appeared to avoid the objection that it would be contrary to the Charter for the Committee to receive representatives from South-West Africa. Thirdly, there seemed to be some substance in the contention that since South Africa had shown no inclination to accept that part of the International Court's opinion dealing with petitions and annual reports, the Assembly was morally justified in consulting representatives from that territory as a means of obtaining fuller information on local conditions.
9. Our general conclusion from this procedural debate is that the South African Government has shown no signs of giving ground at this Session on the South-West African issue. Indeed, there are rumours current here, mainly in press circles, that the Malan Government will be so stung by the Fourth Committee's invitation to the South-West African chieftains as to walk out of the United Nations, or at least to repeat its 1949 boycott of the Fourth Committee.
DAVID M. JOHNSON