Volume #12 - 699.|
ORGANISATIONS ET CONFERENCES INTERNATIONALES
SOCIÉTÉ DES NATIONS
Mémorandum du sous-secrétaire d'État associé aux Affaires extérieures|
au sous-secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 30 mars 1946|
I attach two copies of a memorandum which I am taking with me to Geneva dealing with questions that may arise at the forthcoming League Assembly. You may wish to send a copy to the Prime Minister. I am also circulating a copy to the First and Second Political Divisions and the Legal Division for information. If instructions have to be sought during the Assembly, it may facilitate matters if I am able to refer to the numbered sections in this memorandum. I think that no formal instructions to the delegation are required at this point unless objection is taken to some of my suggestions.
I shall have no secret means of my own of communicating between Geneva and Ottawa. For security reasons I do not want to take a book cypher with me and there is no suitable confidential code to use in its place. I have asked Canada House to enquire whether in case of need I can avail myself of the cypher facilities of the United Kingdom delegation or the British Consulate. Unless things go badly this need should not arise. I do not propose to report currently by telegram on what goes on except perhaps to send an occasional message en clair.
My own movements are as follows:
I leave Montreal on April 1st and should reach London on the 2nd or 3rd. I have an air reservation for Geneva on the 4th. The Assembly opens on the 8th and is due to end by the 18th. I think that I shall go to Paris over Easter (the 21st) and thence probably back to England, returning here before the end of the month. In Geneva the delegation's address will be the Hotel de la Paix. If secret communications have to be sent to me there, they should probably be transmitted through Canada House and the Foreign Office.
THE TWENTY-SECOND ASSEMBLY OF LEAGUE OF NATIONS
1. The documents setting forth the provisional agenda of the forthcoming League Assembly contain no indication of the more difficult problems which may arise. The central purpose of the Assembly is to authorize on behalf of the states members of the League of Nations the taking of the steps required to terminate the League's existence. The chief document to be considered is the agreement negotiated between the Supervisory Commission of the League and a committee of the United Nations which was approved by the United Nations Assembly in London. This main agreement deals with the transfer of the property and other material assets of the League of Nations to the United Nations. The League Assembly will also be asked to give effect to other resolutions of the United Nations Assembly concerning the assumption by the United Nations of certain non-technical functions of the League and of certain duties and responsibilities placed upon the League by numerous international conventions.
2. MEMBERS OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS.
The current list of states members of the League includes all those which were members when the Council and Assembly last met in 1939 less a number of states which have resigned since then from the League on giving the two years' notice required by the Covenant. Forty-four states appear in the list, but of those the three Baltic Republics have lost their independent existence and the position of Albania is dubious. Not more than forty states will, therefore, be represented at Geneva, and it is probable that several of those still shown as states members (especially perhaps some which are heavily in default on their financial obligations) will fail to put in an appearance. Thirty-two of these forty-four states are members of the United Nations and their delegation voted in the United Nations Assembly in favour of the agreement referred to in the first paragraph. Of the remainder, five retained their neutrality throughout the war; these are Afghanistan, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Three on the League list fought on the side of the Axis powers during the war; these are Bulgaria, Finland and Siam. Among the forty states which may be represented there are only nine of the twenty Latin American states, the rest having all resigned from the League. There are, however, no fewer than eighteen European states on the list—a contrast with the under-representation of Europe in the United Nations Assembly.
Little is known as yet about the composition of the delegations, except that the United Kingdom will be represented by a strong team including possibly Mr. Bevin and certainly Mr. Noel-Baker, Sir Hartley Shawcross, Mr. Glenvil Hall and perhaps Lord Cecil. The French are said to intend to send a delegation headed by a Cabinet Minister. Mr. Unden, former Swedish Foreign Minister, is expected to head the Swedish delegation. It is not unlikely that, among the neutrals, Sweden and Switzerland at any rate will desire to be strongly represented, so as to take the opportunity of sitting once more as equals in an international conference.
ARRANGEMENTS FOR LIQUIDATING THE LEAGUE.
It will be necessary for the Assembly to pass a large number of resolutions in order to give effect to the agreement with the United Nations and to take the necessary steps to terminate the activities and interests of the League which fall outside the scope of this agreement. Exact instructions on these matters do not seem to be required by the Canadian delegation. At the United Nations Assembly we supported the basic plan; and what is to be done in Geneva is to approve this plan on behalf of the other party to the agreement and to make provision for its execution. This will include the appointment of a Liquidating Committee to complete the task of winding up the affairs of the League as soon as possible. Decisions of the Assembly will require unanimous consent, but unless political difficulties arise, serious trouble in achieving unanimity is not anticipated.
The accumulated effect of the detailed decisions to terminate the functions and dispose of the possessions of the League of Nations will end the existence of the League de facto. Certain formal general resolutions will also be required to make clear in simple terms that the League has ceased to exist and that member states are released from their obligations under the Covenant. No drafts of these resolutions have been received. One resolution will be needed to dissolve the Permanent Court of International Justice. Another, and probably the final resolution of the League Assembly, should announce the dissolution of the League. It is believed that such a resolution (provided, of course, that it secures unanimous consent) is the only effective means whereby the Covenant can be formally terminated through its simultaneous multilateral denunciation by all members.
5. POSSIBLE POLITICAL PROBLEMS.
A state or group of states bent on making trouble will, however, have opportunities for doing so. It is not possible to seek guidance in advance on the position to be taken if such difficulties should arise. Some of the possibilities are as follows:
The countries which may be represented include three Allied states within the Soviet sphere and also two ex-enemy states from that region. These are Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Finland and Bulgaria. If the Soviet Government is looking for another means of making trouble, it could, through the mouths of this group of clients, upset the plans for liquidation. It is also conceivable that the Soviet Government might attempt to make use of this last opportunity of reversing the condemnation passed upon it by the Assembly at the time of the first Soviet-Finnish war in December 1939, and of expunging the finding of the Council "that by its act the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has placed itself outside the League of Nations". The validity of the expulsion of the U.S.S.R. from the League has frequently been contested by international lawyers, not only by those from the Soviet Union.
Another problem affecting the U.S.S.R. is more likely to arise: whether they are entitled to be credited on the books of the United Nations with their proportionate share of the material assets of the League which are to be transferred to the United Nations. At the General Assembly in London a member of the Soviet delegation intimated informally that his Government would expect to be so credited; the matter was not pursued then as it could only be decided by the League. States which have withdrawn from the League, and have thus by their own deliberate decision renounced their obligations and rights as League members, would seem to have no equitable claim to share in the distribution of League assets. Indeed, if their claim were to be admitted, it would be necessary to credit Germany, Japan, the Axis satellites and Spain with a substantial share of the assets. It could be argued, however, that a state expelled from the League (and the U.S.S.R. is the only one) is in a different position. If such a proposal comes up, it might be left to the discretion of the Canadian delegates whether in the prevailing circumstances they should support it.
The position of the Baltic Republics may create some difficulty. Although the 1939 Governments of the three Republics still have certain agents abroad who claim to speak in their name, the Governments themselves have disappeared. Some of these representatives abroad have approached the League Secretariat with an intimation that they expect to be invited to represent the defunct regimes; no invitation, however, has been extended to them and it is unlikely that any serious issue can arise in this connection.
The three Soviet Socialist Republics which have taken the place of the independent Baltic states have asked that the share of these states in the value of the League assets should be credited to the U.S.S.R. The Baltic Republics would seem to be entitled to claim their share, but there may be difficulties over agreeing that the U.S.S.R. should get the benefit of the small financial advantages which accrued to the Baltic states before they were swallowed by Russia.
The Albanian Government has not been invited to send a delegation. Albania was not stricken from the list of League members following the Italian occupation before the war, as this would have constituted recognition of an act of aggression. While the situation of Albania in some ways resembles that of the Baltic Republics, it differs in that an independent Albanian Government has now emerged which is not yet recognized by most of the League members. There would seem to be no very strong reason why the seating of an Albanian delegation should be resisted if one turns up with adequate credentials and demands admission.
Little difficulty is expected from the possible presence in Geneva of delegations from the three ex-enemy states of Bulgaria, Finland and Siam. They are still all controlled by armistices or terms of surrender, and if they prove uncooperative it might be feasible to invoke the armistice conditions in order to compel compliance. If this were to happen, Bulgaria rather than Finland or Siam would probably be the trouble-maker.
The Austrian Government has indicated to the United Kingdom that they would like an invitation. Their request has been turned down for good reasons, as Austria formally ceased to be a member of the League when her annexation to Germany was generally recognized.
Special problems are presented in connection with the termination of the mandates system. These have been the subject of telegrams recently exchanged with London. While no item referring to mandates appears now on the agenda of the Assembly, it is to be expected that some action by the Assembly will be required. In the case of the African mandates (except Southwest Africa) and the Pacific mandates (except the Japanese mandates) the mandatory powers have all declared at the United Nations Assembly their intention of entering into trusteeship agreements to replace the mandates. In the cases of Syria, Lebanon and Transjordania the transition to independence has been or is about to be achieved. In the case of Palestine, the report of the Anglo-American Commission of Enquiry is awaited before its future status in relation to the United Nations can be determined. The continued refusal of the South African Government to consider placing Southwest Africa under trusteeship may cause very difficult political and legal problems, especially if their alleged intention is fulfilled of issuing a declaration that the South African Government will continue to observe the terms of the League Mandate after the disappearance of the League. Doubts over the future of Japanese mandates. center mainly around the desire of certain elements in the War and Navy Departments in Washington to annex outright certain of the islands. These problems will not be settled at Geneva; indeed, they cannot be settled without the concurrence of the United States.
CONTINUATION OF TECHNICAL FUNCTIONS.
While August 1st, 1946, is set as the approximate date for the transfer' of League assets to the United Nations, it will be necessary to make provision for the temporary continuation of certain technical functions until the United Nations is prepared to assume them. It is particularly important that the administrative work undertaken by the League Secretariat under the international conventions dealing with the control of narcotic drugs should not be interrupted until the United Nations is ready to take it over. It is also important that the group of pre-war refugees who remain the responsibility of the League High Commissioner for Refugees should not have his services withdrawn until the projected United. Nations machinery for dealing with refugees is in being. The transfer of these and other continuing technical activities to the agencies of the United Nations ought to be completed by the end of the year. The League should by that time have completely disappeared or be in the ultimate stage of liquidation.
DISTRIBUTION OF LEAGUE. ASSETS.
It is proposed that each League member should share in the assets of the League in accordance with the proportion that its contribution bears to the total contributions to the League during its entire existence. Any liquid assets remaining after all current obligations have been discharged would be distributed direct to member states. The material assets to be transferred to the United Nations (mainly the buildings and land at Geneva) are valued at about twelve million dollars. The agreement with the United Nations provides that each League member which is also a member of the United Nations should be credited with its share on the books of the United Nations. The United Nations Assembly would itself decide when and how these credits were to be applied. This is an equitable scheme, and the difficulties in its application are those of detail. First, there will doubtless be argument over the determination of the proportionate shares of League members. Secondly, the fact that numerous states are in arrears in their League contributions will lead to demands for special adjustments. Thirdly, provision must be made for crediting in some way with their shares the states which are members of the League but not of the United Nations.
9. FUNERAL ORATORY.
In accordance with the ancient and honoured custom whereby eulogies are delivered when men and institutions pass away, the closing ceremonies at Geneva are likely to be devoted to a succession of funeral speeches. It will doubtless be appropriate, even though unwelcome to him and his audience, that the head of the Canadian delegation should make a short speech on this occasion. Perhaps it can be left to him to determine what should be said, in not more than five minutes, with propriety and without political embarrassment.