Volume #27 - 102.|
NATIONS UNIES ET AUTRES ORGANISATIONS INTERNATIONALES
QUINZIÈME SESSION DE L’ASSEMBLÉE GÉNÉRALE
LES NOUVEAUX MEMBRES AFRICAINS
Le représentant permanent auprès des Nations Unies|
au secrétaire d’État aux Affaires extérieures
LETTER NO. 147|
le 3 mars 1960|
Reference: Our Letter No. 100 of February 12.†
AFRICA AND THE U.N.
In light of the brief review of current developments in Africa contained in our letter under reference, some tentative thoughts about the implications for the U.N. suggest themselves.
2. It is of course not difficult to foresee that in the course of the next couple of years we will be facing a new situation in the U.N. due to a change in the balance of membership and a marked increase in demands for U.N. assistance of all kinds. Admission of eight or more new African states into the U.N. will not only bring the proportion of Asian-African members to well over one third of the total membership, it will also bring the number of African members almost up to the number of Asian members. This will mean that the Africans will wield increasing influence over the largest grouping in the U.N. At the same time there are already indications of an incipient split between the Asians on the one hand and the Africans on the other, the former tending to be more responsible and the latter to be more outspoken and extreme. The result may be either formation of a purely African group or some moderation of the more extreme African positions.
3. These changes in U.N. membership may raise serious problems for the Western powers, particularly in the General Assembly. Such changes cannot but affect still further the voting pattern in the Assembly and make it a more unwieldy and, from the Western point of view at least, a less reliable and less responsible organ. Assembly decisions on economic development, on colonial questions and on political problems will undoubtedly be increasingly coloured by the views of the member states with underdeveloped, anti-colonial and neutralist backgrounds. At the same time there may be increasing pressure for expansion of the Councils, or even for some redistribution of the existing membership of the Councils, to reflect better the increased membership of the U.N.
4. The prestige of the U.N. in the eyes of the Western powers, and the degree of their participation in the Organization, may be put into question. They may find themselves on the receiving end of Assembly recommendations on important economic and political questions that are unacceptable to them. This may lead them to downgrade Assembly recommendations (para 5 of our letter under reference refers). They may also try to shift the emphasis from the General Assembly back to other U.N. organs or to bodies outside the U.N., though any attempt to do so would undoubtedly be strongly resisted by the newer members.
5. The U.S.A. Mission are already thinking about some of the political problems that will be posed for them at the next Assembly by the admission of new African members. They feel that it is of considerable importance that these new members should not be allowed to fall immediately under the influence of the more extreme Asian-African states because that could establish their future voting pattern on many of the perennial U.N. issues. They are therefore looking for some issues likely to be on the agenda of the next session on which the new members might be persuaded to vote with the West (i.e. for the existing Western position). They have not yet thought this idea through but examples they have in mind are: the presidency of the General Assembly; the financing of UNEF; and Korea.
6. Apart from whether or not these are good choices, it does seem to us that it is perhaps a less useful exercise to try to enlist the support of the new members for the existing Western position on long-standing issues than to seek some new initiative that is likely to appeal to the new members. It also seems to us that, given the situation in the Asian-African group, it might be of considerable advantage if some of the middle and smaller powers associated with the Western powers but in a position to pursue an independent policy could provide a sort of rallying point for the more moderate Asians and Africans who do not always wish to go along with their group but would not otherwise have anywhere to go. Such a role could conceivably be played by such middle and smaller powers as Canada, Ireland and the Scandinavians. It would be effective, however, only if the Western powers regarded it neither as a conspiracy against them nor as something to be appropriated by them. In fact, of course, the beginnings of such a “middle group” were seen at the last session of the General Assembly and Canada played a not inconsiderable part in it.
7. Some practical problems of Assembly operation can also be foreseen. The present pattern of committee and plenary debate was never designed for the size of Assembly we have even now; and problems of accommodation and procedure are soon going to be pressing. They will have to be speedily solved if the Assembly is to get through its annual work. One idea that has occurred to us is to reduce the size of the main committees, or at least the non-political ones (i.e. Committees II to VI).
8. As to the position of the new African members in the U.N., there may be some similarities between the present period in Africa and the period of upheaval in Asia in the years following the Second World War. In both cases the tide of nationalism and anti-colonialism was running strong and gave a superficial unity of political outlook and expression to the whole continent. In time, however, the exuberance of that expression waned, the unity of outlook receded and the latent differences came to the surface in Asia as independence was achieved and the problems of consolidation had to be faced. In Africa it will not be so very long now before the anti-colonialists are pushing on an open door. It may still be some time before we reach the high water mark of nationalism there, but when we do, it would not be surprising to find that the latent differences and rivalries among the new states in Africa that then come to the surface are even more marked than those that have appeared in Asia. For one thing the international boundaries that separate the emerging states in Africa are nothing but accidents of political history, without any roots in racial, geographic or economic factors, and the temptation to change them, either for economic viability or political aggrandizement, may be great.
9. In this respect the developing situation in Africa suggests a certain parallel with the situation that has existed in the Middle East in recent years. The boundaries that were drawn there after the First World War had little more foundation than those in Africa today, and intra-Arab rivalries have been a perennial source of international tension for many years. If a similar pattern develops in Africa we may be in for a series of conflicts among the new states that could result in a large and prolonged U.N. peace-keeping operation in order to avoid direct Great Power involvement.
10. Such developments in Africa are likely to give a new dimension to the "cold war," in which the West may suffer somewhat from its close association with South Africa and with French policy in North Africa, but should have a number of natural advantages over the Soviet bloc. Situations are developing and will continue to develop in Africa which must complicate the Communists' approach and pose difficult problems for them. So long as the main question is the early attainment of independence and the ending of "colonial rule" the Communist line can be relatively simple and pays off well. With the complex power relation and rivalries that may grow up among the independent African states, the Communists will be faced with delicate decisions and choices between interests and nations on the African Continent which may be much more risky for them than the simple emphasis on early independence and simple blame for all ills on the colonial powers which have been such an easy and effective line until now.