Volume #27 - 121.|
NATIONS UNIES ET AUTRES ORGANISATIONS INTERNATIONALES
QUINZIÈME SESSION DE L’ASSEMBLÉE GÉNÉRALE
APPRÉCIATION DE LA QUINZIÈME SESSION
Le représentant permanent auprès des Nations Unies|
au sous-secrétaire d’État aux Affaires extérieures
LETTER NO. 506|
le 11 juillet 1961|
15TH SESSION OF THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY|
I am enclosing herewith an assessment of the 15th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, which was prepared by Mr. Halstead just prior to his departure from this Mission. It seems to me a very succinct and realistic assessment which I hope may prove of interest to you.
[New York], July 11, 1961
ASSESSMENT OF THE 15TH SESSION
The 15th session of the General Assembly opened on September 20, 1960, adjourned for the holidays on December 20, resumed on March 7, 1961 and was finally terminated in the small hours on April 22 after an all-night marathon meeting. The session broke several records: it was the largest gathering of representatives (from 99 member states) that the United Nations had ever seen; it had the biggest agenda of any Assembly session (there were 90 items altogether); and it was also the longest in United Nations history, in spite of the fact that it did not succeed in disposing of all the items on its agenda.
In some respects the character of the session changed from the first part to the second part. For example, there was some general improvement in the international climate and the East-West conflict became less sharp in the second part. In at least one respect, however, the session had a certain unity; from beginning to end the impact on the Assembly of the large influx of new African member states was strongly felt. Throughout the session the main preoccupation was with colonial issues and with the various aspects, political and financial of the United Nations operation in the Congo. This was “Africa’s session.”
First Part of the Session
During the first part of the session the Assembly was dominated by the following features: (a) the renewal of the cold war; (b) the United States presidential elections; (c) the attendance of a large number of heads of state and government; and (d) the admission of a record number of newly independent states, most of them from Africa.
The United Nations faced a difficult international situation when the 15th session opened. The Organization was in the midst of a major crisis in the Congo; indeed the Assembly had just held an emergency special session on that question. There had also been in the preceding months a sharp increase in East-West tensions, which Khrushchev dramatized by his personal attendance at the Assembly.
He evidently came to New York to demonstrate the strength of the Soviet bloc and to reassert his own leadership and that of the USSR in spite of the ideological controversy with communist China. He therefore appeared to be more concerned with his audience at home than with the audience in the Assembly and his main initiatives (on disarmament, Chinese representation, the U-2 incident, reorganization of the United Nations Secretariat and anti-colonialism) seemed designed more to impress his domestic audience than to achieve acceptance by the Assembly. On the question of anti-colonialism, however, he struck an immediate chord of sympathy and achieved a certain degree of success. Even on this issue, however, Soviet leadership was displaced by that of the Afro-Asians.
Khrushchev’s blustering behaviour at the Assembly, and the defeat of the Soviet proposals on the Congo and the reorganization of the Secretariat, probably left the Western powers temporarily at an advantage. Before the first part of the session was over, however, the Soviet bloc appeared to have recouped their losses as a result of the following three factors: (a) the tendency of the neutrals to move toward the Soviet position whenever the USSR moved away from the position of the Western powers, and therefore to seek a compromise which, while perhaps far from the most extreme Soviet proposal, was nevertheless such as to allow significant gains to the Soviet side; (b) the neutralists’ support of Lumumba and their criticism of the Secretary-General’s policy in the Congo; and (c) the lack of leadership on the part of the United States delegation.
There is no doubt that the timing of the United States presidential elections was unfortunate from the point of view of the role played by the United States delegation, and by the Western powers generally, during the first part of the session. It was evident to all that the United States delegation was either without instructions on many important issues or was unable to obtain new instructions on issues where the United States position had already come to be considered by the majority of the Assembly as out of date and ineffective. The result was a lack of initiative and flexibility which put the Western powers and their friends at a distinct disadvantage; they were unable adequately either to counter the Soviet attacks or to give the sort of lead the uncommitted countries might have been glad to follow.
In this situation the attendance of a large number of heads of state and government added greatly to the disharmony, bad temper, and exhaustion that characterized the first part of the session. In combination with the influx of new members and their inexperience with United Nations practices, it was undoubtedly responsible for the fact that the Assembly procedures, already over-burdened by the expansion of membership, virtually proved inadequate to cope with the burden of business placed on this session.
. . .
The Role of the Canadian Delegation
The Canadian delegation and other friendly delegations with which it worked found themselves in a particularly difficult position at the 15th session. They tried to give full recognition to the opinions of the Afro-Asians and the uncommitted countries on such questions as disarmament, technical assistance, etc. They continually found, however, that they were being out-flanked on the left by more extreme resolutions on which they often had to vote in favour although they did not really agree.
Canada’s voting record nevertheless demonstrated what on the whole can be called an independent, forward-looking position. On the other hand, we perhaps did not play as active or articulate a role as we might have if it had not been for the complicating factors described above. There is no doubt that those factors made it more difficult for us to develop a concerted “middle of the road” position that could rally widespread support, or to act in our traditional role as a “bridge” between various groupings in the Assembly. This was demonstrated particularly in connection with the Canadian disarmament resolution. On the other hand, we were able at the resumed session to develop very close and useful relations with the new United States delegation and this relationship itself may hold possibilities for a more constructive role at the next session of the Assembly.