Volume #15 - 49.|
COMITÉ PAR INTERIM
Le délégué permanent aux Nations Unies|
au secrétaire d'État aux Affaires exterteures
le 30 juin 1949|
2. I think it is necessary to recall the circumstances in which the Interim Committee was established in order to assess its value to date and to examine the question of its future. It will be remembered that it was the Netherlands Delegation in October, 1945, at the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in London, which first suggested the need for the establishment of a Standing Committee of the General Assembly for Peace and Security. The Netherlands proposal called for a subsidiary organ established under the provisions of Article 22 of the Charter, which would be charged with preparing recommendations to the General Assembly with regard to the exercise of the functions and powers attributed to the General Assembly by Articles 10, 11, 14 and 15 of the Charter, subject to the provisions of Article 12. The Standing Committee's terms of reference would have limited it to such subjects as were referred to it by the General Assembly, or as were brought before the General Assembly under Article 11, paragraph 2; or Article 15, paragraph 1, in the interval between the sessions of the General Assembly. One of the main arguments advanced by the Netherlands delegation in favour of the establishment of such a committee was that it would enable a better preparation of the work of the General Assembly on the highly important questions relative to peace and security, failing within its competence. It was argued, on the other hand, that a Standing Committee of the General Assembly for Peace and Security established as one of the five or six committees into which the General Assembly would be divided during its yearly sessions, however useful such a committee might be, would not be enabled to perform any preparatory tasks in a proper way, because it would cease to exist at the end of the session of the General Assembly.
3. Because of the many other problems of a more urgent character which were before the Preparatory Commission, the proposal of the Netherlands delegation was not acted upon, and it was not until the Second Session of the General Assembly that the idea was revived, when the United States delegation introduced a resolution proposing the creation of a Standing Committee of the General Assembly, constituted as a committee of the whole, principally for the purposes of Dealing with situations and disputes under Articles 1 I and 14 of the Charter,
4. In the interval of two years between the meeting of the Preparatory Commission and the Second Session of the General Assembly, experience had shown that the work of the Security Council was so impeded by the application of the rule of unanimity, that it had been unable to act effectively even in the pacific settlement of disputes. In addition, the agenda of the General Assembly had become so crowded that it was found impossible, in the time allotted to regular sessions, to permit adequate study of every item. The United States proposal for an Interim Committee, therefore, came at a time when a number of delegations had been thinking along similar lines and with a number of important modifications it was adopted by a resolution of the General Assembly, 41 states voting in favour, six against and six abstaining.
5. When the discussions began in the First Committee, the countries of the Soviet bloc argued that the United States' proposal was a violation of the Charter and a deliberate attempt to circumvent the Security Council. Subsequently a number of modifications were suggested and agreed to in the First Committee with a view to making the proposal less open to the constitutional objections raised by the Soviet bloc. When final discussion of the establishment of an Interim Committee of the General Assembly took place in plenary session, the U,S.S.R., Poland, Yugoslavia, Byelorussia, the Ukraine and Czechoslovakia, however, reiterated their opinion that the Interim Committee was "unconstitutional" and announced their refusal to take part in the work of the Committee. The terms of reference, as they were finally adopted represented a compromise. In certain respects they are not best designed to accomplish what, in two years of work it has transpired, has been the principal and most useful function of the Interim Committee; namely the long-term studies in implementation of Article 13 of the Charter and the study of the voting procedures in the Security Council.
6. Throughout the life of the Interim Committee, the countries of the Soviet bloc have maintained their boycott of the committee and continue to claim that it is "unconstitutional". Moreover, so long as the countries of the Soviet bloc have refused to participate in the Interim Committee there has been a disinclination to refer to it any work of major political importance. For instance, at the Second Part of the Third Session a Special Committee on Methods and Procedures was established as an ad hoc body, although unquestionably the work of this Committee has an important bearing on the work which the Interim Committee was established to do. Similarly, the work assigned to the committee established by the General Assembly to consider the Secretary-General's proposal for the creation of a United Nations Guard Force was not referred to the Interim Committee, although this would have been the logical body to study such a proposal were it not for the fact that it was boycotted by six of the countries whose participation in any discussions concerning a guard force are essential, if any practical effect is to be given to the proposal.
7. If one of the most important functions of the United Nations organization at the present time is to put into effect the maximum possible amount of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the West (despite the present division of the world) in order to preserve peace, then there would appear to be strong grounds for the argument that the usefulness of the Interim Committee is seriously impaired by the refusal of the Soviet Union to participate in this body. The question thus arises how can the Soviet bloc be persuaded to participate in the work of the Interim Committee- Past experience has shown that, as in the case of the Trusteeship Council, the Soviet Union may, if expedient, reverse its position. It might be possible, therefore, to induce the countries of the Soviet bloc to participate in the Interim Committee's work either by changing the committee's terms of reference or by giving the Interim Committee more important work of a political character in which the Soviet Union might feel it an advantage to participate.
8. I would hope that Sub-Committee 7 will attempt to approach the problem before it from the point of view of considering how best to expedite and to improve the work of the General Assembly. If the Sub-Committee approaches the problem from this broader point of view, it is more likely to make a report which can be of assistance to the General Assembly when the problem is under review at the fourth regular session. For instance, I think experience has shown that if the General Assembly is to continue to attract delegates of the status of foreign ministers, whose presence is so necessary if the prestige of the General Assembly is to be maintained, its business will have to be arranged in such a manner that the most important political items requiring the presence of senior political representatives can be disposed of in three or four weeks. One of the apparent weaknesses of the General Assembly is the great amount of time taken up in discussion of matters of secondary importance, inevitably at the expense of the time allotted for discussion of important matters. The Interim Committee could, I think, be a useful means of assisting the General Assembly to arrange its business in such a way that most of the political matters of secondary importance are discussed before the General Assembly convenes, always granting of course that the countries of the Soviet bloc are prepared to participate in the Interim Committee's work.
9. The report submitted by the Interim Committee last year (document A/606 of 13 August 1948) is a very full study of the Interim Committee based largely upon the report submitted to it by Sub-Committee 4 which, as you are aware, was charged with substantially the same task which has been given to Sub-Committee 7 this year. Sub-Committee 4 of the Interim Committee in its report last year studied a number of important matters relating to the work of the Interim Committee as such, but it did not examine in any detail one important aspect of the Interim Committee's work, namely the part which that body can play in accomplishing useful preparatory work for the General Assembly.
10. In assessing the talk which is before Sub-Committee 7, I think one has to consider: (a) what is to be-the form of the Interim Committee, and (b) the nature of the functions to be assigned to it. Obviously these are two aspects of the same problem, but for the sake of clarity I have chosen to DEA/ with them separately. I think it more logical to discuss the question of functions first, as the nature of the task assigned to the Interim Committee will decide, to some extent at least, the form which it should take. To the question "Should the Interim Committee be continued-", I think one would be justified in replying in the affirmative. There are good reasons, to be found in the Charter itself, which can be advanced in favour of continuing the Interim Committee. Article 11 and Article 13 charge the General Assembly specifically to carry out certain studies. Article 13 particularly requires the General Assembly with: "(a) promoting international cooperation in the political field and encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification; (b) promoting international cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, and assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion." The language of Article 13 makes these duties of the General Assembly mandatory, and the work of the Interim Committee in this field alone would seem, therefore, to warrant its continued existence. If this interpretation is accepted, the question then arises of what other functions the Interim Committee can or should perform. III considering the present terms of reference of the Interim Committee, one must bear in mind that the situation which existed in the Security Council in 1947 no longer holds to the same extent. At the time the Interim Committee was established in 1949, the Security Council had not yet demonstrated its capacity to perform the important functions assigned to it under the Charter in the field of mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Since that time the Security Council has had notable, if limited success in this field, in the cases of Palestine, Indonesia and Kashmir, and one of the principal reasons originally justifying the establishment of the Interim Committee, therefore, has to some extent at least disappeared. Any examination of the terms of reference of the Interim Committee, therefore, must be made with this changed situation in mind.
11. The first function of the Interim Committee, as laid down in its terms of reference, paragraph 2(a) of General Assembly resolution 196(111), is "to consider and report with its conclusions to the General Assembly on such matters as may be referred to it by or under the authority of the General Assembly". So far, the only matter referred to the Interim Committee by the General Assembly has been the question of Korea in which the Interim Committee was able to perform a useful but limited function. To date the Interim Committee has not been called upon to fulfill any of the functions called for under paragraph 2(b) of General Assembly resolution 196(111) relating to consideration by the Interim Committee of "any dispute or any situation which, in virtue of Articles 11 (para. 2), 14 or 35 of the Charter, has been proposed for inclusion in the agenda of the General Assembly by any Member of the United Nations, or by any non-member State under Articles 11 (para. 2) or 35, or brought before the General Assembly by the Security Council, provided the Comnuttee previously determines the matter to be both important and requiring preliminary study." The Interim Committee has performed its most useful work in relation to paragraph 2(c) of General Assembly resolution 196(Iil); studies in the field of international political cooperation. The Interim Committee to-date has not had occasion to implement paragraph 2(d) of General Assembly resolution 196(111) relating to the summoning of a special session of the General Assembly.
Similarly, the Interim Committee has never exercised its right to "conduct investigations and appoint comnussions of enquiry within the scope of its duties, as it may deem useful and necessary, provided that decisions to conduct such investigations and enquiries shall be made by two-thirds majority of the members present and voting." It will be seen, therefore,that the Interim Committee has so far only discharged a small part of the duties permitted to it under its terms of reference.
12. Despite the limited operation of the Interim committee to date I think there would be sufficient grounds for continuing it solely on account of the important functions assigned to the General Assembly under Article 13. Its continuation is all the more essential when one considers that it is only in the political and security field that the General Assembly lacks a body to do essential preparatory work. In the economic and social field, in the trusteeship field, in budgetary and administrative matters and in the legal field as well as in a number of other specialized fields, there are various bodies established to perform necessary preparatory work. In regard to security matters the Security Council, the Commission for Conventional Armaments, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Military Staff Committee may be regarded as doing some preparatory work; there is no equivalent body doing necessary preparatory work for the General Assembly in respect of international cooperation, except the Interim Committee. If it is recognized that the participation of the countries of the Soviet bloc in the Interim Committee would revitalize it and permit it to carry out useful preparatory work for the General Assembly, then there would seem to be good grounds for considering revision of the terms of reference to make it possible for the countries of the Soviet bloc to participate in its work. This might be accomplished by restricting the terms of reference to the duties of doing preparatory work in the political and security field and to the long-range studies referred to in Article 13 of the Charter (sub-paragraphs (a) and (c) of paragraph 2 of General Assembly 196(111)). Alternatively, the Interim Committee might be continued with its present terms of reference for an unspecified period until more definitive conclusions can be reached regarding the functions which such a body can usefully perform.
13. With these alternatives in mind, I think one can consider the various forms which the Interim Committee might take. When the Interim Committee was established, a number of different proposals as to its form were considered. For instance, it was suggested that the General Assembly might, by a simple adjustment of its Rules of Procedure, be kept in session throughout the year, meeting as the occasion demanded. It was also suggested that similar results might be obtained by depending upon the convocation of special sessions of the General Assembly, and there was a third suggestion to establish a committee of the whole Assembly to meet between regular sessions. Advantages and disadvantages were to be found in each of these methods and it was eventually decided that the establishment of an Interim Committee was the method best suited to the circumstances then pertaining. It is possible, however, that, in the present circumstances, the General Assembly might wish to reconsider its original decision. For instance, if it were considered that the countries of the Soviet bloc could be persuaded to participate in the Interim Committee's work if its terms of reference could be modified to meet their objections, it might be possible to reconstitute the Interim Committee on a different basis.
14. I shall deal with the alternative suggestions in the order in which I mentioned them in paragraph 13 above. The suggestion to keep the General Assembly in session throughout the year could be given effect by making the Interim Committee one of the main committees of the General Assembly, establishing it either as the Seventh Committee or with a status and with functions similar to the Ad Hoc Political Conmuttee. Such a proposal, however, would undoubtedly meet with the same objection which was put forward to the Netherlands proposal made in 1945 for a Standing Committee of the General Assembly for Peace and Security. It is not clear form Article 20 of the Charter if a proposal if this nature would be constitutional. However, if the constitutional difficulties could be overcome, there would be certain advantages in this method. As a seventh committee of the General Assembly, for instance, the Committee might be allocated items in the agenda requiring longrange preparatory work and studies including matters which heretofore have been entrusted to special committees, such as the Special Committee created to study the establishment of a United Nations Guard Force, and the Special Committee on Methods and Procedures of the General Assembly. In addition, of course, the Committee could continue to carry out, at the direction of the General Assembly, the studies called for under Article 13 of the Charter. In this manner studies of a detailed character which require a good DEA/ of time could be carried on and the resulting reports dealt with only in plenary session, thus lightening the load of the Political Comnuttee. More important than this however, the transformation of the Interim Committee into one of the main committees of the General Assembly might serve as an inducement to the countries of the Soviet bloc to participate in its work as, if they did not do so, they would only be able to discuss the items dealt with by the committee in plenary session and at a stage when thinking on those matters would have hardened to a degree which might make it impossible for them to have any appreciable effect on the discussions. Should the recommendation to amend Rule 59 of the General Assembly's Rules of Procedure, which is now under consideration by the Special Committee on Methods and Procedures of the General Assembly, be adopted, this argument would more than ever apply.
15. The suggestion to depend upon the convocation of a special session of the Assembly seems to have no particular advantage, at least not in so far as the solution of the problems which are before the Assembly at present is concerned. It is within the power of the members of the General Assembly now to call a special session at any time in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and it is generally thought that this procedure should be sparingly used to DEA/ with special situations requiring the urgent attention of all the members of the organization.
16. In addition to these suggestions, there are two other alternatives which have to be considered. It would be possible for the Political Committee to elect, in accordance with Article 22 of the Charter, at each session a special and select committee to perform whatever preparatory work might be assigned to it during the Assembly and which could meet between regular sessions to carry out that work. One advantage of such a proposal is that it would circumvent the constitutional objection which has been raised to the establishment of the Interim Committee as one of the main committees of the General Assembly meeting only between regular sessions, This, however, would raise difficulties regarding the question of its composition if the membership were to be less than the membership of the whole organization.
17. There is of course, in addition, the more modest proposal, which seems to have the support of the United States delegation, to leave the Interim Committee's terms of reference virtually unchanged with the exception that no specific time limit be placed on its life. Such a proposal would be an advantage from an administrative point of view, it being simpler to budget and to provide a secretariat for a permanent body. It also would lend more stability to the work now being done by the Interim Committee. It would not, however, do much to solve the principal problem which appears to be to lighten the load of the Political Committee and to perform useful preparatory work for the General Assembly in the political and security field. This, as I have suggested, seems to involve bringing the Soviet Union and its satellites into cooperation with such a body.
18. None of these proposals seems to provide a satisfactory or conclusive answer to the problem. The form which the Interim Comnrittee takes, of course, depends largely upon the functions which it is decided to give to it. If agreement could be reached upon the general objectives which it is desired to set for the Interim Committee, and the place which it is to have in relation to the work of the General Assembly and the other organs of the United Nations, I think the decision as to the form it should take, could more easily be agreed upon. I doubt, however, whether Sub-Committee 7 will be able to do more than analyze the problems and set out the various alternatives without attempting to reach any conclusions or make any specific recommendations to the Interim Committee.
19. The United States delegation apparently favours a recommendation to continue the Interim Committee, without limiting its life to a specific period of time and without any change in its present terms of reference. The United Kingdom delegation appears to be thinking along similar lines, although they have not yet received any instructions. 20. It does not seem to me that Sub-Comnuttee 7 is the appropriate place to reach any conclusions on any of the broader issues which I have mentioned in this despatch. In my opinion the role which the Interim Committee can play in the United Nations can best be assessed in the General Assembly when the recommendations of the Special Comnrittee on Methods and Procedures of the General Assembly are available and when the General Assembly has been able to decide whether it wishes to approve long-range studies which are being formulated in the Committee on International and Political Cooperation. There are, however, a number of questions I have outlined in this despatch which you may wish to have considered in Sub-Committee 7. I should be grateful to have your comments on this despatch and to have any instructions which you may care to give to our representative on SubCommittee 7. It should be recalled that our representative was elected Rapporteur of Sub-Committee 7 at its first meeting.
I have, etc.