132 Addison to Australian Government

Cablegram D246 LONDON, 18 March 1946, 1.05 p.m.


His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have been considering whether any formal action should be taken at the April meeting of the League of Nations Assembly to liquidate the Mandate system. The following possible courses have been examined- (a) Termination of the Mandate system;

(b) Formal action for transfer to United Nations Organisation of League functions in respect of Mandates;

(c) Any other course.

2. Course (a) appears undesirable because if Mandates were terminated before final arrangements had been made for the future of Mandated territories, doubts might be cast on the juridical position of mandatory states. Objections to a League pronouncement that Mandates will be terminated at some future date on stated conditions are that- (1) The League would be imposing conditions which it could not enforce since it would no longer exist at the future date;

(2) A general formula covering all existing mandated territories would be virtually impossible to devise.

3. In Course (b) we see the following difficulties. The Charter imposes no legal obligation on Mandatory states to place Mandated territories under trusteeship. Consequently, no action by the League could have the effect of applying the trusteeship system to mandated territories. If the more limited functions of the Permanent Mandates Commission were vested in United Nations and if U.N.O. accepted the transfer of such functions the effect would be to have two systems of U.N.O. supervision running concurrently. It might be possible to distinguish between obligations assumed by Mandatory powers in Mandates and machinery for supervision e.g.

mandatory powers might make declarations at Geneva that they would continue to be guided by general principles of Mandates even after the cessation of hitherto existing international machinery for dealing with them. There would, however, be practical difficulties even then because mandates include provisions restricting adequate defence measures and A and B mandates in particular impose a rigid 'open door' policy which is qualified in Article 76(D) of the Charter. Such a declaration would also not be appropriate to a territory such as Transjordan which is to become independent [nor] [1] to Palestine. Further objections to transfer to U.N.O. of League functions in respect of Mandates are that it would open the way to- (1) Claims that it conferred rights in mandated territories on States members of U.N.O. but not members of the League, and (2) Dispute between France and the Levant States about contradiction between continuance of the Mandate system and Article 78 of the Charter. [2]

4. In all the circumstances, the course which would suit us best if it had prospects of success would be to achieve liquidation of the League without any specific reference to Mandate system.

Since, however, other Delegations may raise the subject the question arises whether it is better- (1) To take the initiative by proposing a draft resolution of our own in order to forestall some embarrassing proposal by other States, or (2) To be forearmed with such a draft resolution but to keep it in reserve and advance it only if it becomes necessary. On the whole, we feel that the risk of an embarrassing proposal being put forward by others is slight.

Neither the United States nor the Soviet Government will be represented and in any case the Soviet attitude might be rather adverse to any attempt to establish continuity between the League and U.N.O. The Belgian and Netherlands Delegations to U.N.O.

Assembly gave some indications that they might advocate formal action by the League Assembly for the sake of legal 'tidiness' but it is not clear that they had fully considered all implications.

5. Our provisional conclusion is therefore that the United Kingdom Delegation should not take the initiative in this matter but if it is raised by Foreign Delegations, should take the line that the future of mandated territories is not a matter for the League (which is on the point of liquidation) and has already been the subject of declarations by Mandatory powers at the U.N.O. Assembly which passed a resolution about it. [3] In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for the League to do more than pass a resolution on the lines of the following paragraph.

6. The resolution might be on the following lines:

Begins- 'The Assembly has taken note of the Declaration in regard to the future of the mandated territories under their jurisdiction made at the first Session of the United Nations General Assembly by States Members of the League of Nations on whom Mandates were conferred. The Assembly accordingly desires to place on record that it welcomes the resolutions on this subject adopted by the United Nations.' Ends.

7. We should be glad to learn at the earliest possible moment whether other British Commonwealth Governments are in general agreement with the course suggested in paragraph 5 of this telegram. If so, we should propose to approach informally the Belgian, French and Netherlands Governments to ascertain whether it would commend itself also to them.

In view of the United States interest in Japanese mandated islands and the trusteeship system generally, it might also be useful to ascertain informally that the United States Government for their part would see no objection.

8. A fuller memorandum on the question is being communicated to your High Commissioner's Office here.

1 Corrected from London copy on file AA : A3317, 299/46, i.

2 Under Article 78 of the U.N. Charter, the trusteeship system could not apply to territories which become members of the United Nations.

3 On 9 February the General Assembly adopted Resolution 9(I) which welcomed the declarations by certain mandatory states of their intention to place some of their mandated territories under the trusteeship system, and invited the mandatory states to undertake negotiations, in 'concert with the other States directly concerned', to conclude draft trusteeship agreements.

[AA:A1067, UN46/IT/1/1]