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Historical documents

196 Forsyth to Burton

Memorandum, NEW YORK, 15 April 1948

With reference to your memorandum No. 82 (File P47/72/2) dated 25th March, the following are general and preliminary comments on the note[1] on international consideration attached to your memorandum:

(1) General comments: In general it is felt that the approach is not entirely adequate. The main consideration appears to have been whether the members of the Trusteeship Council would or would not like what the Australian Government might propose. Admittedly it is wise, from the practical point of view, to endeavour to anticipate the attitudes of the members of the Council. This, however, is not the fundamental consideration. It is quite possible for an administering authority to be completely correct and yet to find that the majority of the members of the Trusteeship Council would be critical and even in opposition. The overriding consideration is the welfare of the inhabitants, and no authority is in as good a position to judge the measures required as the administering authority is. In reaching its decisions as regards such measures, the administering authority is bound by the Charter of the United Nations and the terms of the Trusteeship Agreement. It is suggested that the proper approach is from this basis. Consideration of the attitudes of the Trusteeship Council members would appropriately follow.

The foregoing is felt to be of very high importance since it goes to the root of the whole problem of government of dependent peoples under the trusteeship system, i.e. the question of responsibility. It is the responsibility of the administering authority, and not of the Trusteeship Council, to administer. While undue emphasis on this principle in the Trusteeship Council would not be tactful, nevertheless, it ought to be clearly in mind throughout consideration of the question of administrative union or any other question concerning the government and welfare of the people of the trust territory.

This is all the more important in the present case because it is obvious that there is confusion in the minds of some members of the Trusteeship Council as to where the responsibilities of the Trusteeship Council and the administering authority begin and end.

It is not merely important in the present case but is a question involving the very nature of the trusteeship system. If the Trusteeship Council involves itself in the responsibility for particular administrative measures, it will vitiate its true function of review and supervision. It could easily get itself into the position of sitting in judgment on measures in the initiation of which it was itself involved. This would not only be improper but would not be conducive to securing the objectives of the trusteeship system.

(2) Particular matters (preliminary comments) Legislative Council: The question which seems to be posed by the note is whether there should or should not be a Legislative Council for the combined territories. My impression is that those members of the Trusteeship Council who were interested in the question of administrative union took for granted the existence of a legislature. However, their concern was with the existence of a legislative body for the trust territory specifically and separately. This was linked in their minds with the question of maintaining the separate political status of the trust territory. In other words, merely to set up a Legislative Council for the two territories combined would not necessarily remove objections. Whether these objections would be sound is, of course, another question, and the answer would lie presumably with the administering authority which might decide that the objectives of the Charter would be best achieved and properly achieved by means of a single legislative body for the two territories.

Australian Representative
on the Trusteeship Council

[1] The document is the same as that cited in Document 195, note 1.

[AA : A1838, 301/2/1, II]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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