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Historical documents

222 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN674, NEW YORK, 28 July 1948, 8.44 p.m.


1. Interim Committee have for two days been discussing the report of Sub-Committee 4 which contains analysis of work carried out during the year by the Interim Committee and recommendations regarding the future of the Committee. With reference to your telegram 340 the Sub-Committee recommended that the Interim Committee be continued at least for another experimental year before any decision was taken as to whether to make it a permanent Committee of the General Assembly. Other recommendations of the Sub-Committee were to the effect that the Interim Committee, if continued, should be vested with basically the same powers as those laid down in the original resolution with the addition that the Committee should be authorised by the General Assembly to request advisory opinions of the International Court on legal questions arising within the scope of its activities.

2. On the question of further extension of the Committee's activities, the Sub-Committee's report showed a division of opinion on whether or not to add a general power to the Committee to consider administrative, budgetary and organisational matters. This question has still to be debated in the Interim Committee. Balance of opinion appears to be against the addition of such powers.

3. On the question of continuance of Committee discussion today showed disagreement as to whether the Committee should recommend a specific period to the General Assembly, such as one year,or leave it open to the General Assembly to decide the period itself, or even to make the Interim Committee permanent. The recommendation now appears simply in the form 'that the Interim Committee be continued for a further period to be determined by the General Assembly', - form of words which disguises some substantial difference of opinion.

4. Speaking today on this proposal, the Australian representative took the line that it was unnecessary and undesirable for the Interim Committee to propose a specific recommendation to the General Assembly for its continuance. The Committee was required to report on the advisability of constituting a permanent Committee of the Assembly, but this obligation would be quite adequately discharged by informing the Assembly of the results actually accomplished by the Interim Committee and setting out the considerations which might be held to justify its continuance at least for a further experimental period. For the Committee now to try to determine for itself whether its continuance was to be recommended would be to anticipate discussion in the General Assembly which would have to take account of the whole range of political considerations then existing. An expression of opinion by the Committee itself, therefore, at this stage would have only a limited value and would be no real assistance to the Assembly. Australia therefore expressly reserved its position in this respect at the General Assembly.

5. This statement neither opposed nor supported the[1] continuance of the Committee, but was directed only to the assumption by the Committee of the responsibility of making a specific recommendation. All other Delegations which spoke supported making this recommendation, except India, who appeared to be against continuation of the Committee in principle.

6. Our own views are that the work done by the Interim Committee during the year hardly justifies on the whole its continuance. The technical studies produced on the veto and methods of pacific settlement constitute the main results and probably these could have been accomplished just as well by ad hoc expert committees. Apart from the Korean Commission[2] the Interim Committee has not been used at all for political and security matters insofar as these formed part of the original intention, nor, apart from the abovementioned studies, has it been called upon to hold the Assembly in any way by preparatory work. Further, the top representatives of many countries have hardly ever attended and the meetings have had poor public relations' value. The eventual decision is, of course, basically political, but above is our judgment based on the intrinsic performance of the Committee.[3]

[1] A symbol here notes 'mutilated'.

[2] The United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea consulted the committee in February 1948. For the committee's discussions and decision see Documents 137, 138 and 139.

[3] The committee decided to recommend to the General Assembly that it be continued for a further period to be decided by the Assembly. On 3 December 1948 the Assembly approved the recommendation and decided to continue the committee for another year. It directed the committee to continue its studies relating to the general principles of co-operation in the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of international co-operation in the political field.

[AA : A1838, 852/20/3, III]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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