Evatt to Cranborne

Cablegram 27 CANBERRA, 31 January 1945


Colonel Stanley’s paper [1] on the International aspects of colonial policy seems to mark a definite advance towards some of the main objectives set out in paragraph 28 to 31 of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement of January, 944, under the heading ‘Welfare and Advancement of Native Peoples of the Pacific’.

2. The Paper explicitly accepts the Australian - New Zealand thesis of international collaboration on a regional basis through the machinery of such regional commissions as the proposed South Seas Commission referred to in the Australian - New Zealand Agreement and the Caribbean Commission.

3. The Paper also advocates international collaboration in relation to Colonial territories by the creation of further central functional bodies, such as the I.L.O., which functional bodies will be attached to the world organisation. It will be recalled that the Australian - New Zealand Agreement declares in paragraph 28 that the doctrine of trusteeship is applicable in broad principle to colonial territories. It also declares that the main purpose of the trust is the welfare of the native peoples and their social, economic and political development.

4. As is pointed out in paragraph 2 of the Paper, the doctrine of trusteeship was often invoked prior to 1918 by British statesmen desirous of describing the essential features of British colonial policy.

5. The broad objective of the new functional bodies advocated by the British Paper is the same as that of the Australian - New Zealand Agreement in its explicit embodiment of the general principle of advancing the welfare of the native peoples.

6. Further it may fairly be observed:-

(a) that Colonel Stanley’s Paper concedes there is some degree of responsibility in respect of a colonial territory whether that territory is under mandate or not; and (b) that the responsibility of the parent State is not merely a matter of domestic but of international concern.

7. There are important consequences which flow from the establishment of organisations such as the I.L.O. or other functional bodies of an international character. These consequences may be illustrated by the I.L.O. itself. That organisation results from an international agreement as a result of which it becomes the duty of all member States not only to pursue the objective of improving labour conditions but to accept a specific means for achieving such objective, i.e. the adoption of domestic legislation of a character approved by the international body. An analogous organisation is the proposed Food and Agriculture Organisation. Similarly, in relation to functional bodies performing duties in relation to States, including States with dependent territories. Such bodies, to be efficient, must at least provide some machinery by which, from time to time, obligations of an international character will be assumed by a State in relation (inter alia) to its colonial territories.

8. It will probably be found, in practice, that all these functional bodies will be compelled to draw a distinction between the conditions in the metropolitan territory of a Power and the conditions in the colonial territory of the Power. For instance, an increase in the standard of living of native peoples would often result from fixing minimum labour conditions, although such conditions would probably be far below the established standard of the people in the metropolitan territory of the parent power. In other words, the problem of the people in the colonial territories is not merely an incident of the general international problem of advancing labour and welfare conditions but is-to say the least-a separable branch of such international problems.

9. Moreover, colonial territories are at very different degrees of political development. This is sufficiently indicated by the important distinctions between A, B and C class mandates.

International action which is applicable to one group might be quite inapplicable to another. If this is correct, it suggests that the proposed international functional body or bodies will probably be compelled to deal separately with peoples of dependent territories, at least in respect of native peoples at a similar state of development to the peoples at present covered by class C mandates.

10. The conclusion from the above is that there is a reasonable possibility that the British Commonwealth countries might reach an agreement which would satisfy the general principles of the Australian New Zealand Agreement by not only adopting the regional system which we favour but by establishing effective functional bodies of the I.L.O. character. Much will depend upon the precise terms and conditions of the proposed instrument establishing the functional bodies suggested by Colonel Stanley.

11. With regard to Colonel Stanley’s suggested alteration of the mandates special difficulties may arise. It must not be forgotten that, in the United States, there has never been a formal recognition of the fact that the original sovereignty of the German colonial territories passed from Germany to the League of Nations. The United States refused to become a party to the mandatory system. If that system is altered it is easy to visualise a very strong United States demand for a complete revision of the system of administration of mandated territories.

It will be remembered that the mandatory system expressly placed upon the mandatory powers, in respect at least of C class mandates, the international duty of developing the native peoples in the direction of selfgovernment. While this provision was never felt as a hardship by Britain and the Dominions which had in practice declared principles in accordance with the spirit of such a provision, the tearing up of the existing Mandates might raise more problems than it would solve.

12. On the whole the retention of our own mandated territory, the allocation to friendly powers or groups of powers of mandates formerly held by Japan as well as the disposal of the Italian overseas possessions appears likely to be achieved more smoothly by a continuance of an international system comparable to the mandates system than by direct transfer of sovereignty as envisaged by paragraphs 30 and 31 of your memorandum. For us in Australia, at any rate, the future stability, prosperity and strong defence of French, Dutch and Portuguese colonies in Asia and the South Seas are of vital importance. In being willing to continue to present our own colonial administration to a reasonable degree of scrutiny we would gain by bringing other colonial territories under an equal degree of scrutiny. Mr. Curtin drew attention to these considerations in London last May.

13. In the nature of things, these comments do not contain a full analysis of the many problems referred to in Colonel Stanley’s important Paper. But we have said sufficient to show that there is or should be room for agreement on the matters raised, and every step should be taken to reach an agreemeent within the British Commonwealth in the first instance, and before the United States view becomes crystallised.


1 Paper CO14814/11/44, ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’, dated 21 December 1944, was dispatched to Dominion Govts on 27 December, with a request for comments prior to a proposed exchange of papers between the U.K. and U.S. Govts on the question of colonial policy, with special reference to the development of regional machinery. A copy is on file AA:A1066, P45/153/2, i.


[AA:A1066, P45/153/2, i]