Forde and Evatt to Curtin

Cablegram F3 LONDON, 17 April 1945, 7.40 p.m.


1. The British Commonwealth meeting has ended after a useful exchange of views. Most of the questions listed in our E2 [1] have been left open and various Delegations will be free at San Francisco to express their own views and seek amendments. London talks have resulted, however, in a clearer appreciation of the issues to be faced and better understanding of interests of various parts of the Commonwealth. We have gained support on several matters of special importance to Australia.

2. From the outset we took the initiative on many issues. The list of questions which became the basis of discussion was largely formulated by the Australian Representatives on the Committee of Experts in accordance with directions of Evatt. Talks here have underlined the fact that our objectives can best be served by intensive work in Committee stages and by discussions.

Arrangements in which various issues are not considered separately but as balancing one another. Our task at San Francisco is likely to involve careful and delicate negotiation and judgment re application of Governmental policy in face of more than forty other Delegations. The London talks, however, have afforded valuable experience.

3. The major issues in London concerned the membership voting procedure and powers of the Security Council, the powers of the Assembly, the procedure for settlement of disputes, amendment of the Charter Social and Economic co-operation and territorial trusteeship. The results of discussion under these headings are summarised below.

Voting on the Security Council:-

4. Throughout the discussion on the Yalta voting formula, the Australian Delegation stressed that this question could not be separated from related questions such as revision of the Charter.

The removal of the great power veto on amendment of the Charter would do much to reconcile us to a great power veto on enforcement action. Answering questions by Evatt re the nature of the British Commitment at Yalta, Eden said that the United Kingdom Government was technically bound by the Yalta Agreement but the essence of this agreement was that while great powers should possess a right of veto this right should be limited to certain particular cases.

In his view we were not only free to discuss at San Francisco what these cases should be but he would be prepared to reconsider the right of veto on amendment of the Charter.

5. Discussion re the veto on the examination of a dispute to which a great power was not a party (item 4(B) in the report of Expert Committee) revealed that there was no reason why the veto should apply in such cases.

6. The Dominions were prepared to give some recognition to the fact that a compromise with Russia was necessary on the voting procedure even while they wished to vary the proposals.

Non Permanent Members of the Security Council:-

7. Canada and Australia pressed for better representation on the Council of ‘Middle Powers’ or as we have expressed it ‘Security Powers’ and strength of their case was generally accepted. The means of achieving this representation was discussed and such criteria for selection as the war effort, war potential and geographical location were mentioned. There was general agreement that provision might be made in the Charter to the effect that due regard be paid to the contribution of members towards the maintenance of security and that the nomination of the first Security Council and matters relating to the elections of the Council in future should be regarded as a subject for arrangement at San Francisco. It was recognised too that this question could not be considered apart from the great power veto provisions for future revision of Charter and future negotiation of special security agreements under Chapter VIII (B) 5 of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.

Enforcement of Sanctions:-

8. The election of non-permanent members of the Security Council was linked with the question whether the decisions of the Council re enforcement of sanctions should be binding on States who had not participated in the decisions. Canada proposed that the decisions should be binding in the first place only on members of the Council and on such other States as had specifically undertaken to carry them out.

9. On this issue Australia was of the same mind as the United Kingdom, namely that universality of the security system was of prime importance. To remove universality from the system of collective security would cut at the roots of the whole system and any chance of hesitation or uncertainty re enforcement of sanctions would only encourage the aggressor. The expectation of complete and immediate application of collective security measures was the chief element commending the Dumbarton Oaks proposals to the peoples of the world.

10. South Africa and New Zealand were at first of the opinion that non-members of the Security Council should be consulted in the general assembly before action. Our arguments, however, strongly impressed other Delegations.

The Peace Settlements:-

11. Canada sought information whether the Security Council should be empowered to assume responsibility for supervision of peace settlements with former enemy States. There was general support for Dr. Evatt’s view:

(1) That matters relating to peace settlements were governed by the terms of the treaties and were the responsibility of powers including Australia and other Dominions who, having taken an active part in the war, would be principal parties to such treaties;

(2) That the Security Council’s function was to deal with threats to peace and it would not be concerned with peace terms unless these give rise in some way to a threatening situation.

Powers of the Assembly:-

12. On item 1 of the Expert Committees report, discussion centred on the respective powers of the Assembly and Council in regard to the handling of disputes. The New Zealand Delegation wished to remove limits on the Assembly but we took the position that while it was desirable to increase the powers of the Assembly the question should be considered in relation to the general question of the composition and functions of the Security Council and the procedure to be adopted in settlement of disputes, and that due regard be paid to necessity for leaving the Security Council unhampered in handling immediate threats to peace.

We suggested that on taking over handling of a dispute the Security Council should give some indication to the Assembly that the matter was being placed under the Council’s jurisdiction and having been so notified the Assembly should be precluded from dealing with the matter on its own initiative until, by an agreed procedure, the Security Council had ceased to have sole cognisance of the matter. This should be the sole exception to the Assembly’s general competence to discuss matters affecting International Security and it should not affect- (A) The power of the Assembly to consider a dispute if the Council were unable to do so owing to exercise of great power veto or (B) The right of the Assembly to express disagreement or make recommendations in subject after the Council had relinquished jurisdiction. There appeared to be general support for our views from the United Kingdom and Canada.

Settlement of Disputes:-

13. The immediately preceding question was closely related to later discussion of procedure for settlement of disputes and it is obvious that two questions cannot be decided apart from one another. On item 8 of the Committee’s report, Dr. Evatt’s analysis of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals was generally accepted. That analysis revealed some ambiguity in draft but it was agreed that the desirable end was to give the Security Council power to recommend conditions of settlement of a dispute, the continuance of which was likely to endanger security and to determine conditions of settlement if that were necessary to maintain or restore peace and security.

14. As regards the third point of item 8, it was generally agreed that the Council should be empowered to consider disputes, the continuance of which did not threaten security, only if both parties to the dispute so requested.

15. We also succeeded in obtaining a large measure of support for principles which are implicit in the questions asked in item 9 re the basis of action of the Security Council and question in item 10 re territorial integrity and political independence of members.

The meeting accepted Dr. Evatt’s suggestion to amend political independence Chapter 11 (4) of the Dumbarton Oaks proposal to read ‘All Members of the Organisation shall refrain in their International relations from threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of another State or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the Organisation’. It was recognised that if any State violated this obligation it would surely be impossible for the Council to decide a dispute in its favour. Any case of wilful aggression would thus be a clear breach of charter and, coming under the Security Council’s jurisdiction, would be met with enforcement action. This was a preferable method than an attempt to define aggression or to make a general declaration that aggression should be met by force.

Amendment of Charter:-

16. The case presented by Australia re revision of the Charter can fairly be regarded as one of the most notable contributions to the Conference. We pointed out that the process for amendment must have an important bearing on acceptance of the charter by some Countries and it was impossible to accept the present position under which the Three Great Powers, China and France, were not only given a special position in organisation but were also allowed unrestricted power to veto any subsequent proposal for change. Further, periodical revision of the charter would be necessary to ensure that the World Organisation developed to meet changing world conditions. The process of amendment should not be too easy and there should be adequate safeguards, but the present great power veto on the change was unacceptable. The possibility of setting a term of five or seven years after which the charter should come up for revision by a Constituent Assembly was discussed and generally favoured.

Regional Arrangements:-

17. The main discussion in item 11 centred on the present requirement that no regional enforcement action shall be taken without the approval of the Security Council. Attention was drawn to the importance some Countries, including our own, placed on having a Regional Security System as a second line of defence should a world system of security fail. Attention was also drawn to French views re application of the Franco-Soviet Pact. It was pointed out that enforcement action by the World Organisation might be prevented by the veto of a single great power which was itself interested in the region where a threat to peace arose and in that case threatened Nations would have to fall back on other arrangements.

Permanent Court:-

18. There was a general discussion on the permanent court but it was agreed to await the outcome of the Washington Conference on this subject. We made strong points for increasing the use of the court in settlement of justiciable disputes or in fact-finding for the benefit of the Security Council.

Military Arrangements:-

19. Discussion under item 12 was mainly directed to political and constitutional aspects of negotiations of the Special Security Agreement, e.g. whether multilateral agreements should be negotiated and whether the Security Council would initiate negotiations. The Military aspect was not considered except that we pointed out that the provision in Chapter VIII (B) 6 re air forces to be held immediately available to the Security Council was inapplicable to the Pacific where task forces of Combined Naval and Air Units would be required.

Social and Economic Co-operation:-

20. The meeting eventually reached general agreement on the points put forward by the Australian Delegation re economic and social cooperation. It was agreed that the Social and Economic Council should be one of the principal organs of world organisation. We also gained support for inclusion in charter of a definite pledge by members to take action both National and International for the purpose of securing for all peoples including their own, improved labour standard, economic advancement and social security, and as part of that undertaking to take appropriate action through the instrumentality of a General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, the I.L.O. and such Bodies as may be brought within the framework of the International Organisation, and to report periodically to the organisation on steps taken to carry out the pledge.

21. Our Delegation continued to stress that a pledge without machinery and recognised procedures to give effect to it may be valueless. We agreed that the Economic and Social Council should have power to initiate conventions on social and economic conventions and this view was generally endorsed. It was agreed that further attention should be given to the functions of the Council, and its relationship to the Assembly and to specialised bodies.

Territorial Trusteeship:-

22. Two early sessions of the conference were devoted to statements of the views of the Governments and general discussion of trusteeship; Colonel Stanley outlined the United Kingdom position. The main points which emerged were:-

(1) That the enclosure with despatch D.125 [2] of December last had never been submitted to Cabinet and did not carry Cabinet approval and would now be withdrawn;

(2) By the Yalta decisions the United Kingdom was bound to discuss the subject with other Great Powers before the San Francisco Conference and it was implicit in the Yalta decisions that discussion at San Francisco would be limited, and (3) The United Kingdom Cabinet would oppose the Yalta proposal for voluntarily placing the Colonies under Mandate and if there were such a system no British Colonies would voluntarily be placed under Mandate (see telegram D429 [3]). New Zealand and Australia protested against a firm decision having been reached before the Dominions had been consulted and pressed their case for trusteeship. Before final session of Conference matter was considered by United Kingdom Cabinet.

23. At the final session Cranborne attempted to crystallise discussion under the following headings:-

(A) The Mandate system should be continued with respect to existing Mandates and territories taken from the Enemy as a result of the present war;

(B) Inadvisability of multiple or joint administration;

(C) No existing Mandate to be surrendered by Nations of the British Commonwealth;

(D) Modifications of detail were required in existing Mandates system;

(E) Limitation of San Francisco discussions to a general formula leaving details to be arranged subsequently between Colonial Powers;

(F) Exclusion of Regional Colonial Commissions from the San Francisco Discussions, Regional arrangements to be made between the Powers concerned after San Francisco.

Cranborne also stated that the United Kingdom Cabinet wished to go as far as possible to meet the Dominions views and therefore would accept the principle of the Yalta proposal that parent States might voluntarily place territories under Mandate. They did not intend, however, to apply this principle to their own territories.

24. New Zealand, Australia and India protested most strongly that this was not a compromise and urged the necessity for Britain to take a lead towards some recognition of duty to dependent territories at least to the extent of reporting periodically. We pointed out that the United Kingdom Government had made complete departure from Stanley’s memo of last December and we were not content to end the Debate with a summary of points which for most part had been accepted before London talks began. All three Delegations expressly reserved the right to take their own line at San Francisco.

25. There was also much discussion on Point E above. The Australian Delegation throughout took the line that they did not wish to embarrass the United Kingdom but in their judgment discussion on Colonies at San Francisco was unavoidable. In that discussion the primary Australian concern would be to ensure that the Charter of the World Organisation was wide enough to cover trusteeship and to allow room for effective future action in this field. We stressed that our ultimate concern was not about what was likely to be raised at San Francisco but what was to be done by the British Commonwealth about Colonial peoples. At the conclusion Mr. Forde emphasised the importance we attached to the welfare of native peoples and our wish to see the United Kingdom give a lead to other nations.

26. Additional points to be noted are:-

(A) Our views on trusteeship do not apply to more advanced Colonies such as Malta and Ceylon which are approaching self Government but only to Dependent territories;

(B) Besides welfare of Native Peoples improved administration of dependent areas is necessary for security.

27. Throughout the debate the New Zealand Delegation took an equally firm stand maintaining the policy declared in the Australian/ New Zealand Agreement. Fraser feels very strongly on the subject.

28. You will realise from the foregoing that the Colonial question is in a delicate phase. The line to be taken at San Francisco will depend on circumstances, especially the results of the preliminary five Power talks in Washington and the way in which the subject is raised at the United Nations Conference.

29. On the whole Australia took the most prominent part in the London talks and there has been a pleasing recognition of our Delegation’s contribution to the success of the meeting.


1 Dispatched 9 April. On file AA : A1066, H45/772.

2 The reference should presumably be to Dispatch D172, covering Stanley’s memorandum on ‘International Aspects of Colonial Policy’, dispatched 27 December. See Document 17, note 1.

3 Dispatched 12 March. On file AA : A1066, P45/153/2, i.


[AA : A1066, H45/772]