Forde and Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram E38 [SAN FRANCISCO], 3 June 1945, 1.14 p.m.


Delegation No. SFC33.

Voting procedure in the Security Council.

General discussion of the right of veto of permanent members of the Security Council (Chapter VI Section C) [1] began in Committee III/1 on 17th May. New Zealand pointed out that the meaning of the Yalta formula was far from clear and invited the four sponsoring Governments to explain precisely just what decisions were affected by the veto. The United Kingdom was the only great power which accepted this invitation and Cadogan expressed the personal opinion that the veto did not apply to paragraph 1, 2 or 3 of Section A of Chapter VIII. He said that inquiry into and investigation of a dispute was not blocked by the veto though recommendation or ‘decision’ could be blocked and Dr. Evatt then expressed the opinion that on a strict legal interpretation of the Yalta formula the veto applied to the whole of Chapter VIII Section A.

The only exception was that under paragraph 3A party to a dispute was disqualified from voting. He said that in the existing circumstances it might be necessary to accept a great power right of veto on imposition of sanctions under Chapter VIII Section B so as to maintain unanimity amongst the great powers whenever the use of force was in question. He could find no satisfactory argument however in favour of veto upon action to settle disputes by Pacific means under VIII A.

As the text now stood one great power not a party to a dispute could prevent resort to means of Pacific settlement even though this was desired by 10 members of the Council and by both or all parties to the dispute. He appealed to the sponsoring Governments to reconsider their position.

Dr. Evatt also referred to the present right of a great power, not a party to a dispute to veto action by the Security Council authorising enforcement action by a regional agency (VIII C2) and drew special attention to the effective right of veto of the great powers upon all future proposals to amend the Charter in any respect. As the Charter now stood the great powers not only had a right of veto over decisions to settle disputes by Pacific or forceful means they also had a right of veto in perpetuity.

During the ensuing discussion strong support for the Australian view that the veto should not be applicable to VIII A was given by Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Greece, El Salvador, Brazil, Egypt, Cuba and Argentine. The only opposition came from the four sponsoring Governments supported by the Ukraine, White Russia, Czechoslovakia, Norway and Yugoslavia. South Africa expressed the intention of voting for the Yalta formula not because of the merits of the formula but in order to maintain unanimity amongst the great powers. France also indicated it would accept the present formula on the same ground in spite of French amendments which had been tabled distinguishing between ‘recommendations’ and ‘decisions’ of the Council and advocating application only to ‘decisions’.

On 18th May the Committee decided to set up a Sub Committee consisting of the four sponsoring powers, France, Australia, Cuba, the Netherlands, Egypt and Greece to ‘clarify the doubts’ that had arisen in decision as to the meaning of the Yalta formula. This Sub Committee met on 19th May and at the suggestion of the Soviet representative it was agreed that the members of the Sub Committee other than those representing the four sponsoring powers should draw up a questionnaire to be submitted to the latter representatives designed to elucidate the meaning of the Yalta formula. The Australian Delegation drew up 15 questions which formed the basis of a questionnaire containing 22. questions submitted through the Secretariat to the sponsoring powers. [2] This questionnaire was submitted on 22nd May but so far no answers have been received. According to press reports the four sponsoring powers are unlikely to give a specific answer to each question but will content themselves with a general reply. [3] The press also suggest that while the Yalta formula will be maintained the reply may place what has been euphemistically described as a ‘liberal’ interpretation upon the formula. Pending receipt of this reply Committee III/1 wished to turn its attention to the other portions of the charter.


1 References are to the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VII, Document 311.

2 Published as Annex M to the Report by the Australian Delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, 25 April - 26 June, 1945, Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, 1945-46, vol. III.

3 ibid., Annex N.


[AA : A1066, H45/771/1]