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Preparation for the General Assembly
Near the close of the San Francisco Conference, it was realized that, if the first meetings of the organs of the United Nations were not to be unduly prolonged, it would be necessary to make in advance detailed preparations and arrangements. Accordingly a Preparatory Commission, on which all signatory states were represented, was established by the Interim Arrangements signed in San Francisco.
The organizing meeting of the Commission was held in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. Mr. Leo Pasvolsky, the Representative of the United States on the Commission, was elected Chairman of this first session by acclamation. It was decided that the Commission should carry on its work in London, and that its Executive Committee, consisting of representatives of the 14 states which had been members of the Executive Committee of the San Francisco Conference, should meet promptly to prepare the work of the Commission. It was also agreed that the United Kingdom should assume responsibility for its Secretariat. Mr. H. M. Gladwyn Jebb of the United Kingdom was named Executive Secretary, and performed the duties of that position with efficiency and devotion.
The Hon. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., and the Hon. Adlai E. Stevenson were appointed by the President respectively as Representative and Deputy Representative for the United States to the Executive Committee and to the second session of the Commission in London. In the absence of Mr. Stettinius for reasons of health after October 16, Mr. Stevenson served as Acting Representative. Mr. Benjamin Gerig, Mr. Abe Feller, Mr. Wilder Foote, and Mr. John C. Ross, all of the Department of State, served as Alternates.
The meetings of the Executive Committee in London August 16October 27, 1945, were held under conditions different from those envisaged in San Francisco. The war with Japan came to an end September 2. The occupation of Germany had been completed and its administration was rapidly being consolidated.
The ending of organized hostilities gave widespread impetus to the feeling that the Charter should be ratified with the least possible delay in order to permit the prompt establishment of the United Nations. The United States Senate, taking world leadership toward days, and the United States deposited its formal instrument of ratification on August 8. Completion of ratification by several other states followed swiftly. These events induced the United States to propose that the convening of the General Assembly should be expedited and to support a proposal by Mexico that the first session of the General Assembly should be divided: the first part to be primarily organizational in purpose, though not excluding consideration of urgent world problems, and the second part to be devoted primarily to substantive questions. The Executive Committee readily accepted these proposals.
The fields of the ten technical committees established by the Executive Committee, and in the main retained by the Preparatory Commission, reflected the range of preparation required: (1) the General Assembly, (2) the Security Council, (3) the Economic and Social Council, (4) the trusteeship system, (5) the International Court of Justice and legal problems, (6) arrangements for the Secretariat, (7) budgetary and financial arrangements, (8) relationship with Specialized Agencies, (9) transfer of certain functions, activities, and assets of the League of Nations, and (10) other questions, especially that of the Permanent Headquarters of the United Nations. On each of these working groups the United States was represented.
The Executive Committee adopted with few modifications the proposals and recommendations of these committees and adjourned on October 27. Its report, in which the United States concurred, became the basis of the work of the Preparatory Commission of the 51 United Nations, which met in London November 24 and completed its recommendations and report on December 23.
In the course of these developments, a number of general questions arose. The position of the United States throughout was that the working arrangements for the Organization should be kept flexible, and that only a minimum of initial rules of procedure should be provided, leaving their full development for later consideration by the various organs of the United Nations in the light of experience. It was also believed that emphasis should be placed on the preparations for the General Assembly and the Secretariat rather than on those for the other organs, which would have time to develop their own plans after the Assembly had established itself, and which in any case had to determine their own rules of procedure and their subsidiary structure. These views, on the whole, were shared by most of the other Delegates.
On several specific problems coming before both the Executive Committee and the Preparatory Commission, the position taken by the United States warrants special mention.
(a) On the location of the permanent headquarters of the United Nations, as to which there was strong sentiment in many quarters favoring a site in the United States, it was considered desirable for the United States Representative to maintain a position of complete neutrality although, at the same time, letting it be known that if a majority of the other Delegates favored the United States for the location, the United States would extend a cordial welcome to the Organization. It was difficult at times to maintain this position of neutrality in view of the many pressures both abroad and at home, and also of the possibility that the position of the United States might wrongly be interpreted as one of indifference on a matter of importance to the Organization. The United States abstained from voting on the recommendation of the Executive Committee that the headquarters should be located in the United States and on the decisions of the Preparatory Commission confirming that choice, determining that the site should be in the eastern part of the United States, and appointing an Interim Committee to make more detailed recommendations to the General Assembly on the exact location.
(6) The question of whether economic and social problems coming before the Assembly should be dealt with by one committee for both or by two committees was a subject of prolonged discussion. The same question as to the handling of these problems arose in connection with the commissions of the Economic and Social Council, and with the organization of the departments of the Secretariat. The United States took the view in all these cases that economic and social questions are usually closely interrelated, often beyond hope of practicable separation, and that coordination would be difficult unless these functions were vested in one body. On the ground, however, that economic and social problems would be too broad and varied to be handled effectively together, the decision of the Executive Committee, confirmed by the Preparatory Commission, favored having two bodies.
(c) The question as to whether the General Committee to serve as the steering group of the Assembly should be small, or a large committee composed of representatives of all Members, was debated at length because of the possible implication that control of the Assembly by this Committee through substantive decisions might ensue. The United States Delegation expressed the view that this Committee should be small and charged mainly with consideration of administrative and procedural questions concerning the placing of subjects on the Agenda and with rendering other assistance to the President of the Assembly in the general conduct of work. This view was sustained in the final recommendations.
(d) A proposal that the General Assembly should have a standing committee on peace and security was favored by certain Delegates in view of the general security functions of the Assembly. The Soviet Union and the United States opposed instituting such a committee as possibly confusing the distinction between the security The proposal was not pressed further.
(e) Since establishment of the Trusteeship Council was dependent upon prior negotiation of trusteeship agreements and was therefore likely to be delayed for some time, the United States concurred in a suggestion that a temporary trusteeship committee of the Assembly might be instituted pending establishment of the Council. Some others believed, on the contrary, that such a committee might tend to delay establishment of the Trusteeship Council and might not even be constitutional. The United States, while questioning the validity of the latter point, agreed that a temporary committee was not essential and that the early conclusion of the necessary trusteeship agreements to enable the Trusteeship Council to be established should be encouraged. This view was finally adopted.
(f) In regard to the Secretariat, the great importance of which the United States appreciated, the United States expressed the view that the Secretary-General should be given wide discretion in determining its organization and in forming its staff regulations and rules in order to maintain maximum flexibility and adaptability. This was in contrast to another school of thought which wished to spell out in advance an almost fully detailed plan of organization. The views of the United States were generally upheld in the final recommendations.
(9) The question of open meetings and access by the press and the public to the meetings of the organs and subsidiary bodies of the United Nations was examined at some length. The recommendations as adopted were based on proposals submitted by the United States. They envisaged an open press policy in line with the principle that the purposes of the United Nations will not be achieved unless the peoples of the world are fully informed of its aims and activities. Accordingly it was provided that meetings of all principal organs, Commissions and Committees of the United Nations should in general be open to the press and public with the fullest possible direct access to the activities and official documentation of the Organization; and that whenever private meetings were necessary the decisions should be made public.
In addition the United States supported such actions, all approved by the Preparatory Commission, as the inclusion on the Assembly's Agenda of the problem of refugees as one of urgent importance, proposed by the United Kingdom, and the immediate establishment of a Commission on Narcotic Drugs as one of the commissions of the Economic and Social Council, proposed by China.
The United States proposed, furthermore, that the Economic and Social Council should be enabled, in accordance with Article 62 of the Charter, to call international conferences on matters within its comhealth. The Preparatory Commission endorsed this proposal.
The United States approved the report of the Preparatory Commission as providing an adequate basis for the constituent work of the General Assembly and the other organs of the United Nations. Indeed, it was to the more than five months of careful consideration accorded by the Executive Committee and the Preparatory Commission to the vast number of major and detailed problems involved in establishing the United Nations, that the General Assembly was indebted for its own wide range of achievements.
On December 27, only three days after the adjournment of the Commission, the process of ratification of the Charter by all the 51 Members was completed. Thus the Preparatory Commission could convoke the General Assembly with the certainty that the full membership could participate in the urgent work of establishing the United Nations Organization.