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

Cablegram UN716 NEW YORK, 17 November 1946, 2.48 p.m.


Assembly 172.


1. Debate on veto continued. Chile opposed the alteration of the Charter and considered abuse of veto not proven. Expressed confidence in the Great Powers. We should not promote division among great powers or between great powers and small powers.

2. Czechoslovakia expressed the intention of voting against all proposals.

3. The Lebanon supported the Cuban proposal [1] on grounds that veto prevents permanent members from being sufficiently objective and because Charter had other gaps and inconsistencies.

4. China considered the Australian proposal [2] as tantamount to revision of Charter. Considered that radical change now would not remedy the lack of unity but would mar the relations between the Council and the Assembly and between members of Council.

Recommended that Council study its procedure with a view to developing sound practice and permanent members might modify the declaration of San Francisco with special attention to defining the effect of abstention and absence and the placing of items upon the agenda, removing of such items and determining what is a situation or a dispute.

5. Brazil strongly supported our proposal and doubted the necessity or practical effect of attempt to amend Charter.

6. Greece expressed views similar to Brazil.

7. Colombia opposed present revision of Charter. it supported our contention that veto had not been used in accordance with purposes and principles of the Charter. Disagreed with the view that we were attempting to amend Charter. Supported Chinese proposal that great powers should immediately attempt agreement on basis of proposals under discussion.

8. French Delegation expressed appreciation of Australian statement. While opposed to amendment [of] Charter Parodi agreed that experience in Security Council showed that voting procedures had considerable effect on the work of the Council. Article 27 [3] could not be modified without affecting the whole equilibrium of the Charter but that did not mean that method of the Council's work should not be modified and he suggested some amelioration in that direction with the accord of permanent members. Two practical suggestions which had a chance of acceptance by all five permanent members were- (a) avoidance of frequent votes by such means as the appointment of a rapporteur of a sub-committee of those members least directly interested to do the preliminary work of reconciling points of view to ensure that any case brought before the Council was immediately considered in an atmosphere of conciliation.

(b) To reach an interpretation of Article 27 which would allow the use of the veto to be optional without in any way diminishing the power of veto. It should be possible for the great powers to reach such an interpretation by common declaration. Stressing that it was necessary to consider carefully various ideas developed during the course of debate he proposed that Secretary-General should prepare a report on all the suggestions that had been made and that discussion should then be postponed for a few days in order to allow all the members and especially the great powers to consider these suggestions.

9. From subsequent conversations with Parodi we learned that his optimism is based on a conversation with Molotov about ten days ago. His suggestion is gaining support and seems likely to be adopted although he will refrain from formally proposing it until close of debate on original resolutions.

10. Canada opposed amendment but requested restrained use of veto.

St Laurent made following points- (a) Rights and responsibilities of members of Council should be used on behalf of United Nations as a whole.

(b) Use of veto should be preceded by statement of grounds for use.

(c) Veto should never be used simply because proposal does not go far enough.

(d) Council procedure should ensure that no State is judge in its own cause.

(e) Formal recognition should be given to abstention not amounting to veto.

(f) Bringing of dispute or situation to Council should be preceded by written statement indicating how peace endangered and stating conciliatory steps taken.

(g) Council should settle in early stages of consideration of dispute or situation whether peace endangered.

(h) If decided that peace endangered Council should undertake obligation to ensure prompt and effective act.

11. Uruguay opposed amendment, favoured Australian proposal but considered French proposal should be adopted first.

12. The United Kingdom (Noel-Baker) defended the Australian approach as carrying out duty of an elected member of the Council to report to the Assembly on the defects of the Council. He opposed amendment- (a) because of regard for Soviet's strong conviction against amendment (b) as premature, and (c) as not justified by the facts. He expressed the hope that Council would be made to work by development of customary practices. He suggested (a) Members should try to reach agreement before commencing Council debates.

(b) Absence and abstention should not amount to veto.

(c) Dispute should be defined and parties to a dispute should not vote.

(d) Should have an agreement to ensure appointment of Commission of enquiry where facts have to be established.

(e) New rules of procedure should be considered.

He supported the French proposal, but said United Kingdom would only talk with other permanent members on understanding that nothing was taken out of hand.

13. Haiti supported Cuban proposal.

14. Egypt supported proposal to define procedural matters and the effect of absence and abstention.

15. Venezuela supported French proposal. Suggested that permanent members should draw up rules to clarify and amplify San Francisco declaration.

16. Norway in supporting French proposal indicated that veto was the only safeguard for great powers that no decision was made in conflict with their vital interests. Only alternative was to leave the organisation.

17. Denmark stated that the cause of Council's difficulties was not the veto but political differences. Expressed support of French or any similar proposal.

18 Committee meets again Monday afternoon when French proposal will be voted on first. If adopted voting on other resolutions will be deferred until debate is resumed.

1 See Document 217, note 4.

2 See Document 172, paragraph 7.

3 See Document 217, note 1.

[AA:A1838/2, 852/10/5, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History