Date range
Open the calendar popup.
Open the calendar popup.

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

Cablegram UN964 NEW YORK, 9 December 1946, 10.27 p.m.


Assembly 382.

1. Indians in South Africa came to a vote in Plenary Session late last night when resolution recommended by Committee One and hitherto referred to by us as the French-Mexican resolution was adopted. [1]

2. The amendment referred to in our Assembly 324 [2] paragraph 2 was not moved by the United States and Sweden as anticipated but South Africa itself proposed amendment to the effect that since Assembly's jurisdiction was in doubt and the questions involved were of a legal as well as of a factual nature the Court was requested to give an advisory opinion of the question whether the matters raised by India were essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of South Africa. This received the support of the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium and others which argued that as doubt had been raised re jurisdiction it was in accordance with the Charter and desirable in the interests of both parties to refer the question to the Court.

3. The long and sometimes emotional debate was characterised by many appeals to prejudice and attempts to deride those supporting amendment as trying to sidetrack the issue. India also spoke bitterly, Mrs. Pandit's target on this occasion being United Kingdom rather than South Africa, and anti-British remarks usually drew applause from her supporters. Soviet in supporting India also used occasion for attack on West.

4. The Debate also underlined the claim made by many nations, including the Soviet on this occasion, of the right of intervention by General Assembly on any matter whenever the Assembly for political reasons thought it desirable to do so. It was asserted that an obligation in respect to racial discrimination and human rights already existed in the Charter. If the Assembly thought there was any breach of this obligation it could intervene and in such a matter the Assembly itself was competent to decide its own jurisdiction.

5. As voting shows, this issue has divided the Assembly on new lines. Latin American countries were split and together with Arabs joined a distinct Asiatic group with the Soviet Bloc intact and reaping full advantage from the situation.

6. In accordance with the instructions in your UNY.461 [3] and 465 [4] Australia did not speak and voted in favour, prior to taking of the South African amendment and abstained on the Committee resolution. New Zealand spoke in support of reference to the Court and like all other Members of the British Commonwealth voted for South African amendment and against Committee resolution.

7. Prior to taking of the vote, the President raised the question whether a two-thirds majority was required under Article 48, paragraph 2 of the Charter and this issue was finally settled by Ad Hoc voting on this question alone, it being resolved by 29 votes against 24 that two thirds majority was necessary. Australia voted with majority. Minority was composed mainly of Soviet and the most active supporters of India.

8. South African amendment was rejected by 31 votes against 20 with 2 abstentions. Those voting for amendment were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greece, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States.

9. The Committee resolution was carried by 32 Votes to 15 with 7 abstentions. Those voting against the resolution were the same as the supporters of the South African amendment except that Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador and Sweden abstained. Bolivia and Turkey abstained on both votes.

1 General Assembly Resolution 44(I).

2 See Document 278, note 3.

3 Document 278.

4 See Document 282, note 4.

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

Category: International relations

Topic: History