Dumbarton Oaks Proposals and the Other Provisions of the UN Charter

  June 20, 2021   Read time 3 min
Dumbarton Oaks Proposals and the Other Provisions of the UN Charter
There were a number of other ways in which the Dumbarton Oaks proposals were amended or supplemented at San Francisco. Perhaps the most important concerned the system of trusteeship.

This was one of the only features of the Charter which had not been fairly clearly sketched out in the proposals of the great powers. A section had been designated to deal with the matter, but, largely because of disagreements within the US Government, this had not been filled in, and was barely discussed among the powers until the San Francisco Conference began. Roosevelt had cherished the hope that the new organisation could be given special responsibilities, not merely for taking over the League's mandated territories, but for exercising a watch over all dependent territories, and assisting their progress towards independence.

The first State Department proposals had, however, run into strong opposition from the US service departments. These were anxious to maintain unfettered US control of conquered Japanese Pacific territories, which in their eyes were essential to US security. None the less, Roosevelt at Yalta discussed possible trusteeship arrangements for captured Far East territories. During these discussions Stettinius spoke in a general way of UN machinery for dealing with 'trusteeship and dependent areas'. Churchill exploded at this idea, declaring that 'he did not agree with a single word of this report on trusteeship' and would not consider any suggestion 'that the British Empire is to be put into the dock and examined by everybody'. As a result the Yalta communique referred to the possibility of trusteeship only for existing mandates, for conquered territories and any other territory voluntarily offered as a trust territory. Meanwhile it was agreed that representatives of the three powers would get together to work out acceptable trusteeship proposals before the San Francisco Conference. These discussions, however, did not take place until the eve of the Conference.

Meanwhile there had continued to be an acrimonious debate within the US Government, with the service departments continuing to resist any proposal which would mean that the United States would have to be internationally accountable for any territories she took from Japan in the Pacific. As a result US officials conceived the idea of establishing two types of trust territory, the normal type, similar to mandates, to be supervised by a new trusteeship council; and 'strategic trust territories', which would not come under that council but which would be supervised, if at all, by the Security Council, where each permanent member would exercise a veto. The power exercising physical control of each territory would say to which kind of trusteeship it would commit it. The main trusteeship arrangements, providing for investigations in the trust territories, the acceptance of petitions from local inhabitants, and so on, would apply only to the non -strategic territories.

These proposals were put by the US Government to the rest of the Five at the opening of the San Francisco Conference. Britain strongly opposed the idea of a special status for strategic trust territories. She felt that the general aim of protecting the interests of the inhabitants through international supervision applied just as much to the strategic territories as to others; and that it should be possible for the controlling power to protect any special strategic interests there without a wholly separate scheme. The US idea would remove from the purview of the trusteeship council many of the matters for which the trusteeship system was primarily designed ... .' In such areas, therefore, the administering power should still report to the Trusteeship Council on most matters, and to the Security Council only on security questions. The Soviet Union thought that the occupying power should not be able to take unilateral decisions on how each territory should be treated; it was for the Security Council, she said, to decide which territories should be designated as security areas. This view was supported by China.