Dumbarton Oaks, US Exceptionalism and UN Reaction

  June 20, 2021   Read time 3 min
Dumbarton Oaks, US Exceptionalism and UN Reaction
The United States maintained its view that there should be wholly separated 'strategic trust territories', and that these should be designated by the controlling power.

Eventually this was reluctantly accepted by the Five, and transmitted to the Conference. The Conference committee concerned was not disposed to challenge the US view, but it was proposed by Egypt, and accepted by the United States, that, 'subject to the provisions of the trusteeship agreements', the Security Council would 'avail itself of the assistance of the Trusteeship Council to perform those functions ... under the trusteeship system, relating to political, economic, social and such matters'.

No specific provision was included in the Charter to this effect, however. And in practice the Trusteeship Council for long took little notice of the single strategic territory (that of Micronesia in the Pacific) to be designated. Still less has the Security Council made any attempt to exercise its responsibilities in relation to the territory, which perhaps for this reason remained the last to be brought to independence (and then no longer as a single unit, a part remaining with the US).

On the other trust territories Britain and France were anxious to protect the administering power from undue interference by the Trusteeship Council. The United States, on the other hand, wanted to prevent the establishment of new preferences like those given in colonies; the United States demanded, on these grounds, that there should be a general non-discrimination undertaking.

For the rest, the Five fairly quickly reached agreement on the system to be applied. The Trusteeship Council would exercise a general overview of the administration by the metropolitan power, and could send visiting missions as well as receive regular reports. Within the Conference there was some attempt to extend the scope of the system. Australia and the Philippines proposed that all dependent territories should be made into trust territories, but did not pursue this idea far. An Australian proposal that the General Assembly could decide which territories came under the system was not even considered. On the contrary, the Conference accepted a proposal of the Five that any designation of a trust territory would be subject to a subsequent agreement, so making clear that it was for each occupying power to make the decision on the question.

The prohibition of all military uses of the territories contained in the mandate system was abandoned: it was arranged that the administering power could 'ensure that the trust territory shall play its part in the maintenance of international peace and security and could make use of volunteer forces, facilities and assistance' from the territory for this purpose, or for local defence and law and order. It was also laid down that no alteration or amendment of the agreements could be made without the consent of the administering authority; which implied that they could not be deprived of their responsibilities against their willl and, when Egypt proposed an amendment under which the Assembly would be given the power both to transfer a territory to another administering authority in the event of violation of the arrangements, or to terminate the trusteeship agreement and declare a territory independent, this was turned down by the great powers and was not even further discussed.

Britain and France also ensured that the Council would consider petitions from the territories only 'in consultation with' the administering authority; and that investigations on the spot would take place 'at times agreed with the administering state'.5 By these arrangements all effective control in such territories was firmly kept in the hands of the administering powers.

These arrangements for trusteeship were to be accompanied by another section of the Charter concerning all non-self-governing territories. Britain, having accepted the idea that there should be some general declaration of this kind, in which the colonial powers would undertake to protect the interests of the inhabitants of such territories and to promote their political, economic and social advance, presented her own proposals for this to the Five. These then incorporated much of this in a proposed statement of principles governing dependent territories which they included in their working paper on trusteeship.