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Wednesday, 12 May 1965


Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - by leave - I rise to draw the attention of honorable senators to amendments to the Charter of the United Nations, set out in Resolution 1991 of the United Nations General Assembly, which I now table, providing for an increase in the membership of the Security Council from 11 to 15, and of the Economic and Social Council from 18 to 27, and providing also for an increase from seven to nine in the number of affirmative votes needed for the adoption of resolutions in the Security Council.

These amendments - the first to the United Nations Charter since it was drafted twenty years ago - have their origin in the rapid increase over recent years of the membership of the United Nations. There were 51 members when the organisation began in .1945. Since then, with the admission of new members, mainly from Asia and Africa, the United Nations has more than doubled, to a total today of 114. This rapid enlargement resulted in increasing competition for the elective seats on the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, since the sizes of these bodies remained as fixed by the United Nations Charter in 1945 - that is, eleven, including five permanent members, on the Security Council, and eighteen on the Economic and Social Council.

It also resulted over the years in increasing pressure for Charter amendments enlarging the Councils. This pressure was however for some time resisted by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which argued that it was neither appropriate nor legally possible to amend the Charter until the People's Republic of China was represented in the United Nations. Since Charter amendments cannot come into force without the ratification of each of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the Republic of China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - the proclaimed opposition of the U.S.S.R. was for some years enough to inhibit efforts to enlarge the Councils. However, at the Eighteenth - 1963 - Session of the United Nations General Assembly the pressure for enlargement resulted in the adoption, of an Afro-Asian motion, of the Resolution I have just placed on the table of the Senate.

Resolution 1991 A, relating to the Security Council, was adopted by 97 votes, including Australia, in favour: 11 - the Soviet bloc and France - against; with four abstentions - the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Portugal and South Africa. Resolution 1991B, relating to ECOSOC, was adopted by 96 votes, including Australia, in favour; eleven against, including the Soviet bloc and France; with five abstentions - China, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Portugal and South Africa.

In the view of the Australian Government, the increases provided for in Resolution 1991 are sensible and equitable. The Government believes that the Security Council, while it should be properly representative, does not require great enlargement. Its function as the organ with " primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security " makes a wide membership inappropriate. It must avoid the danger of unwieldiness lest the necessary capability of rapid action be diminished; and its membership must meet the special qualifications laid down in the Charter, Article 23 of which states that, in the elections of the Council's non-permanent members, due regard should be "specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organisation, and also to equitable geographical distribution". Resolution 1991 A meets these requirements, while at the same time providing for the adequate representation of the countries of Asia and Africa in addition to the groups and interests traditionally represented on the nonpermanent seats of the Council. In the case of the Economic and Social Council, on the other hand, given the wider-ranging nature of its work and the absence of specific qualifications for membership, these constraining factors are not present and the rather greater proportionate increase provided for in Resolution 199 IB is appropriate.

Since enlarging the size of the Security Council and of ECOSOC requires that the United Nations Charter be amended, it was not sufficient for the General Assembly simply to adopt a resolution. Article 108 of the Charter states that amendments to the Charter shall come into force when they have been, first, adopted by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly, and secondly, ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two-thirds of the members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council. Resolution 1991, which fulfilled the first of these requirements, called upon member States to ratify by 1st September 1965.

So far 63 member States, including one permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S.S.R., have ratified the amendments. Seventy-six ratifications, including those of all five permanent members of the Security Council, are necessary for the amendments to come into force. The 63 ratifications include Canada and New Zealand and eight Western European countries. More are expected.

The Australian Government had two main interests in the lengthy and complex negotiations at the United Nations leading up to the adoption of Resolution 1991. The first was to secure provision for an equitable and appropriate enlargement of the two Councils. This aim, as I have just described, was satisfactorily achieved. The Government's second main interest was to preserve

Australia's chances of election to the Councils, preferably through retention of the Commonwealth concept in the arrangements governing elections to these bodies.

Elections to the Security Council and ECOSOC were in the beginning and for many years thereafter governed by informal conventions which in effect reserved one of the six non-permanent Security Council seats to the Commonwealth and one of the ECOSOC seats to the three "old Commonwealth " countries - Australia, Canada and New Zealand. But the convention of the Commonwealth as an electoral category came to be increasingly called into question, on the grounds that it cut across other accepted groupings. The African Commonwealth members, for example, made it plain in the years preceding the 1963 Session of the General Assembly that they wished to be elected as representatives of Africa, not of the Commonwealth. That the Commonwealth had special electoral status also attracted criticism from some non-Commonwealth members of the United Nations, especially those belonging to non-geographical groupings akin to the Commonwealth but without separate electoral status in the United Nations. These attitudes resulted in Malaysia's failing in 1963 to be elected to succeed Ghana on the Security Council - Malaysia had to share a seat with Czechoslovakia - and in the deletion of the Commonwealth from the new electoral categories established in resolution 1991.

As is recounted in the report of the Australian Delegation to the Eighteenth Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1963, copies of which are in the Parliamentary Library, the Australian delegation, together with the delegations of Canada and New Zealand, was active during the debate in seeking to preserve the retention of the Commonwealth concept in elections to United Nations bodies, and in seeking to assure the access of the three countries to the General Committee and the two Councils. The General Committee, which is concerned with organising the work of the General Assembly, was also enlarged in 1963 but since that required amendment of the Rules of Procedure only, and not the Charter, governmental ratification is not necessary. Tn his statement on 10th December 1963, the Australian representative developed at length the argument in favour of Commonwealth representation, as such, in the United Nations. He also emphasised the importance of providing proper access to the two Councils for countries, such as Australia, which had from the beginning played an active and constructive role in the United Nations and had much to contribute in the future. It, however, became clear, following the introduction by Australia, Canada and New Zealand of an amendment to the General Committee draft resolution providing that at least one member of the General Committee should be from a Commonwealth country, that most United Nations members were no longer prepared to take the Commonwealth into account in laying down the pattern of elections to the main United Nations bodies. The Commonwealth amendment was consequently withdrawn by the three co-sponsors. Statements were made however, by other Commonwealth countries to the effect that the Commonwealth was an important grouping which would continue to play a constructive role in the United Nations.

Despite the disappearance of the Commonwealth as an electoral category, Australia will continue to have electoral access to the Security Council through a newlycreated electoral category, previously in operation only for the General Committee, entitled " Western European and other States ". This category was by resolution 199 1 A allotted two of the ten nonpermanent seats on the enlarged Security Council, and Australia, which like Canada and New Zealand is regarded for this purpose as belonging to the " other States " subcategory, can now expect to secure election at least once in 21 years as against once in 29 years under the old system. Australia will also continue to have appropriate electoral access to the Economic and Social Council. Resolution 1991B, in setting out the distribution of the nine new seats, laid it down that this should be " without prejudice to the present distribution of seats in ECOSOC". Australia was at that time on the Economic and Social Council - we have since been replaced by Canada - and so should continue in its expectation of a three-year term on the Council every nine years.

These arrangements adequately meet the Government's second main interest - that of preserving Australia'schances of election to the two Councils. While we should have preferred retention of the Commonwealth concept - and, indeed, pressed hard for it - the category from which Australia is to be elected is perhaps of less significance than the preservation of the possibility of Australia's election.

It is the intention of the Government to proceed to ratify the amendments, set out in operative paragraph 1 of Resolution 199 1 A and operative paragraph 1 of resolution 1 991B, to the Charter of the United Nations after Parliament ends its present sessional period.

I present the following papers -

United Nations - Enlargement of Security Council and Economic and Social Council -

General Assembly - Resolution 1991.

Ministerial Statement, 12th May 1965.







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