OCTOBER 14, 1949
NEW YORK, Thursday—A very interesting thing happened in Committee 3 yesterday afternoon. Once before when the convention on the traffic in women and children was under discussion, the so-called colonial clause was defeated and it was made mandatory that any colonial power that ratified the convention should immediately make it apply to all non-self-governing territories under its jurisdiction.
The catch, however, is that no government can be forced to adhere to any covenant. Therefore, any colonial power that has previous agreements with its colonies or territories under which it has granted constitutions that delegate certain powers to the colonies will now say that under these constitutions they are unable to ratify. They must now wait to hear from these non-self-governing territories as to whether they wish to be a party to a covenant and wish to carry out the provisions of that covenant.
This will mean either that the colonial powers do not ratify at all, or wait a long while before they ratify. Instead of having a prompt ratification and a report within a year on any territories that have not yet become parties to the convention, giving the reasons why this has not yet been accomplished, there will be no reason for the metropolitan powers to make any report whatsoever. Far more people will be unprotected, as the covenant will not cover anywhere near the number that might have been possible if the metropolitan powers at once ratified for themselves.
This clause, of course, does not affect the United States at all. The United States in its relations with any territories agrees to apply to them immediately any agreements it accepts for itself. But we have always felt that there was wisdom in accepting the point of view of such colonial powers as had entered into agreements with their colonies, having granted them certain constitutional rights.
It is perfectly true that in the reports made on conditions in these colonies or territories, there are often situations that are deplorable, continuing as they probably have existed for hundreds of years. The examples read by a number of delegates were mostly drawn from reports made for the benefit of the United Kingdom colonial office.
I do not think that anyone ever could claim that subject peoples were in a particularly happy situation, but it would seem better where even a gesture is made toward advancing people to a point where they can carry responsibility for themselves. The power doing this should receive all the encouragement possible to live up to its agreements. In spite of abuses, this is one of the few ways of advancing democracy in these territories.
I hope that what seems to many of a theoretical victory today, and which may turn actually into a defeat, will turn instead into a real victory and induce the colonial powers to move forward more rapidly in devising a manner in which their colonies almost simultaneously give their consent to any covenant accepted by a metropolitan power. That would do away with the necessity for a colonial clause and save us a great deal of trouble.
It would not however, take care of the situation covered by our federal-state clause, which is as important to us as is the colonial clause to the colonial powers. Before long I shall go over with you the reasons why our Congress, in ratifying a treaty or covenant, has always insisted thus far on the inclusion of the federal-state clause.