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Message to the Congress Transmitting 17th Annual Report on U.S. Participation in the United Nations.

November 20, 1963

To the Congress of the United States:

Pursuant to the provisions of the United Nations Participation Act, I transmit herewith the seventeenth annual report covering United States participation in the United Nations during 1962.

This record tells the story of deep United Nations engagement in the great issues of the 1960's. It demonstrates that despite the financial irresponsibility of some of its members, the Organization has, through executive action and parliamentary diplomacy, played an indispensable role in dealing with an impressive number of the world's problems.

The United Nations political relevance-and its developing capacity for effective action-is indicated by a brief look at several major aspects of world affairs and at what the United Nations did about them in 1962.


When the Soviet Union sought to alter the balance of nuclear power by installing missile bases in Cuba, the United Nations--as well as the Organization of American States--proved an important instrument in resolving the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear era. The Security Council served as a forum in which the United States Government made clear to the world that its actions, taken in concert with its neighbors of the Hemisphere, were the reasonable response of rational men to a sudden and unacceptable threat in their midst. The Secretary General, only recently elected to his post after a period as Acting Secretary General, provided a useful point of contact in the early stages of negotiations with the Soviet Union. The United Nations also could have provided an on-site inspection service at short notice had the Cuban Government not refused to cooperate with the world organization, and made necessary a continuation of other means of surveillance in the interest of hemispheric security. Finally, the United Nations provided an appropriate place for negotiating the remaining issues after Soviet missiles had been withdrawn.

It was in 1962 that a major United Nations peacekeeping force in the Congo established a level of internal security which permitted a very substantial reduction in the size of that force. The Central Government of the Congo, assisted by the United Nations, has preserved (in the words of the Charter) its "territorial integrity and political independence"--and thereby forestalled a threat to international peace--in the face of three attempts at secession: a communist-sponsored effort in the north, a local eruption in the interior, and a secession backed by outside interests in the south. Assisted by technical aid from most of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations, the Government of the Congo has meanwhile increased its capacity to manage an economy of rich potential in the face of severe difficulties, including a crippling lack of trained manpower and experienced administrators.

In two other fields the United Nations has continued to be a vital instrument to effect a disengagement in important sectors of the great power confrontation. The Organization has served as a forum for encouraging an agreement for the cessation of nuclear weapon testing and for promoting progress toward general disarmament. It has served, as well, as a mechanism for negotiating legal principles and technical cooperation in outer space. We must be no less concerned with these persistent efforts to shape the future within the framework of the United Nations Charter than we are with United Nations operations designed to respond to the alarm bells of the present.


During 1962 an impending conflict was averted in West New Guinea--the first territory administered by an international organization--by the patient work of a United Nations mediator. In the Middle East the United Nations Emergency Force, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees were on the job of removing and reducing tensions, and controlling those that could not yet be removed. In Kashmir, United Nations contingents patrolled under provisions of truce and cease-fire agreements. In Korea, a United Nations Commission stood ready to help in the unification of the country in accordance with resolutions of the General Assembly. (Since the end of 1962, the United Nations has begun another work of peacemaking, through an agreement for the disengagement in Yemen of the United Arab Republic and Saudi Arabia.)


At the 17th General Assembly the United Nations received and then accepted the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that peacekeeping expenses of the United Nations in the Congo and the Middle East, earlier approved by the Assembly, are expenses of the Organization within the meaning of Article 17 of the Charter. The failure of member states to pay their related assessments would thus subject them to the loss-of-vote provisions of Article 19. The Court's opinion and its acceptance set the stage for what, based on later actions by the General Assembly, promises to produce a sturdier sense of financial responsibility on the part of most of the members.


Despite predictions of "another Congo", the United Nations trust territory of Ruanda-Urundi moved peacefully from dependence under Belgian administration to independence as the Republic of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Burundi and then to membership in the United Nations. The Organization continued to tackle the problems of nonviolent transition as awakening peoples moved steadily toward independence from older colonial patterns. The remnants of the world's colonial past still present some hard cases--the last precisely because they are the hardest--which will test the capacity of the world community, and of the United Nations, to devise the procedures and institutions of peaceful change.

It should come to us as no surprise that the struggle for national self-determination should be so closely linked with other fundamental questions of human fights. It has been so in our own country. As the decolonization process nears an end--with miraculously little bloodshed--men and nations can shift their attention from national freedom to the larger issue of individual freedom.


Through its Specialized Agencies and regional commissions--its technical assistance and pre-investment work ... its civil role in the Congo ... its new projects such as the World Food Program, the World Weather Watch, and regional planning institutes... its standard-setting and rulemaking roles in such fields as maritime safety and international radio frequency allocations ... its useful reports and its many conferences--the United Nations moved ahead as the principal international executive agency of the Decade of Development. We continue to believe it possible, through vigorous international cooperation, to achieve an average annual rate of economic growth of five percent in the newly developing nations by the end of this decade.

In short, the United Nations in 1962 was confronted--in practical and operational ways--with a broad agenda of the great issues of our time. Like most institutions devised by man, the United Nations exhibited both accomplishments and shortcomings. But despite noncooperation from some members and wavering support from others, the Organization moved significantly toward the goal of a peace system worldwide in scope. The United States will continue to lend vigorous support to the building of that system.


Note: The report "U.S. Participation in the UN" is Department of State Publication 7610, International Organization and Conference Series 45 (Government Printing Office, 1963, 452 PP.).

John F. Kennedy, Message to the Congress Transmitting 17th Annual Report on U.S. Participation in the United Nations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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