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

May 22, 1950

To the Congress of the United States:

I transmit herewith to the Congress, pursuant to the United Nations Participation Act, my fourth annual report on the activities of the United Nations and the participation of the United States. This report for the year 1949 tells an impressive story of accomplishment, much of which we are prone to overlook in the clamor of daily difficulties. I commend it to the careful reading of all our citizens. The Charter of the United Nations is a contract among the members to settle their disputes peacefully and to promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples for the building and maintenance of a durable world order.

We support the United Nations and keep this contract because the Charter expresses our fundamental aims in the modern world. We know that the fulfillment of the Charter will best advance our own vital interests-to attain peace with justice, to assure freedom, and to bring about economic and social progress, for ourselves and all peoples. It is for this reason that support of the United Nations is and must be Point 1 of our foreign policy.

Most of the nations of the world share these objectives and are working through the United Nations to achieve them. They therefore tend increasingly toward common judgments on the great issues confronting mankind. The decisions of the United Nations in 1949 show to a greater extent than in previous years that the convictions of the world's peoples on matters of fundamental concern have become clear and firm with the lessons of postwar experience.

Relations among nations have never been, and probably never will be, free from difficulties. The intensity of the East-West conflict has obscured the fact that certain critical disputes have arisen from purely local conflicts and that many such problems would continue to confront nations even if relations between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world were far different from what they are today. In a time of swift and profound change like the present, questions of adjustment of views and interests among nations are more numerous and urgent than at any previous period in history. There are few international problems that fail to confront us with the need of making decisions on the policy we should follow or the national attitude we should express in the United Nations and in our direct relations with other states. These problems make daily demands of us for sober judgment and strength of spirit and purpose. They make the same of every nation seeking to carry out the Charter.

The United Nations is an organization to help members resolve international difficulties. It is also a mirror in which the state of world affairs is reflected. We cannot expect from the United Nations immediate solutions of problems as large and complex as many that are before it. But already we have seen how, by its debates and decisions, it is helping to guide the nations into the ways of peace. To the extent that solutions of problems are delayed or are obtained piecemeal, we must be realistically prepared to live with them. Persistent effort through the United Nations is an expression of our faith that these problems can be solved.

This faith is not misplaced. Experience is demonstrating that the United Nations processes of debate, consultation, conciliation, and agreement are capable of bringing about the peaceful settlement of disputes wherever both sides fundamentally respect reason and pledged undertakings above force. The report for 1949 shows how greatly the United Nations has contributed to the settlement of the Indonesian dispute, how it has brought an end to the fighting in Palestine and in Kashmir, and how it continues to work energetically toward further progress in the solution of these disputes. Many lives have been saved through the success of the United Nations in moving such conflicts indoors--from battlegrounds to conference tables.

The power of the United Nations today is that of moral force. Such force gathers its strength slowly, but it does so surely. No nation can ignore the question of how its actions will appear in the world forums of the United Nations. No nation, member or nonmember, attending or nonattending, can avoid accountability before the United Nations for actions affecting the peace. The aroused opinion of mankind, when brought to sharp and immediate focus as it often is in the United Nations, is not lightly to be dismissed, even by a nation that has strong battalions.

Much of the useful work of the United Nations is and should be long-range in character. In some of its fields, the tasks are those of development over many years, as in the steady and seemingly prosaic steps toward the building up of international economic and social health through cooperative relations among all nations desiring to help each other. It is in such far-flung and manifold activities no less than in its efforts to handle critical tensions that the United Nations is creating fundamental conditions necessary for the growth of peace. The report I submit this year gives to this work the fuller attention it merits. It shows that in economic and social fields the United Nations is becoming increasingly effective in improving the daily life of millions of people. In 1949 the Economic and Social Council proposed, and the General Assembly unanimously adopted, a program of technical assistance to underdeveloped areas which is directed toward the goal I outlined as Point IV in my inaugural address. This program of the United Nations offers solid promise for world advancement.

By related programs, the United Nations is promoting economic development in regional areas and in various fields of endeavor. Through a program of public works started in the Near East, jobless and homeless refugees can find new homes and the foundation of self-reliance through beneficial employment rather than relief alone. Special training fellowships are being given by the United Nations and the specialized agencies to hundreds of students for study. Upon request, experts are being sent to demonstrate in underdeveloped areas the advanced knowledge and techniques which the local peoples can put to practical use. Expert missions in the fields of public administration and finance, agriculture, medicine and health, social problems, and labor matters have been sent to many countries on request of governments to tackle urgent problems that stand in the way of improved standards of living. All this work will be further intensified as the expanded program of technical assistance is put in operation.

In other fields also, progress is being pressed. The new Field Service and Panel of Field Observers provide specialized help for commissions of peaceful settlement. It has been agreed that two of the former Italian colonies, Libya and Italian Somaliland, are to become independent states. The advancement of trust areas and other nonself-governing territories is steadily being fostered through the cooperation of the administering states and the United Nations. On legal questions it is gratifying to observe the gradual increase in the use of the International Court of Justice. Respect for and dependence upon the processes of law are essential in the building of the better world order.

These constructive activities have been overshadowed by the unsolved problems arising from the policies and acts of the Soviet Union which lead to tension and impairment of security in international relations. The United Nations rendered a great service during 1949 by asserting, in the notable resolution of the General Assembly on "Essentials of Peace," the standards of conduct necessary to restore international confidence. Each of the 53 members other than the Communist states represented in the United Nations gave its support to this fundamental call for action to build peace. By this and other steps, the United Nations made it clear that the great issues of security in the postwar period are between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world at large and that these issues arise from failures by the Soviet Union to conform its conduct to the purposes and principles of the Charter.

The international control of atomic energy stands foremost among the urgent matters calling for agreement. Effective international regulation of armaments and armed forces is a related problem of urgency.

Our experiences during 1949 in the United Nations provided further demonstration that, as the Secretary of State has recently stated, agreements with the Soviet Union and its satellites are valid only as and when they record existing situations of fact. It is not enough to hope for agreement or to make proposals; it is essential to create the conditions under which it will be to the interest of the Soviet Union to enter into and to keep agreements. All international activities which create moral, economic, and military strength among the nations of the free world will broaden the area of possible agreement and hasten its coming.

We are endeavoring in the United Nations as in our other international actions to make dear to the Soviet Union that we seek to carry out the Charter in deed as in word, and that we ask no more or less from any other member. It will be our plan in the future, as it has been our practice in the past, to do all in our power to strengthen the United Nations as the primary instrument for the maintenance of peace. By our efforts to strengthen it and by our related assistance to other nations under legislation enacted by the Congress, we shall seek to make our utmost contribution to attaining the situation of fact in which agreement can become realistically possible.

The United Nations seeks agreement and the execution in good faith of agreed undertakings. This is the true basis of a world community rounded on law and justice. We, for our part, will continue to negotiate and to examine every proposal in our unending effort to achieve security through effective and dependable agreement.

It is a source of encouragement that the United Nations in conducting its work is distinguishing between realities and illusions and is vigilantly insisting, problem by problem, upon solid gains through actual performance. It is striving for real peace, genuine freedom, and actual progress. This fact stands out in its record.

The walkouts of the Soviet Union over Chinese Nationalist representation in the United Nations occurred since the events of 1949 described in this report. In the presence of this willful flouting by the Soviet Government of obligations assumed by it under the Charter, the United Nations has taken the common sense attitude of proceeding with its business as usual.


Note: The report is printed in House Document 598 (81st Cong., 2d sess.).

Harry S Truman, Message to the Congress Transmitting the Fourth Annual Report on U.S. Participation in the United Nations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230664

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