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II. The Yalta Voting Formula

  • Francis O. Wilcox (a1)

Toward the close of the San Francisco Conference, Czechoslovakia's Jan Masaryk remarked that his feeling toward the new Charter “was much like that of the father fondly awaiting the birth of a son. The baby finally arrives and it turns out to be a girl. At first the father is somewhat disappointed, but he soon learns to like her just the same.” While the delegates as a whole believed that their work would go down in history as one of the great documents of all times, many no doubt shared Masaryk's view. For when a document as comprehensive as the Charter is framed, no one gets exactly what he wants.

The article of the Charter that raised the most controversy at San Francisco and the article that epitomizes the nature of the Organization, perhaps more than any other, is the Yalta formula for voting in the Security Council. So heated did the debate on this issue become that Room 223 in the Veterans Building, where the meetings of Committee III/l were held, was dubbed the “Madison Square Garden” of San Francisco. The frankness and candor with which the delegates exchanged views constitutes, in many respects, a good example of international democracy in action.

It is the purpose of this paper to review the action taken at San Francisco with respect to the Yalta voting formula and to point out the relationship of that formula to the special position of the great powers in the new Organization.

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1 Now Art. 27 of the Charter.

2 Department of State Bulletin, Mar. 11, 1945. The decisions reached at San Francisco agree, in general, with this interpretation.

3 See Arts. 33–38 of the Charter. Whether the Council should recommend terms of settlement (Art. 37) should now be added to the list.

4 See especially Arts. 39–51.

5 For relevant documents see: (1) Report to the President, Department of State Publication 2349, especially pp. 66–80; (2) UNCIO Document 1050, Report of the Rapporteur of Committee III/1; (3) The Charter of the United Nations; Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U. S. Senate, 79th Cong., 1st Sess.

6 See Arts. 28–32 of the Charter.

7 The Charter as a whole represents real progress over the League Covenant in respect to voting. Whereas the general rule of the League Assembly was unanimity, the General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council, and the Economic and Social Council—with the exception of a few important questions in the Assembly—will operate on a simple majority basis.

8 See Riches, C. A., The Unanimity Rule and the League of Nations (1933), especially Chap. VIII.

9 Whether the courts would attach any legal validity to this statement is doubtful.

10 Space does not permit a discussion of one very interesting problem left unsettled by the Conference: What effect would abstention by a great power have on a vote taken by the Security Council?

11 There is also the possibility that other states may attain the status of great powers and thus merit permanent seats in the Security Council.

* Now on leave as Chief International Relations Analyst, Library of Congress. Mr. Wilcox served as consultant to the congressional members of the American delegation at San Francisco. Man. Ed.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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