Memorandum of Press Conference

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Memorandum of Press Conference

15 January 1946 [Grosvenor Square]

mrs. roosevelt: How do you do everybody? Those of you who are far away will have to ask questions quite loud; otherwise I won't be able to hear you. Will you go right ahead?

Q. What do you think of Hyde Park for UNO?

A. I haven't any thoughts. It doesn't belong to me. I would like UNO to be wherever its requirements can be most adequately met because I feel that it is so important that the home of UNO become a most important center, that what goes on there be known by the people—not only all the people of the United States but people all over the world.1

Q. There is a report from Washington that there is a split in the American Delegation over the question of trusteeship.2

A. I would not be one to answer that, not being on the Trusteeship Committee, but I know of no split in the American Delegation. I have heard of no difficulties whatsoever and I have been to every meeting of the Delegation.3

Q. What are your own views as to what should be done with the specific problems—

A. My own views. That, of course is a question which as a citizen I really have no opinion on until I know more of what the decisions are as to trusteeships and as to what we as a government think necessary for the people of the world in the future.

Q. Would you tell us, Mrs. Roosevelt, what is your opinion of the suggestion that Mr. Churchill should be the Secretary of the UNO?4

A. Be Secretary of the UNO? I hardly think Mr. Churchill would like that suggestion.

Q. There is a report in the press that you might be going on to Russia after the Assembly.5 Could you tell us if that is so, and if on your way you would be visiting any other European country?

A. I don't expect to go to Russia or anywhere else now. I expect to go home. I have wanted to go to Russia and for some time it has been suggested that I might go for United Features to do some writing, but no definite date has ever been set and it is more indefinite than ever in view of the fact that I don't know when the next part of this session takes place; it might have some influence on my plans here in the next few months.6

mcdermott: Any more questions?

Q. Mrs. Roosevelt, what is likely to be one of the first or major questions brought before the Social Committee of the General Assembly?7

A. We have only had one meeting and that was to elect Peter Fraser8 as Chairman, so I have no idea what will come up later on. I hope I shall know a little more about it, but at the present time we have had nothing brought before us as yet. We have had no other meeting but the first one.

Q. Will the Trusteeship Committee deal with the question of Palestine and if they do will it be in conjunction with the Anglo-American Committee?9

A. I don't know. I have not heard it said and I should think that if it was a question that dealt with the question of Palestine that the Anglo-American Committee might very easily be asked to appear before them, but I have not heard whether that is to come up or not.

Q. I have heard that the Arab Delegation to the UNO have requested an interview with the Anglo-American Committee.

A. Well, I should think that would be perfectly natural.

Q. What kind of a world organization do you envisage to deal with refugees, Mrs. Roosevelt? What do you think would be necessary? Would it be of a permanent nature or a non-permanent nature?

A. I would think that the question of refugees would probably come up in Committee III. It might not. It might come up in one of the others, but I should think it would come up there. I should think that eventually either it would be a question that would be settled at this part of the session—this session being largely devoted to organization—or either it would come up in the second part. I don't know but I should think eventually it would find itself before the Economic and Social Council and perhaps referred by them to the General Assembly or settled in some way.

Q. Do you personally feel that there should be a permanent committee for refugees?

A. I don't know why we should add to committees. I never believe in new committees when committees are set up to deal with questions and certainly the Economic and Social Council ought to be able to deal with it.

Q. There are still troops in Persia, Syria and Lebanon. The governments of these states are asking for withdrawal of the troops.10 Will the Security Council take that up?

A. Whether it will in this part, I don't know, because this is largely devoted to organization. I don't know whether it can come up on the agenda of this session, but if it is on the agenda it might quite easily come up under the Security Council of the General Assembly direct.

Q. Mrs. Roosevelt, an effort was made by the Russian Delegation today at a meeting of the General Committee11 to secure appearance of the World Trade Federation12 either before a subcommittee or a committee, and possibly the Assembly itself. There was considerable debate about what should be the relationship between such organization as a world trade organization and the Assembly—presumably through the Economic and Social Council. I wonder if you have any views of your own.13

A. I would have to give you my own views. I know nothing of what the Delegation views are. As I understand the set up, all the specialized organizations which are governmental and those which are non-governmental are expected to negotiate with the ESC their particular kind of agreement with the UNO, and they will not, many of them, deal with governments too; but my understanding is that both governmental and non-governmental organizations are expected to come into association with the organization through negotiations conducted with the ESC. I should think that organization would conform to the general pattern of all other international organizations outside of the governmental group, since the same machinery is provided for both governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

Q. Could you say, Mrs. Roosevelt which subject in the activities of the Assembly you are most interested in?

A. There are a great many things, but I would say my main objective is to see an organization set up which can attempt to build a way in which nations can cooperate together when their individual efforts fail to find solutions to problems which otherwise lead to war. Now in doing that they must, of course, do things within the organization, to try to eliminate before they come to the point where people are ready to go to war the things which in the past have led nations to war. Therefore, those are the things that interest me the most.

Q. Mrs. Roosevelt, among the very few women delegates and advisers I have heard some suggestion of the resumption of the old status of a women's committee or of some such body.14

A. I don't know because I haven't heard much discussion on that. I was not in San Francisco and haven't had an opportunity to meet many of the women who are here. I hope to meet some of them this afternoon. It has been suggested that we all meet together in this room this afternoon, but I have not heard any direct suggestion of a specific committee. I should think that if we could bring any question under an existing committee it would be a good idea. I do not like the multiplication of committees as long as some committees are prepared to take up the questions. I don't mean that if there isn't a committee to take it up you shouldn't set up one.15

Q. Is this a closed meeting you are going to have here this afternoon?

A. It is not for the press. We are just meeting each other and having a chance to talk to each other for the first time.

Q. How many women will be here?

A. I really don't know, but I have looked around the Hall for the women delegates, assistant delegates and advisers and have not seen more than twenty. There may be more but I haven't seen them.16

Q. Do you feel that women are inadequately represented at the conference, Mrs. Roosevelt?

A. I would like to see more women, because I think the more women feel they are involved in the success of something the more interest they take, and I think it is important that women as well as men take a deep interest in the success of this organization.17 The best organization in the world can't function really well unless the peoples back of the organizations really are keenly interested all the time. Mr. Byrnes said that in his speech yesterday, and I think it is absolutely true that the real hope of making any organization successful is that all over the world the peoples really feel that the organization is theirs and they are responsible for what their leaders do.18

Q. Would you consider letting a few women journalists attend this afternoon?

A. No, this is purely an informal meeting of women delegates.

Q. When do you think the members of the satellite countries, like the Italians, should be admitted to the UNO?19

A. Just as soon as their country is qualified to come into the UNO.20

mrs. roosevelt: Is that all?

correspondents: Thank you, Mrs. Roosevelt.

                                   M. J. McDermott


1. See n11, Document 74. In a letter to Truman concerning the possible selection of Hyde Park as UN headquarters, ER wrote:

I have told those who came to me that a decision of this kind would have to be made by a majority of the nations and that our government could make no such decision alone. The idea seems to me good, however and I wondered if our house and the Vanderbilt Mansion couldn't all be used at times of meeting and make a very acceptable center? (ER to Truman, 11 September 1945, HSTSF, HSTL).

2. Early January 1946, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported disagreement within the American delegation over what should be done with the Marshall, Caroline, and Marianas Islands, all mandated territories taken by the United States from Japan during World War II. The reports described indecision and division among the delegates and State Department officials, with some in the American delegation favoring UN trusteeship for the islands, others remaining undecided, and special military advisor, General George C. Kenney, pushing for total US control. In November, the United States proposed the UN place the islands under a trusteeship system with the United States as administering authority. The UN Security Council approved the plan April 2, 1947, and the following July Congress passed the joint trusteeship resolution ("U.S. Inaction Clouds Up Trusteeship Set-Up," NYT, 15 January 1946, 1; Edward T. Folliard, "Majority of Others to Be Placed under Joint Trusteeship," WP, 16 January 1946, 1; "Text of the United States Proposal on Trusteeship in the Pacific," NYT, 7 November 1946, 24; "U.S. Assumes Rule of Isles in Pacific," NYT, 20 July 1947, 35).

3. On the Trusteeship Committee, see n11 Document 37 and Document 71.

4. Prior to the election of Trygve Lie as UN secretary-general in February 1946, some British Conservatives proposed nominating Winston Churchill for the position ("UNO Opened; Attlee Asks World Unity," NYT, 11 January 1946, 1).

5. The New York Times printed an Associated Press report January 15 that ER planned "to visit Russia some time after the United Nations General Assembly adjourned, but she declared she was undecided as to the exact time of her departure" ("Mrs. Roosevelt to Visit Russia after UNO Session," NYT, 15 January 1946, 9).

6. ER still planned to visit Russia in either the spring or summer. See Document 21, header and n5 Document 38, and Document 39.

7. When the Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs commenced work, the question of what to do with war refugees currently living in displaced persons camps became one of the first issues debated. ER spoke for the American delegation on this issue, arguing that displaced persons must be allowed to decide themselves whether or not to return to their homelands. See also Document 86 (Glendon, 27-30).

8. Born in Scotland, Peter Fraser (1884–1950) emigrated to New Zealand, where he was active in union and Socialist politics. Fraser became a prominent Labour Party politician, serving as prime minister of New Zealand from 1940 to 1949. In addition, he attended the UN founding conference in San Francisco, chaired the committee that drafted the UN Charter's trusteeship chapter, and worked to limit dominance of the organization by the big powers. ER described him as "fair to the utmost" ("Peter Fraser Dies in New Zealand, 66," NYT, 12 December 1950, 33; ER's London Diary, 6 February 1946, AERP).

9. Organized in November 1945, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine studied the problem of Jews remaining in Europe and the question of Jewish immigration to Palestine. The committee issued its report in late April 1946, recommending admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees in Europe to Palestine, but rejecting arguments for a Jewish state. The itinerary of the Anglo-American Committee attached to its official report does not list a meeting between the committee and the Trusteeship Council (HSTE; "Texts of Statements by Bevin and Truman on Jews and Palestine," NYT, 14 November 1945, 12; Felix Belair, Jr., "Joint Palestine Body Bars a Jewish State, But Urges Entry of 100,000 Refugees," NYT, 1 May 1946, 1. See n8 Document 60).

10. The presence of Soviet, British, and French troops in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon after the end of World War II raised the question of postwar sovereignty before the UN Security Council in February 1946. The council decided unanimously that the troops must be removed, though members stood divided on when the withdrawal should occur. The prolonged presence of Soviet troops in Iran after the war precipitated a US-Soviet stand-off in 1946 and the Soviets eventually withdrew in May 1946. British and French troops finally withdrew from Syria in April 1946 and Lebanon in December (James B. Reston, "Council Is Divided on UNO Authority in Levant Policing," NYT, 16 February 1946, 1; HSTE; "British Out of Syria," NYT, 18 April 1946, 6; British-French Exit from Syria Settled," NYT, 5 March 1946, 3; "French Out of Lebanon," NYT, 1 January 1947, 18).

11. The Steering Committee of the General Assembly ("Labor Role in UNO Pressed by Soviet," NYT, 16 January 1946, 4).

12. The reporter apparently meant the World Federation of Trade Unions, which sought consultative representation in the General Assembly and voting representation in the Economic and Social Council of the UN. See "Labor Role," ibid.

13. In January 1946, the General Assembly appointed a special subcommittee to consider the relationship between the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and the Economic and Social Council. In February, the General Assembly's Political and Security Committee voted to grant the WFTU "consultative affiliation" with the Economic and Social Council (James B. Reston, "Britain Offers UNO Trusteeships Over Three Mandates in Africa," NYT, 18 January 1946, 1; "UNO Committee Votes to Admit AFL and World Union Federation," NYT, 13 February 1946, 18).

14. Prior to World War II, various international women's rights organizations pushed the League of Nations to initiate an inquiry into the status of women. The League responded in 1938 by appointing a seven-member Committee of Experts on the Status of Women, made up of four women and three men. The committee's work, which continued until the outbreak of the war, brought it into contact with women's groups who assisted in the examination of women's legal status (Rupp, 220; Stienstra, 76). See also Document 112.

15. For ER's views on establishing a UN commission on the status of women, see Document 83, Document 112, and Document 120.

16. ER responded by inviting the women on the other delegations to tea and "about sixteen" of them accepted her first invitation, including the unidentified Russian woman. There were some twenty-five women in total attendance at the first General Assembly, nineteen of whom, including ER, represented eleven member states as delegates, alternates, and advisors. The remaining women worked as secretaries to the delegations (ER, Autobiography, 305; "Mrs. Roosevelt Affirms Women's Value to UNO," NYT, 28 January 1946, 3; Pidgeon, 109).

17. Women joined new internationalist groups that emerged during the war to work for promotion of a new, permanent world body committed to long-term peace. These included such groups as the Women's Action Committee for Victory and Lasting Peace (successor to the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War) and the Association for the United Nations (later renamed the United Nations Association), which cultivated grassroots support for the UN in the United States and elsewhere and built on a network developed by the League of Nations Association (Stienstra, 75-79).

18. In his January 14 speech before the General Assembly, Secretary Byrnes stated:

If the United Nations becomes a working institution with broad popular support, devoted to the development of peace, security and human well-being, whatever defects there may be in its lettered provisions will not be beyond practical remedy. Institutions that come to live in the minds and the hearts of the people somehow manage to meet every crisis ("Secretary Byrnes' Address before the UNO General Assembly," NYT, 15 January 1946, 6).

19. The satellite countries to which the reporter refers are those nations that entered an alliance with Nazi Germany during World War II; such as Japan, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Finland. The UN admitted most of the so-called satellite countries in the mid 1950s (Keegan, 130, 150, 505; "List of Member States,", accessed 1 March 2005).

20. Article 4 of the UN Charter concerning membership states:

1. Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.

2. The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council ("Charter of the United Nations,", accessed 1 March 2005).

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Memorandum of Press Conference

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