Defining International Aggression
The Search for World Peace

The United Nations Conference
on International Organization
Doc. 442 (ENGLISH)
May 19, 1945
COMMISSION III - Security Council
Committee 3 Enforcement Arrangements

Summary Report of Ninth meeting of Committee III/3

Veterans Building, Room 223, May 18, 1945, 10:30 a. m.

The Chairman opened the ninth meeting of the Committee at 10:45 a.m.

1. Discussion: Designation of Agression

The Secretary read the proposed amendments to Chapter VIII, Section B, paragraph 2, by Bolivia (Doc. 2, G/14 (r) pp. 8, 9) and by the Philippine Commonwealth (Doc 2, G/14 p. 4).

The Bolivian Delegate made the following motion:

    "that the Security Council should irntervene immediately when one or all of the circumstances listed in the Bolivian amendment present themselves, and that the establishment of the list of circumstances be referred to a Subcommittee."

The motion was seconded by Delegates from Uruguay and Mexico.

Delegates from Bolivia, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatamala, Honduras, Iran, Mexico, New Zealand, and Uruguay gave the following arguments in support of the motion. It should be known beforehand what acts would constitute aggression and, consequently, what acts would be subject to sanctions. The Council's work would be facilitated if a definite list were written in the Charter. The seven circumstances listed would provide for automatic Council action in those cases. The list was not intended as a definitive one nor as one which would prohibit the Council from acting in other cases.

In certain instances there could be no doubt of aggression. Assurance is desirable that the Council would act in these circumstances. The Charter should contain a statement of principle, at least, to the effect that aggression would not be tolerated, even though an exact definition were not given. The proposed four-government amendment to be added after paragraph 2 constitutes a partial definition of aggression and should be expanded. (Doc. 2, G/29. pp. 4, 5) The Organization must bind itself to oppose lawless force by lawful forces in certain cases where action should be obligatory. No one could doubt the necessity for action in the event of the first three Bolivian circumstances. If one vote on the Security Council could prevent action, then it would be essential to have a list of circumstances when Council action would be automatic.

It was suggested that reference might profitably be made to the terms of the treaty between Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and the U.S.S.R.

Delegates from Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Paraguay, the Norway, Union of South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States of American opposed the motion on the following grounds. It would be impossible to enumerate all the acts that constitute aggression. Prior definition would be difficult, whereas recognition of an act after it had been committed would be simple. The tendency, in the case of an incomplete list, would be to exclude the omitted acts from consideration. Any attempt to make Council action automatic would be dangerous for it might force premature application of sanctions. The safest course would be to give the Council discretion to decide when an act of aggression had been performed. The six nonpermanent members of the Council could veto action in such circumstances.

It was further suggested that refusal of a state to comply with the judicial decision of an international court, point (g) of the Bolivian amendment, had been improperly included in the list of acts of aggression. Adequate provision for the detection of aggression had been made in the Charter in Chapter VIII, Section A, where states were obligated to follow peaceful procedures for settlement of disputes. There was no one kind of act, defined as an act of aggression, which in conceivable circumstances might not be a legitimate act of self-defense. Even with reference to the first item of the Bolivian list, invasion by armed force, it might be difficult to determine the invader if there had been provocation on one side which forced action by the other. Furthermore, within the list there were several points which woild require definition, e.g. when "intervention" was to be considered aggression.

The United Nations Conference
on International Organization
Doc. 502 (ENGLISH)
May 23, 1945
COMMISSION III - Security Council
Committee 3 Enforcement Arrangements


Veterans Building, Room 223, May 21, 1945, 8:50 p.m.

The Chairman opened the tenth meeting of the Committee at, 8:50 p.m.

1. Discussion: Definition of Aggression

Discussion continued on the pending Bolivian motion to make more explicit reference to certain acts of aggression in the Charter.

The Delegate from the Philippine Commonwealth, in supporting the Bolivian motion, requested that the first sentence of the proposed Philippine amendment be revised as follows:

    "Any nation should be considered as threatening the peace or as an aggressor, if it should be the first party to commit any of the following acts, among others..." (Doc. 2, G/14 (k), p. 4)

The revision is to insert the words "among others".

Delegates from Bolivia, Egypt, the Philippine Commonwealth and Uruguay spoke in favor of the motion. Delegates from the Byelorussian S.S.R., Chile, France, and the U.S.S.R. spoke against the motion.

At the request of the Bolivian Delegate the following statement is incorporated in the record:

    "The Delegation of Bolivia, in proposing an amendment to provide criteria for determining an aggressor, had in mind the desirability of facilitating the action of the Security Council, through the determination of certain acts of an aggressive nature which, since they provide objective tests, might permit the application of immediate repressive measures for the maintenance of peace and security. It consequently maintains that the failure to specify such cases detracts from the effectiveness and celerity of the system of world security for the urgent and timely repression of aggression."

A proposal to turn the question over to some other body of the international organization, perhaps the Committee of Jurists, for further consideration, was ruled out of order.

Decision: The Bolivian motion was defeated by a vote of 22 to 12.

2. Announcements

The Delegate from Greece withdrew his proposed amendment to paragraph 2, Section B, Chapter VIII, for reference to the appropriate Committee concerned with voting.

The Chairman announced that the agenda for the next meeting would include consideration of the Subcommittee draft amending paragraphs 1 and 2 of Chapter VIII, Section B. (Doc. 478, III 3/B/1, May 21, 1945.)

The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 p.m.

Source: The United Nations Conference on International Organization, San Francisco, April 25-June 26 1945, Committee III/3, vol. 12, 1945, pp. 341-342, 348-349.
Editorial Note: This is a true copy of an extract (pp. 341-342, 348-349) of the above-referenced original documents. These documents are reproduced in Benjamin B. Ferencz's work "Defining International Aggression - The Search for World Peace", Vol. 1, as Document No. 17 (h).

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Published online by Equipo Nizkor - 26 March 2013