The United Nations’ role in the colonial world was a contentious issue during World War II. Postwar planners considered establishing a system of international trusteeship for all “dependent territories,” which European imperial powers opposed. This led to the UN Charter, which codified general principles of colonial rule and established the UN trusteeship system. Despite the wartime fight over independence, the trusteeship system has received less attention, but it has been argued to have helped accelerate decolonization and promote peaceful transitions.

Chapter Summary 

The United Nations’ role in the colonial world during World War II was contentious, with European imperial powers opposing the establishment of an international trusteeship system for all “dependent territories.” The UN Charter, signed in 1945, codified general principles of colonial rule and established the UN trusteeship system. The system exerted constant pressure on colonial powers, but its supervisory mechanisms were limited, making it a questionable template for proposals seeking greater accountability in current efforts of “international territorial administration.” The UN’s role in colonial affairs was limited, and colonial powers insisted on their sovereignty in “dependent territories.” The UN Charter declared the interests of non-self-governing territories paramount and obliged colonial powers to promote their well-being. Jean de la Roche argued that the UN should focus on bringing the masses of “dependent peoples” to a point where they could make a deliberate choice about which type of government they preferred. The Trusteeship Council reviewed annual reports from administering powers and petitions related to trust territories, but colonial powers used this information to defend imperial rule and shame anti-colonial delegates.

The United Nations (UN) played a crucial role in decolonization during the 1950s, primarily focusing on political, educational, social, and educational advancement. The Trusteeship Council provided a safe space for colonial powers, but efforts to influence policy failed due to lack of investment and claims of sovereignty. Ralph Bunche, the director of the Department’s Trusteeship Division, was a key figure in the process, supporting the International Labor Organization’s Recommendation on Minimum Standards of Social Policy in Dependent Areas. The UN’s focus on these areas led to a decline in morale among staff.


The United Nations, Development, and Decolonization, 1945–1965

By Eva-Maria Muschik

Columbia University Press

BUILDING STATES The United Nations, Development, and Decolonization, 1945–1965Postwar multilateral cooperation is often viewed as an attempt to overcome the limitations of the nation-state system. However, in 1945, when the United Nations was founded, large parts of the world were still under imperial control. Building States investigates how the UN tried to manage the dissolution of European empires in the 1950s and 1960s—and helped transform the practice of international development and the meaning of state sovereignty in the process.
Eva-Maria Muschik argues that the UN played a key role in the global proliferation and reinvention of the nation-state in the postwar era, as newly independent states came to rely on international assistance. Drawing on previously untapped primary sources, she traces how UN personnel—usually in close consultation with Western officials—sought to manage decolonization peacefully through international development assistance. Examining initiatives in Libya, Somaliland, Bolivia, the Congo, and New York, Muschik shows how the UN pioneered a new understanding and practice of state building, presented as a technical challenge for international experts rather than a political process. UN officials increasingly took on public-policy functions, despite the organization’s mandate not to interfere in the domestic affairs of its member states. These initiatives, Muschik suggests, had lasting effects on international development practice, peacekeeping, and post-conflict territorial administration.
Casting new light on how international organizations became major players in the governance of developing countries, Building States has significant implications for the histories of decolonization, the Cold War, and international development.

About The Author

Eva-Maria Muschik is a historian and an assistant professor in the Department of Development Studies at the University of Vienna.


Introduction: Managing the World

1. The UN and the Colonial World: International Trusteeship and Non-Self-Governing Territories

2. How to Build a State?: The UN in Libya

3. If Ten Years Suffice for Somaliland…

4. Moving Beyond Advice: Pioneering Administrative Assistance in Bolivia

5. Hammarskjöld, Decolonization, and the Proposal for an International Administrative Service

6. State-Building Meets Peacekeeping: The UN Civilian Operations in the Congo Crisis, 1960–1964





Chapter 1

The UN And The Colonial World: International Trusteeship and Non-Self-Governing Territories

[I]t was the usual business of “freedom now” against “freedom when ready,” but from many remarks that were made I felt … that the members of Parliament from all these countries were well aware … that the UN Charter had given colonial powers and non-colonial powers alike a platform from which to argue either way. This is in itself a phenomenal achievement.

— George Ivan Smith, Director of the UN Information Center in London, reporting to his colleagues in New York about a 1950 meeting of the Inter- Parliamentary Union, an international organization of national parliaments

One of the most contentious issues in the wartime planning effort to set up an international collective security organization was the future role of the United Nations with regard to the colonial world. To their imperial allies’ dismay, the United States had until 1941 argued for political independence as the goal for Europe’s colonies, and then briefly considered an Anglo-American partnership to police the postwar world.1 National liberation—with the option of a “voluntary union of equal people in the socialist family”2—was the objective the Soviet Union would vociferously defend throughout the war years and beyond. Countries such as Egypt, India, and China, with their own experiences of various degrees of imperial subjugation, likewise favored independence as a goal for the colonies.

Starting in 1942, postwar planners in the U.S. administration began to toy with an alternative idea: establishing a system of international trusteeship for all “dependent territories,” as colonies came to be called.3 The UN predecessor organization, the League of Nations, had already overseen the colonial administration of select territories, so-called mandates, which the defeated powers of World War I had lost.4 European imperial powers abhorred any talk of independence and strongly opposed an extension of international supervision. Yet, instead of withdrawing from international cooperation altogether, they hoped to turn the tables and codify the colonial project through such channels—much as they had done after World War I within the framework of the League of Nations— and thus newly legitimize colonial rule at the international level.5


This chapter examines the resulting political compromise formalized in the UN Charter6: the Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories, a codification of general principles of colonial rule applicable to all colonies, and the UN trusteeship system, a framework of international oversight of colonial administration that would encompass eleven territories in Africa and the Pacific (with the exception of Italian Somaliland, all former League of Nations mandates).7 While the wartime fight over the issue of independence for colonial territories has been well documented, its unintended outcome—the Declaration and the trusteeship system—has received less attention.8 Fewer scholars still have been interested in exploring how exactly UN employees sought to build on the Charter in order to shape the postwar transformation of colonial rule that we now refer to as decolonization.

Despite or perhaps because of relatively sparse scholarship on the topic, there exists a stubborn willingness to believe that decolonization was the “rare success story of the UN in the Cold War”9 and that the trusteeship system and towering figures such as Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche, the American director of the UN Secretariat’s Division of Trusteeship, did much to help accelerate or at least “pave the way for [the] gradual, peaceful” unfolding of this process.10 In his seminal study of the origins of UN trusteeship, Wm. Roger Louis even suggests that the “system had teeth and often bit.”11 Surprisingly, given the dearth of in-depth studies on how the trusteeship system actually worked in practice, scholars across the political spectrum have called for its resuscitation to deal with what they call “failed states.”12 The less the system is known, it seems, the more easily it can be presented as a constructive policy proposal.

There is a convincing argument to be made that the unrelenting advocacy of anticolonial activists and their allies helped establish a measure of UN oversight that put constant pressure on colonial powers.13 Yet a comprehensive study of UN trusteeship in practice remains wanting.14 In general, the number of unpublished dissertations seems to suggest that the trusteeship system is a topic where book projects go to die; presumably, this is because many studies examine in detail the machinery and procedures in New York (which make for a rather dry read), rather than the effect of the system on individual trust territories.15 If the rare case studies of the evolution of individual trust territories under UN supervision are any indication, international oversight usually slowly raised, and then fairly quickly disappointed the expectations of the indigenous inhabitants.16 The system’s supervisory mechanisms, as will be discussed below, were limited, making it a questionable template for proposals seeking greater accountability in current efforts of “international territorial administration.”17 Accordingly, some historians have suggested that the system really functioned as a “safe space” for imperial powers.18

As for Ralph Bunche, celebratory statements regarding his contributions to the UN Charter directives concerning the colonial world, as well as his impact on UN policy toward colonies as an international civil servant, require qualification.19 While Bunche was involved in drafting the final U.S. proposal for trusteeship at San Francisco, he was a fairly junior State Department official, and American postwar planning regarding the colonial world had largely taken shape by the time that he arrived on the scene.20 On the other hand, Bunche worked with delegations from Australia and China to introduce his ideas about international oversight into the proceedings at San Francisco and the first General Assembly session in 1946. Still, Bunche was nominally junior to the department’s head, assistant secretary-general Victor Hoo, whose ideas about the role of international public servants and the purpose of UN oversight of colonial rule were far more conservative. More importantly, Bunche’s energies were soon consumed by his role mediating conflict in the Middle East, after the state of Israel succeeded the British mandate of Palestine.

More generally, this chapter seeks to move beyond the questions whether UN oversight was a success or failure of decolonization, and whether UN supervision accelerated the independence of individual trust territories, questions that either suggest a misleading binary or would require more detailed case studies.21 Rather, it examines the specific principles and oversight mechanisms for colonial rule that the Charter brought into being (as well as the limits thereof), and examines the attempts by Secretariat officials (including, but also going beyond Ralph Bunche) to shape ensuing UN discussions, definitions, and practices with regard to the colonial world.

First, this chapter will review wartime planning with regard to the future world organization and the colonial world, a largely uncoordinated Anglo-American affair, and discuss how the resulting political compromise – the Declaration and the trusteeship system – differed from the League setup. Much as the League covenant, the Charter explicitly affirmed and internationally legitimatized the concept of colonial trusteeship. At the same time, the Charter reformulated the purpose of said trusteeship from being protective (guarding against abuse) to being proactive (promoting development). While League oversight of colonial rule was officially limited to the mandates system, the UN Charter moreover sought to regulate and provide a measure of oversight for colonial rule in general. According to the Charter, “self-government” (a vague “weasel word … deliberately designed … to offer the shadow but never the substance of independence to subject peoples,” as Indian UN delegate Vijaya L. Pandit put it22) was the agreed-upon goal of all colonial trusteeship. The achievement thereof, however, was tied to an indefinite period of foreign tutelage of “dependent peoples” in political, economic, social, and cultural matters.

The Charter itself, finalized and signed at the San Francisco UN Conference on International Organization in the spring of 1945, thus did little to settle the heated debate about where “dependent territories” were headed and what role the UN might play in them. Its directives were vague enough to lend themselves to competing interpretations and continued discussions, giving imperial and anti-imperial powers alike ammunition to argue either for continued colonial trusteeship or for immediate independence. It was also far from clear how progress along political, economic, social, and educational lines (considered a precondition for self-government and called for by the Charter) would be defined and achieved, and what role the UN itself might play in that process.

As this chapter explores, some officials in the UN Secretariat sought to give direction to the ensuing discussions, and by extension to processes of decolonization. While they were largely convinced that the colonial age as they knew it was coming to an end, like many of their contemporaries, UN civil servants were unsure what political constellations might replace empire in the future. Instead of rushing to foregone conclusions and deciding the political fate of the colonies in 1945, they counseled caution and attempted to square the circle of combining the foreign tutelage of “dependent peoples” with the malleable concept of self-determination, much as the League founding fathers had tried to do in the interwar period.23 Though unsure about the endpoint of the imperial transformation ahead, UN officials hoped that the world organization would play a significant role in that process, especially in trust territories.

As will be discussed below, the actual impact of UN officials on day-to-day rule in colonies and trust territories was severely limited, owing to both systemic as well as personal confines. Nevertheless, Secretariat agency with regard to the colonial world should not be dismissed: first, Secretariat officials helped establish a Generally Assembly oversight mechanism, the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, which unlike the Trusteeship Council dealt not just with select territories, but with colonial rule in general. Second, the Secretariat’s Trusteeship Division helped draft questionnaires on the basis of which colonial powers submitted information on their trust territories and colonies to the UN. In drawing up questions about progress in “dependent territories,” the Secretariat helped define an expansive understanding of (national) development as well as the necessary prerequisites for self-government that would be echoed beyond the confines of the trusteeship system and the colonial world. The UN thus created certain international benchmarks for development as well as a public space to hold colonial powers accountable to their own lofty promises. Much as the mandates system had in a few select territories, UN oversight of colonial rule thus helped make imperial governance more burdensome and in that way—indirectly— contributed to the end of empire.24

Beyond this, the Secretariat also proposed to offer hands-on technical assistance in political state-building and to showcase the world organization’s practical abilities in that yet-to-be-established field in trust territories. This 1950 initiative, however, led nowhere. Perhaps Secretariat officials ultimately realized the inherent contradiction in their proposal; perhaps lacking leadership or commitment in the Secretariat Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories played a role. But most importantly, colonial powers insisted on their sovereignty in “dependent territories” and displayed no interest in further broadening the scope of UN “interference.” Nevertheless, the ideas contained in the state-building proposal discussed below prefigured more ambitious development missions that the UN would pursue in member states in the years to come.


How did the colonial world become an issue of concern to the UN? In the eyes of many U.S. government officials who were the main driving force in setting up the world organization, European empire posed a threat to international security. Colonies had long been regarded as a source for inter-imperial strife over economic outlets and resources. During World War II, American officials started to believe that the suppression of nationalist movements, particularly in Asia, would sow the seeds of the next world war. The future of the European colonial empires thus provided a central concern of American postwar planning and, to their imperial allies’ distress, the common theme of independence ran through the thoughts of high-level U.S. policymakers.25 In response to American schemes, which they inferred from public statements as well as from largely informal policy discussions, the British worked hard to gain the international initiative on the colonial issue. They sought to preempt American plans, of which they had only a partial understanding and which were themselves continuously evolving, with constructive policy proposals of their own.

Mark Mazower has argued that the central role long accorded to the United States in setting up the UN owes itself to something of an “optical illusion,” as American planners during the war were essentially revising the League system, which, to a large extent, had been shaped by Great Britain.26 Stephen Wertheim, by contrast, has suggested that American planners based their designs for the UN on a thoroughgoing critique of the League.27 Largely based on Roger Louis’s study, my reading of the wartime debates leading up to the establishment of the trusteeship system and the Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories suggests a more dynamic, if largely uncoordinated Anglo-American back-and-forth.28 It also acknowledges the role played by other states, as well as anticolonial activists, in shaping the UN system. It was only shortly before all UN founding member states agreed on the Charter that the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the Soviet Union convened to reach a prior agreement on the UN and the colonial world. Yet accord proved hard to come by, as both China’s nationalist government and Moscow lobbied for including independence in the Charter as an explicit goal of colonial rule.29 At the San Francisco conference, a public event, anticolonial activists and their state allies worked hard to shape the Charter and, by extension, the future of the world organization in such a way that it would allow them to challenge colonial sovereignty.30

I also argue that while officials in both the U.S. and British administrations initially focused their attention and energy on the big question of formulating an abstract, ultimate goal for the colonies (that is, independence or self-government), their wartime discussions resulted in a highly consequential reformulation of the purpose of colonial trusteeship from being protective (guarding against abuse) to being proactive (promoting development). Though the League of Nations’ foundational treaty, too, had enshrined the concept of tutelage for the “well-being and development” of peoples “not yet able to stand by themselves,” its emphasis, at least for mandates that were considered less advanced, was decidedly on protective measures, such as guaranteeing the freedoms of conscience and religion and the prohibition of abuses.31

In August 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter. Although intended above all as a declaration to cement Anglo-American partnership, this agreement famously served to focus international attention on the issue of national self-determination by proclaiming “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.”32 The formulation had appeared innocuous enough to its signatories at the time, but British colonial officials soon realized that it invited a host of unwelcome questions about its application to the empire—an opening that was quickly seized upon by anticolonial activists.33 Consequently, colonial officials pushed for government clarification that the Atlantic Charter’s proclamation pertained to the European context only.

The search for a constructive statement to accompany the dismissal of the Atlantic Charter’s applicability to empire plunged British officials into a far-reaching controversy over the goals of imperial policy: while some argued that “the Empire, animated by a spirit of liberty, pursued the goal of self-governing institutions,” others were convinced that even subscribing to the limited goal of self-government was a step too far, as some territories within the empire, such as Mauritius or Aden, were simply too small or too strategically important to ever become self-governing units—an argument with remarkable staying power in the postwar period.34

For many American observers, by contrast, the future of European empire appeared clear-cut. Writing in the wake of the British surrender of Singapore to Japan in February 1942, the influential journalist Walter Lippmann opined that Western nations had to drastically reorient their wartime policy, “purging themselves of the taint of an obsolete obviously unworkable white man’s imperialism.” He called on them to “identify their cause with the freedom and security of the peoples in the East” and assure them independence. U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles publicly proclaimed the age of imperialism dead, essentially repeating Lippmann’s suggestion that the war was fought for the liberation of all peoples, regardless of race, creed, or color in sovereign equality.35 In Parliament, British representatives expressed concern about American calls for an end of empire. To counter such declarations, they proposed formulating a supplement to the Atlantic Charter, a British “Colonial Charter” that would spell out the benefits “dependent peoples” would reap from an Allied victory.36

While British parliamentarians debated the pros and cons of a Colonial Charter, wondering how to give a new lease of life to empire, the U.S. State Department formulated its own policy commitment to “dependent peoples” to be made by all “United Nations,” as the Allied nations began to call themselves, in order to motivate the “colonial subjects’” war effort.37 Key to American planning was Roosevelt’s conception of international trusteeship as a general interim phase that would, as he put it condescendingly, lead the “many minor children among the peoples of the world” toward independence. Ambitious American promises to bring all colonies under the same regime of international control, however, were soon scaled back. Fear of a “boomerang effect,” i.e., international supervision of U.S. dependencies such as Guam, Hawaii, and Alaska, as well as concern for British “sensitivities” and political feasibility, likely played a role in this decision.38 U.S. policymakers instead agreed to bring only “ex-enemy overseas territories” under direct international supervision, as the League had done after World War I.39 In addition to updating the geographically limited interwar mandates system, American officials further wished to pledge all imperial powers to observe certain universal principles of colonial administration. More importantly, they proposed to have them subscribe to specific objectives of imperial rule, namely eventual national independence.40

In the summer and fall of 1942, the Colonial Office, in consultation with Dominion governments, set out to develop a counterstrategy in response what it believed to be the thrust of the State Department’s planning.41 British officials aspired to a joint Anglo-American declaration on colonial policy that would robustly reaffirm British authority, while simultaneously offering the people in the colonies a stake in the imperial project. They further hoped to appease the U.S. appetite for the internationalization of empire, while abolishing any schemes for international control or oversight favored by the Americans. In contrast to U.S. plans, the declaration envisioned by the British bound the “Trustee State” to actively develop the social, economic, and political institutions of colonial peoples until they were able to discharge the responsibilities of self-government. Thus, gradual progress, or, more precisely, tutelary development was offered in lieu of imminent liberation. The prospect of self-government—once highly controversial among British officials—was espoused as the lesser evil to the assumed American obsession with independence.42

To counter the second U.S. idée fixe, the internationalization of empire, the British proposed the establishment of international regional commissions. According to their proposal, the “Trustee State” would be responsible for the safety and administration of dependencies (albeit “within the wider framework of a postwar international security system”), relying on regional commissions yet to be created for advancing the welfare of “dependent peoples.”43 What the British had in mind were essentially international consultative bodies without executive or supervisory functions, something along the lines of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, a contemporary, now largely forgotten international organization that was founded during World War II.44 Cooperation of this kind, the colonial secretary explained, would provide the necessary “element of internationalism” to please both Americans and the British Left without giving away “anything essential,” i.e., control of individual colonies.45 No specific mention was made of either mandates or newly “parentless” ex-enemy dependencies. The old League system of international oversight of colonial rule in specific territories (which the British themselves had done much to shape) would have died a silent death.

Upon receiving the British proposal for a joint declaration on the colonies, the U.S. State Department proceeded to formulate yet another American version based on the British draft as well as earlier U.S. plans.46 The result was the “Declaration by the United Nations on National Independence” of 9 March 1943. As the title indicates, the American Declaration hinged on the word “independence.” One distressed British Foreign Office official noted that this appeared no fewer than six times in a single opening sentence. The new American Declaration also introduced the idea of setting specific dates for independence, which, in British eyes, was a particularly hideous proposition.47 According to this Declaration, it was the “duty and purpose” of the UN—that is, the wartime alliance—to help “dependent peoples” in general become “qualified for independent national status.” Echoing the British Declaration, the American draft now declared colonial governments responsible for giving “protection, encouragement, moral support, and material aid” for the educational, political, economic, and social advancement of “dependent peoples.”48

British officials were aghast at the American insistence on eventual independence of the colonies, but being on the receiving end of U.S. financial and military assistance, they tried to avoid the issue as best as they could. By June 1944, however, American postwar planners faced much more powerful opposition to their plans closer to home. As an early study of the topic put it, the Departments of War and the Navy had developed “strong feelings” about U.S. postwar control of bases in the Pacific for security purposes.49 Accordingly, these departments pressed for uncompromised American sovereignty over the formerly Japanese-mandated islands, which the U.S. military had occupied during the war. The U.S. military command insisted on pure and simple “acquisition” of these islands, not for American “colonization or exploitation,” as former Governor-General of the Philippines turned U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson was quick to point out, but rather for the defense of the postwar global order. According to this logic, the islands would serve as U.S. strategic “outposts” rather than colonies, and therefore should not come under international purview as other “dependent territories” would.50

The State Department, however, was anxious that such action would make the United States vulnerable to charges of territorial aggrandizement, which Roosevelt had disavowed in the Atlantic Charter. Its representatives thus pushed for a consistent application of international trusteeship to all former mandates and newly “parentless” ex-enemy territories. As a result of this “Battle of Washington” and the prolonged failure to reach an agreement on official American policy, the United States excluded close consideration of the topic from the big power preliminary talks (attended by the U.S., the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and China) at Dumbarton Oaks in October 1944, where the future setup of the world organization was laid out and discussed.51 It was only five days prior to the beginning of the official discussions about the issue of trusteeship at San Francisco that the great powers—now including the French as well—came together to reach a prior agreement. This proved elusive, however, because of Chinese and Soviet insistence on independence as the ultimate goal of colonial rule.52 Consequently, there was still some scope for delegates at the San Francisco, which brought together all UN founding member states from April to June 1945, to flesh out the Charter directives with regard to the colonial world.53

By the time of the conference, official American plans for a UN role in colonial affairs were watered down considerably to accommodate U.S. military demands within the promised trusteeship system. The formerly Japanese-mandate islands were designated as “strategic” trust territories and placed under the purview of the Security Council rather than the Trusteeship Council so that the United States could veto any interference or even discussion of matters relating to them.54 The UN trusteeship system, with its special category of “strategic territories” reserved for American-occupied mandates, thus served to both obscure and legitimize the territorial expansion of U.S. military power. It thus neatly fit with broader American designs to graft UN universalism atop a U.S. power base as the true enforcer of world order.55

In waging the internal battle over trusteeship, the Americans had temporarily lost sight of their previous interest in a declaration of general principles for the administration of all “dependent territories.”56 As the war drew to a close, such a declaration likely appeared less necessary as a propaganda tool to rally colonial peoples’ support for the war effort. More importantly, the U.S. military objected to an expansive statement for fear of unrest among local populations at U.S. “outposts” such as Guam, Wake Island, or Samoa, which were administered by the Navy.57 The British arrived at San Francisco largely unaware of the “Battle of Washington.” Anticipating a much more far-reaching American draft, they introduced their own comparatively tame declaration of general principles into the proceedings.58

The delegations at San Francisco all agreed—though some, like the French, rather grudgingly—on the advisability of having a broad general policy statement with regard to colonies in the UN Charter.59 The resultant Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing-Territories (Chapter XI) was much more detailed than the corresponding phrasing of the League covenant had been.60 While the latter had simply pledged signatories “to secure just treatment of the native inhabitants of territories under their control,” the UN Charter declared the interests of the inhabitants of non-self-governing territories paramount and obliged colonial powers “to promote to the utmost … [their] well-being.” This meant ensuring “political, economic, social and educational advancement” as well as “just treatment” and “protection against abuses.” Self-government was an explicitly declared goal, as were the promotion of “constructive measures of development” and, to that end, cooperation among colonial powers and, “where appropriate,” with specialized international bodies. Going beyond a declaration of the purposes of colonial rule, the Charter, in response to anticolonial calls for a supervisory mechanism, also asked “administering authorities,” as colonial powers were called in official UN parlance, “to transmit regularly information of a technical nature relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the territories for which they are responsible.”61 Even this seemingly small concession was subject to limitations related to colonial powers’ security and constitutional considerations.62 Nevertheless, it was one on which anticolonial governments in forthcoming General Assembly sessions would build to establish a UN oversight mechanism for colonial rule: the Committee on Information on Non-Self-Governing Territories.63

While pledging colonial governments to the active advancement of their “dependent territories” toward self-government (once staunchly opposed by the British) now appeared rather uncontroversial and was adopted without much discussion, it was the issue of whether or not to include independence as a goal for “dependent territories” that generated the most discord at San Francisco.64 It is important to note that San Francisco differed from other wartime meetings that would shape the UN not only in terms of the scope of participating governments but also by virtue of being open to the press as well as to civil society organizations and activists. The U.S. delegation invited more than forty organizations— among them the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP), represented by W. E. B. Du Bois—to attend the proceedings as official consultants in an effort to increase public support for the future world organization. Anticolonial activists and organizations were thus able to use multiple channels (ranging from public pronouncements to informal influence with consultants and sympathetic state delegations) to put pressure on government representatives to ensure colonial peoples’ representation at the UN, extend international supervision, and eventually end colonial rule.65 Among the most outspoken supporters of this cause was the head of the Filipino delegation, Carlos P. Romulo, who made valiant attempts to have independence written into charter, but he was ultimately “squared” by the U.S. delegation.66

The debate about whether to identify independence as an explicit goal of colonial rule was ultimately concluded with a trade-off: under Western pressure, anticolonial representatives agreed to back down from their insistence on including independence in the general declaration if it was explicitly included as a possible objective for UN trust territories.67 The UK delegate, moreover, put on record that “self-government”—the pronounced goal for all colonies—did not preclude independence. The trust territories, so the more hopeful attendees thought, might become a shining example and measuring stick for other “dependent territories.”68 Yet, even for them, the goal was formulated as the progressive development towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement.69 Given these caveats, the hard-won compromise did little to settle the debate about where colonies were headed in the postwar world order.

San Francisco, moreover, established only general principles of colonial rule as well as the outlines of the international trusteeship system. “Administering authorities”—one or more states or, theoretically, the UN itself—would rule the trust territories. The Trusteeship Council, one of four principal intergovernmental bodies of the UN, would supervise the administration of these territories by reviewing annual reports and petitions as well as dispatching periodic visiting missions. The latter provisions, which promised the inhabitants of trust territories an unprecedented degree of access to the UN, were no small achievements for anticolonial activists and their state allies.70 Yet at the Yalta summit in February 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom had agreed that for specific territories to effectively come under UN oversight, individual and detailed trust agreements would have to be reached by unspecified “states directly concerned.”71 Making the trusteeship system a reality and shaping the ultimate contours of international trusteeship was thus up to the colonial powers. Shaping UN oversight of colonies in general, in turn, would require the initiative and activism of anticolonial states at the inaugural session of the General Assembly in 1946.


Anticipating continued discussion regarding the final objectives of trusteeship, the future of the colonies and, by extension, the world at large, some in the UN Secretariat sought to give shape to that debate or, rather, to bring to an end discussions about independence and self-government, which they perceived as “somewhat theoretical and unlikely to lead to agreement.”72 In September 1946, former French colonial official turned UN Secretariat member Jean de la Roche wrote a memo on “the objectives of international trusteeship” for that purpose.73 There is no evidence to suggest that the document carried any weight in “metropolitan” policy debates (as de la Roche had hoped it would), nor even that other Secretariat officials weighed in on the matter. Nevertheless, it constitutes an interesting testament to the thinking of a UN official at the time, conveying a general sense of a new beginning, but also considerable uncertainty with regard to the future shape of the colonial world and the role the UN might play in its transformation.

De la Roche was born in 1904. He studied law in Paris, spent three years in the Navy, and, while working for a French furnace firm in the late 1920s, traveled widely in North Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In 1931, he entered the colonial service in the French West Indies (Martinique and Guadeloupe), where he likely met Félix Éboué, a Black colonial administrator and reformer. Between 1939 and 1942, de la Roche served under Éboué in Chad, before transferring again to New York to head the French Colonial Information Service there. During this time, he also served as a Free French delegate to multiple wartime meetings related to international organization, among them the 1944 International Labor Organization conference at Philadelphia, the meeting at Hot Springs in 1945 that led to the establishment of the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the conference in San Francisco that same year that decided the final shape of the UN Charter.74

In 1945, de la Roche co-published a book called La Federation Française: Contacts et Civilisations dOutre-mer, which advocated for the reconstitution of the French Empire as a federation, “uniting Metropolis with Colonies and allowing each of them to move at ease in the context of their particular worries.”75 The book portrayed French imperialism, despite its shortcomings, as an essentially humanist, protective force, but heralded the end of “the colonial cycle” and the coming of truly novel times of association and assimilation. Taking its cue from proponents of colonial reform such as Éboué, the book called for the improvement of labor rights, health provisions, state schooling, and civil protections across all of “Greater France.” De la Roche’s career and intellectual pursuits prior to entering the UN Secretariat’s Division of Trusteeship in 1946 thus testify to the linkages and continuities between imperialism and international governance, but also suggest that a particular kind of reform-oriented colonial officials were drawn to serving the world organization.76

Writing for the UN in 1946, de la Roche thought it was clear that “the idea of the colonizer and the colonized” had to be abolished and replaced by “cooperation and mutual assistance for the common good and for the stability of the world.” He continued, “The so-called colonial world has in fact entered upon an era of profound change,” yet “none of the nations responsible for the administration of dependent territories,” with the important exception of territories of strategic interest, he argued, “is at present in a position to define its aims in these territories clearly.” De la Roche saw two extremes: on the one side were “colonials” hoping “to give a new lease of life to obsolete methods (colonial pacts, economic privileges, compulsory labor, political subordination etc.).” On the other were “men of good will trying to liquidate the ‘colonial age.’” Between the two poles were a “considerable number of ideological theories, practical considerations, immediate needs, economic interest and compromises between ideals and material necessities.” To de la Roche, it was unclear what might become of empire in the postwar period.77

De la Roche discerned two possible, desirable options: autonomy from, or equality of rights with the “Mother Country.” The “evidence,” he stated, counter to the argument presented in his own 1945 book, was not yet “conclusive or convincing” as to which direction would best serve the needs of “dependent peoples.”78 In assimilationist policies, which he linked to closer association, de la Roche saw the dangers of standardization and the loss of local traditions and customs. On the other hand, he was doubtful that true independence could be achieved in the twentieth century in all but name, and that interdependence had to be recognized as a fact of international life. Politically independent territories, he thought, ran the risk of being mere “playthings of foreign governments or economic systems, and of advanced [local] cliques and ‘chefs de race.’” Dividing the world into “watertight compartments,” he argued, only bred international ignorance and suspicion, as the two world wars had made abundantly clear. The challenge for the UN was thus to help steer a middle ground between global standardization and a compartmentalized world.79

The world wars, de la Roche thought, had sounded the death knell of both colonialism and nationalism. Like his French contemporaries, he looked to some form of federalism, or the formation of “geographical groups based on ethnical and economic considerations,” as he put it, as a desirable alternative to both colonial “business as usual” and international “balkanization.”80 De la Roche believed that one day it would seem paradoxical that dependencies were urged toward national independence at a time when world peace depended “upon the goodwill with which so-called sovereign states consent to sacrifice a part of their sovereignty.” It was contradictory to ask highly developed states to limit their national sovereignty in the name of the common good of the UN while “exalting the principle” or even “bringing it prematurely to birth in the case of communities in the formative stage.” The main difficulty, de la Roche thought, was forging some kind of political belonging within the state without falling prey to the “obsolete virus of nationalism.” His hope was that the “exploitation of natural wealth, the training of professional and administrative staff, the education of the masses” might prove to be “sufficiently absorbing tasks.” In other words, developmental state-making might take the place of literal nation-building.81

“Neither those in power,” de la Roche argued, nor the inhabitants of “dependent territories,” “were at present qualified or in a position to decide” on an ultimate political goal for the colonies. After all, trusteeship had been applied because the inhabitants of colonies were deemed “not sufficiently mature.” The UN, not being “directly concerned in the consequence of a choice,” he thought, could be more objective. Yet it was not for the UN to make “a premature choice between political systems,” but rather to bring the masses of “dependent peoples” to a point where they themselves could make a “deliberate choice” about which type of government they preferred —“with the full knowledge of facts and in complete physical and moral freedom.” De la Roche did not determine at what point “dependent peoples” would qualify for self-determination, or who would decide that question, nor was he concerned with the nuts and bolts of promoting development. He merely envisioned the UN as “profit[ing] from the long and varied experience of colonizing nations” in this regard. According to de la Roche, it would be up to the “administering authorities,” under UN supervision, to master the “delicate task … [of ensuring] the rapid but impartial awakening of consciousness of the masses.” Ultimately, his memo reads as an effort to move beyond both colonialism and nationalism, but also reflects an understanding that the UN—as a creature of both empires and nation-states—could not quite do without either.82


Counter to de la Roche’s hopes, colonial powers did not appear to use any UN Secretariat guidelines in drawing up trusteeship agreements and establishing the legal basis for their administration of individual trust territories under UN supervision. In fact, much as they had done after World War I, they dragged their feet on concluding these agreements at all. The League mandates of Palestine (ruled by the British) and South West Africa (Namibia today, at the time governed by South Africa) were never formally placed under UN trusteeship.83 It took some polite prodding by UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie for the first trust agreements for former League mandates to be submitted to the General Assembly for approval in December 1946.84

Even so, these agreements were drafted by the “administering authorities” themselves (that is, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States), who decided which states to consider and thus consult as “directly concerned.” There was little leverage for other UN member states, let alone the UN Secretariat, to influence the terms of the trust.85 When the General Assembly discussed the first trust agreements, anticolonial member states suggested over 200 amendments. Yet, the future “administering authorities” accepted virtually none of the suggested changes, threatening to withdraw their voluntary submissions to the system altogether.86 The General Assembly ultimately approved of the agreements on the assumption that it was better to bring the trusteeship system into operation on the terms the colonial powers desired than to have no international oversight at all. Nearly all Arab-Asian states, as well as some Latin American members, however, abstained from voting.87

To Secretariat officials and journalists with high hopes regarding the benefit of international supervision of colonial administration, this arrangement soon proved a “pyrrhic victory” or worse, a “squalid farce.”88 Authority over day-to-day policy lay firmly in the hands of the colonial powers. It was not so much that the Trusteeship Council, the intergovernmental UN supervisory body, had no teeth, as one contemporary observer deplored, but rather that, because of its composition, it did not even want to take a bite.89 UN member states had agreed at San Francisco that the Council would be composed of an equal number of representatives from states “administering” trust territories (Australia, Belgium, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and, eventually, the United States and Italy) and those that did not, and that it would include the permanent members of the Security Council. There were thus no anti-colonial majorities in the Council as there would be within the General Assembly.90

In 1947, the Trusteeship Council took up its work. It met twice a year at the UN headquarters to review annual reports written by “administering powers” as well as any petitions relating to the trust territories. The reports were written in response to a detailed questionnaire, which the Secretariat helped shape. The questionnaire that was officially approved by the Trusteeship Council in 1952 was composed of eleven parts, numerous subsections, and 190 questions altogether. Most of these, by far, concerned the economic (47), social (70), and educational advancements (36) in each trust territory, while fourteen questions were related to its political advancement. These questions covered everything from “colonial subjects’” participation in government and the civil service to suffrage, the legal system, public finance, economic activities, human rights, living standards, public health, housing, penal organization, schools, and higher education. Taken together, they suggested a uniquely expansive definition of (national) development.91

For Council members sympathetic to the plight of colonial peoples, however, the comprehensive information thus compiled proved difficult to handle.91 What was more, colonial powers hoped to use the statistical information thus compiled to defend imperial rule and shame anti-colonial delegates on the Council by comparing developmental achievements in trust territories with those of their countries of origin.92 While the colonial powers on the Council “showed profound respect for the principle of dog does not eat dog,”93 as one observer put it, and indeed the British, French and Belgians coordinated their policy at the Council beforehand, two to three Council members usually expressed cautious criticism of the “administering powers.” Initially the representatives of “non- administering” member states focused on the expansion of social and educational facilities; later on, the political advancement of the inhabitants of the territories became a prominent concern.94

The only consistent radical challenge to the colonial powers’ position came from the Soviet representative, who—after an initial boycott of the proceedings, because the USSR had not been consulted on the trust agreements—used the Council as a “knob for attacks” on the West.95 For example, the Soviets mocked the claim of the British representative to the Trusteeship Council, Hilton Poynton, who had portrayed the British Empire, although separated by seas and oceans, as a “single international organism,” much like the Soviet Union. The argument was later picked up by Poynton’s successor, Sir Alan Burns, and presented as the so-called “saltwater fallacy.” Burns complained that the “expansion by a country over land, and the incorporation of large areas of territory inhabited by other races and peoples [was] apparently perfectly praiseworthy,” but that the “extension of one’s jurisdiction over sea,” by contrast, was “stigmatized in certain quarters as ‘Colonial imperialism,’ [and] ‘oppression of subject races.’”96

In an open letter to Poynton published in the Literary Gazette of the USSR, Kirghiz writer Kassymaly Bayalinov drew on his own experience to ridicule the Soviet-British comparison.97 The Soviet state, Bayalinov wrote, had cured him of illiteracy and ignorance; it had established Kirghizia (Kyrgyzstan) as a Soviet Republic and turned Kirghiz into a written language, introducing translations of foreign classics, as well as honoring Kirghiz literature and poetry. He continued:

It would be very kind of you, Mr. Poynton, to let me know in what town of your mandatory and colonial possessions the plays of Shakespeare, Ostrovsky, Gogol and Griboyedov are performed. I should also like you to send me some information regarding the national bards of the peoples in your possessions … which books have been translated into English and what libraries in English towns are adorned with the portraits of Sikhs, Copts and Bechuanas.… Have many of them been elected to Parliament? Whose books are read in Birmingham and Liverpool?98

But even if the Soviet representative put the “administering authorities” on the defensive, his comments on the Council did not reach a broad audience and, so the colonial powers thought could easily be dismissed as propaganda.99 They initially considered the other “non-administering” powers “a more difficult problem” than the Soviet attacks. Here, a “conciliatory approach” seemed necessary, which they feared might have “undesirable effects upon certain sections of the populations in the trust territories.” To support their case, the colonial powers worked for U.S. support. They presented a united front, working closely with U.S. delegates at the UN and “educating American public opinion” “on the achievements of the Colonial powers in technical fields.”100 This strategy must have worked well enough so that, according to Evan Luard, the Council’s examination of annual progress reports quickly became a lengthy routine.101 As was the case with the mandates system, however, UN oversight certainly made imperial governance in trust territories more burdensome.102

While the examination of annual reports was a feature inherited from the League of Nations mandates system, formalized petitioning was a novel aspect of the trusteeship system that offered colonial peoples unprecedented access to the new world organization. The UN Secretariat shaped that access by preselecting, organizing, and summarizing the content of petitions. In theory, anyone could send petitions relating to trust territories to the Secretariat, hand them over to UN visiting missions dispatched to trust territories or present them in person to the Trusteeship Council. While substantial practical hurdles in terms of travel restrictions as well as costs had to be overcome in order for a petitioner to appear in person before the Council in New York, the potential rewards were also higher, offering a chance to network with foreign allies and raising one’s profile at home. Submitting written petitions was less costly and grew increasingly popular as more inhabitants learned about the special status of UN trust territories—to the extent that the Secretariat became unable to handle the volume.103 Yet many petitioners from trust territories, who had initially been hopeful about the UN’s weighing in on their behalf with regard to specific grievances, were by and large disappointed by the late, tepid, and generic responses they received from the Trusteeship Council.104

In addition to formalizing the petitioning process, the UN Charter also provided for periodic visiting missions of Secretariat officials and government representatives to trust territories as an oversight mechanism. Yet these, too, did not necessarily function as safeguards of the local population’s interest. While the Trusteeship Department staffed and assisted visiting missions to trust territories and prepared their final reports, these missions were largely at the mercy of the receiving “administering authority” and, furthermore, specifically instructed by the UN headquarters to not investigate petitions on the spot, should colonial officials object to this. A Secretariat directive noted that visiting missions were supposed to “forge ties rather than inspect.” Their purpose was not to report abuses or mistakes on part of the colonial administration, but instead, as one internal UN memo put it, to promote the advancement of the territory.105

Chapter 1 – The UN And The Colonial World International Trusteeship and Non-Self-Governing Territories From Building StatesFIG. 6 UN Visiting Mission to Trust Territories in the Pacific

Sir John MacPherson, UK Chairman of the UN Visiting Mission, is greeted by an unnamed “Kukukuku warrior chief” upon arrival at Menyamya Airport in Papua New Guinea (1956). Notice the different image the UN sought to project in the photographs from the organization’s Congo intervention four years later (see chapter 6), where Black UN experts are foregrounded and at least some Congolese are named in the captions.
Source: UN Photo, UN7686256

According to Luard, the first visiting mission, dispatched to Western Samoa in the summer of 1947 at the request of the “administering authority,” New Zealand, to judge calls for immediate self-government, set the tone for subsequent missions. The mission report was generally favorable to New Zealand and encouraged other “administering authorities” to be less cautious about official UN visits.106 To be sure, some activist Secretariat members would not follow the official restrictive guidelines. Ulrich Lohrmann suggests that the 1954 UN visiting mission to Tanganyika, for example, proved a catalyst for the nationalist movement. Yet, he also recounts that the maverick Secretariat officials in question were quickly reined in and, on subsequent visiting missions, replaced with UN representatives more agreeable to the colonial authorities.107 More insistent pressures on “administering authorities” eventually came from the General Assembly, which discussed a summary report from the Trusteeship Council’s every year. Increasingly impatient with the lack of progress in the trust territories, the Assembly’s Fourth Committee on Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories eventually began to take over some of the functions of the Trusteeship Council, reviewing oral statements and even dispatching visiting missions on its own.108


By and large, there was only limited room for UN Secretariat officials to directly influence policy in the trust territories. Nor, it seems, did the top officials in the UN Secretariat’s Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories show much initiative. The assistant secretary-general in charge of the Department, Chinese career diplomat Victor Hoo, had enjoyed a thoroughly elitist upbringing. Hoo was the son of a largely absent high-level diplomat and a mother who passed away when he was young. He grew up among family friends in a Russian aristocratic household in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg, which counted more servants than family members. Hoo studied diplomacy and law at the Sciences Po and spent his summers at Oxford and Cambridge before taking up first diplomatic assignments with the Chinese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and the League of Nations in the interwar period.109

According to a biography by his daughter, Hoo was a bon vivant through and through, who was far more interested in maximizing the amenities of diplomatic life than in any progressive cause that his work at the UN might serve. Generally, Hoo believed that the Secretariat should be told what to do, rather than “carry the burden of political responsibilities.”110 His diary entries concerning a visit to trust territories in East Africa in 1951 show him preoccupied mainly with the (mediocre) quality of the caviar he was served, his colleague’s amorous adventures and naughty jokes, and sensationalist accounts of local customs. In Rwanda, he was impressed by conditions maintained by Belgium:

In Astrida we saw the best-kept hospital for natives that I have ever seen … The beds had colored bed covers that lent a happy note to the atmosphere. There were pillows for everyone with clean pillowcases and an anesthetic machine in the delivery room.111

Upon taking up his post in the Trusteeship Department, Hoo expected cosmopolitan diplomacy interspersed with the occasional adventure here and there (he imagined encounters with lions and cannibals), not international accolades or uplift. In a 1946 broadcast, he conceded quite frankly that he did not expect UN supervision to bring about immediate and radical changes for the people in the trust territories.112

Hoo’s nominal second-in-command, Ralph Bunche, the director of the Department’s Trusteeship division, was a more likely candidate to push for a progressive Secretariat role in the trust territories.113 By all accounts, Bunche, who was born in Detroit in 1904, was hard-working, highly intelligent, and, perhaps more importantly, deeply concerned about “the great moral issue” of one people ruling over another, which he found irreconcilable with the democratic principles invoked by the victorious Allies.114 Bunche also boasted an unusually longstanding and intimate knowledge of, as well as a personal investment, in the issue of international trusteeship. During his graduate studies—he was the first African-American recipient of a PhD in political science, in 1934—Bunche had traveled to West Africa to compare French policy in the League of Nations mandate Togoland and the neighboring colony of Dahomey. As a postdoctoral student, Bunche mingled with African students in London (some of whom would play important roles in the independence struggles of the postwar period) and visited South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as the Belgian Congo.115 During World War II, he joined the State Department, where he became an important contact for emerging African leaders and also, as discussed above, helped shape the American planning effort for the postwar order.

Chapter 1 – The UN And The Colonial World International Trusteeship and Non-Self-Governing Territories From Building StatesFIG. 7 Victor Hoo, Trygve Lie, and Ralph Bunche

Victor Hoo, assistant secretary-general in charge of the Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories; UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie; and Ralph Bunche, director of the Trusteeship Division, at the first session of the Trusteeship Council (1947).
Source: UN Photo, UN7728119

Both his early Marxist convictions as well as his personal observations in Africa led Bunche to conclude that imperialism equaled brutal exploitation. In a 1936 booklet, he wrote that “powerful industrial nations had raped Africa under the false pretense of shouldering ‘the white man’s burden’ … to expose them to the benefits of an advanced European culture.”116 His doctoral dissertation offered a meticulous survey and critique of colonialism in practice and he expressed hope that the imperial age was coming to an end.117 But his appraisal of how one might get there, or what the new age might look like, remained somewhat vague; as it did for other Black internationalists at the time.118 For a time, Bunche placed his bet on colonial “tutelage” and “apprenticeship.” In his 1934 dissertation, he wrote:

Though the time when the … African will be able, in the words of the League Covenant, “to stand alone in the strenuous conditions of the modern world,” is probably many generations removed from the present day, he should be serving an apprenticeship in the art of self-rule under the tutelage of his immediate rulers.… It must be made possible for him now to acquire the experience and develop the leadership essential to sound government everywhere.119 Again, it was unclear what form this tutelage might take.

Bunche was on firmer ground when it came to the role he envisioned for international organizations in this uncertain process of guided, gradual decolonization. He thought that mandate principles “had operated generally to liberalize and humanize the policies of colonial powers,” yet he saw the accomplishments of the League in this field as only the beginning of “great work” ahead.120 In general, he found little difference in the treatment and status of people under the Togo mandate and that of their neighbors in the colony of Dahomey.121 To Bunche, international cooperation was important not for ensuring a concrete improvement of colonial administration through oversight, but in establishing certain principles for colonial rule.

In that sense, Bunche had also been an enthusiastic supporter of the International Labor Organization’s Recommendation on Minimum Standards of Social Policy in Dependent Areas, also known as the “Charter for the Colonies,” proclaimed in Philadelphia in 1944. Largely drafted by Wilfried Benson, who would later join Bunche as a colleague in the UN Trusteeship Department, the Recommendation (which was ratified by ILO member governments) had called for a subordination of all colonial policies to social objectives—active promotion of economic and social development on part of colonial governments—as well as increased participation of the colonies’ inhabitants in decision-making. The desirability of an internationalization of social policy was also hinted at. Daniel Maul suggests that the Philadelphia session had an enormous effect on social and political movements in the colonies, as the Recommendation invited a range of new claims from their inhabitants. In Maul’s assessment, it was a “huge stride forward for reform-oriented forces and a source of inspiration for all those committed to the emancipation of colonial peoples.”122 Bunche saw the UN Charter as building on, but going beyond Philadelphia’s narrower social focus.123

As noted above, some scholars credit Bunche with a “central role in the evolving process of decolonization,” suggesting that his input on U.S. and UN colonial policies “helped pave the way for gradual peaceful” emancipation from imperial rule.124 Yet, as his former colleague Lawrence Finkelstein pointed out, Bunche was a fairly junior State Department official and American postwar planning regarding the colonial world had largely taken shape by the time that he arrived on the scene.125 Nevertheless, he was involved in drafting the final American trusteeship proposal “at the eleventh hour” aboard the train to San Francisco.126 Apparently dissatisfied with the official U.S. version, Bunche introduced his own ideas for the trusteeship system into the official proceedings via the Australian delegation.127 He later described the discussions about trusteeship as the “toughest fight of the Conference,” telling his wife that the Charter section on trusteeship was not as good as he would like it to be, “but better than any of us expected it could get.” A good part of the final phrasing, he continued, was drafted exclusively by him. “It’s a thrill even for your blasé old hubby to see his own writing in [the Charter] —writing over which he struggled for long, long hours in a desperate effort to break with what often seemed to be impossible impasses.”128 Together with other delegates such as Romulo of the Philippines and Wellington Koo of China, Bunche supported the introduction of official accountability mechanisms both for trust territories (in the form of petitions and visiting missions) and with regard to other colonies (in the form of information to be submitted to the secretary- general).129

Later in the Trusteeship Department, according to Finkelstein, there was by and large “little opportunity for direct and open participation [on the part of UN officials] in the making of international policy affecting the colonies.”130 Bunche did the best he could with the means available to him. For example, he worked closely with the Chinese delegation to the UN, led by Koo, in order to convince the 1946 first General Assembly session in London to set up the ad hoc Special Committee on Information Transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter which, much like the Trusteeship Council, was composed of an equal number of colonial and noncolonial powers that would review and discuss reports submitted by the imperial powers on their colonies on a regular basis.131 As noted above, the Charter required UN members responsible for the administration of “non-self-governing territories” (that is, colonial powers) to regularly transmit to the secretary-general “information of a technical nature relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the territories.”132

Initially, the major European colonial powers were reluctant to submit said information to the UN at all, pointing out that the Charter requirement was subject to “security and constitutional considerations.” French officials tried to suggest that the newly proclaimed “French Union” was, in fact, no longer a form of empire.133 When such arguments failed to gain purchase at the General Assembly, colonial powers pushed back against the public discussion of the reports that they eventually submitted, by pointing out that the Charter did not specify what the secretary-general would do with the information he received. Ultimately ditching their defensive position to assume, in the words of a British official, “a position of moral leadership based on our record of colonial achievement,” the colonial powers agreed to a UN publication based on their reports.134 This reflected an early change of British strategy, from stonewalling the UN to appreciating the importance of the world organization as a potential tool for deflecting anticolonial pressure by playing “as constructive and as co-operative a part as possible in the work of the Special Committee.”135

From that point on, the quantity rather than the scarcity of the information on colonies submitted to the Committee became a problem (mirroring a similar trend at the Trusteeship Council). Handling this information required a “drastic” preselection process by the Secretariat.136 Cooperative imperial powers—Belgium left the Committee in the early 1950s—submitted reports on their colonies in response to a detailed questionnaire, which was based on a Secretariat draft and similar to the one concerning trust territories. The main difference was that the questionnaire for “non-self-governing territories,” unlike the one on trust territories, did not feature any questions with regard to the territory’s “political advancement.”137

Secretariat officials sincerely hoped that since the ad hoc Committee was officially set up to discuss only technical matters relating to economic, social, and educational conditions in the territories, it might constructively channel political issues toward the advancement of colonial territories, while the “rhetorical fireworks” concerning colonialism would be reserved for the General Assembly.138 As more and more data were gathered, the Committee’s recommendations indeed became increasingly specific. Ultimately, the Committee became an important site for government representatives at the UN—both procolonial and anticolonial—to discuss which territories to consider colonies in the first place, as well as how colonial rule should be practiced and to what end.139 As Jessica L. Pearson has argued, it created a significant opening that allowed the world to see into the inner lives of empires.140

While Bunche tried hard to make the UN the most effective possible advocate of the rights and interests of the people in “dependent territories,” as early as 1947 his energies were no longer focused on colonies per se, but on peacekeeping in the Middle East.141 Because Palestine was a former League of Nations mandate, the Trusteeship Department became involved in the work of the UN to decide the territory’s future. In mid-May 1947, the General Assembly set up a Special Committee on Palestine, and Secretary-General Trygve Lie appointed Victor Hoo as his representative there. According to Brian Urquhart, an early Secretariat member turned UN chronographer, Lie appointed Bunche as Hoo’s special assistant to give some “heavyweight assistance” to Hoo’s “vain, pleasure-loving lightweight.”142 On January 6, 1948, Bunche became principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission, to which—per General Assembly resolution —the British were to cede authority for a two-month transitional period before two separate states would be established. As Urquhart put it, the fact that Arab countries had denounced this program and the British had said that they would not give effect to it made the work of the Commission “somewhat academic.”143 In May, the General Assembly, and the Security Council dispatched Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden as a UN mediator to Palestine, accompanied by Bunche as a chief representative of the secretary-general. When Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem in September 1948, Bunche was appointed acting mediator. In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, which resulted in armistice agreements between the new state of Israel and four of its Arab neighbors: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.144 Given this important work, there was little time for Bunche to focus on the question of trust territories and other colonies.

Within the Trusteeship Department, the lack (or part-time nature) of Bunche’s leadership resulted in a considerable slump in morale among his staff. Asked by Bunche to comment on the weaknesses of the Department and how they might be overcome, Taylor Shore, his friend and colleague, wrote:

With the exception of your hardy immediate staff and one or two others on a personal basis very few ever get into your office, which is constantly besieged by visitors from outside. Most of your officers see you in the corridor as you dash from one meeting to another. They do not feel free to come to you.145

It is therefore of little surprise that a 1950 proposal drafted in the Trusteeship Department, which argued for the UN Secretariat to take a more proactive role in delivering on the promise of development in the trust territories, came to nothing. The proposal nevertheless provides an important testament to ideas prevalent among UN officials at the time, who increasingly sought to approach the politics of state-building as a technical challenge.


As noted in the introduction, in the 1940s and 1950s “technical assistance”—the transfer of knowledge and skills conveyed by advisory experts to requesting governments—functioned as the UN’s primary means for delivering on the promise of global development. Much of the UN’s own work, during and in the first years after the war, focused on the problems of rehabilitation and reconstruction of those parts of the world, mainly in Europe, that had seen large-scale destruction as a result of the war. The very first official UN body to come into existence in 1943, the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), had been dedicated to this cause. When UNRRA was ripped apart by a growing East–West divide and formally terminated in 1946, the General Assembly resolved that the UN Secretariat should continue “the important advisory functions in the field of social welfare” that had been furnished to member countries.146 A sum of $436,000 was allocated from the regular UN budget to finance technical assistance in this field.

Yet many UN member states were discontented with the UN’s focus and spending on the industrialized world. Brazil, for example, claimed that it had given 1 percent of its national income to UNRRA and argued that it was time for the world organization to now turn to the special problems of “underdeveloped” countries.147 During the first General Assembly sessions, several representatives raised the issue of glaring inequalities in economic development among UN member states, warning that these presented a threat to world peace. Carlos Lleras Restrepo, a former finance minister of Colombia, who had previously represented his country at the Bretton Woods negotiations, fleshed out his view of the linkages among economic interdependence, global growth with equity, and international peace and stability.148 Charles Malik of Lebanon, supported by the Chinese delegation, called for the creation of a UN Advisory Board that would provide experts and guidance to underdeveloped countries in various fields of economic and social development.

Malik’s initiative resulted in the Economic and Social Council’s very broadly phrased resolution on “Expert Assistance to Member Governments” of March 1947. The resolution asked the UN Secretariat to assist member states in obtaining information on expert personnel, research facilities, and resources available through the United Nations and the specialized agencies (autonomous international organizations affiliated with the UN, such as the FAO, the ILO, and the WHO) and organizing the dispatch of teams of experts, who would study specific problems and recommend solutions.149 Haiti was one of the first member states to request UN assistance under this resolution. In the last months of 1948, the UN Secretariat dispatched a team of eleven experts in various fields covering agriculture, industry, finance, education, and health to the island to study the country’s overall potential for economic development.150 Given its comprehensive nature, Secretary-General Lie thought that the UN mission to Haiti “deserved attention as a new departure in UN activities.”151

But the Secretariat was initially slow to embrace this new enterprise and, indeed, recognize it as such. Comparatively little money was budgeted for expert assistance to member governments —the secretary-general expected to spend about $14,800 in 1947— and government requests were handled on an ad hoc basis by different Secretariat sections. The conditions and nature of UN support varied so greatly from country to country, so the argument went, that assistance could not be centralized or standardized. UN officials believed that the experience of different countries should not be generalized and that each government request for assistance should therefore be handled as a special case.152 Yet a number of countries, including Burma, Chile, Egypt, and Peru continued to push for the UN to offer and allocate funds for specialized assistance to underdeveloped countries. Despite already existing technical assistance activities of the UN specialized agencies, the delegates of these countries argued that there was still a broad area of development in which assistance was lacking and best provided by the world organization.

As a result of this campaign, the General Assembly appropriated the modest sum of $288,000 for “Technical Assistance for Economic Development” to “under-developed areas” in December 1948.153 A month later, U.S. president Harry Truman followed the UN’s (or rather, the poorer countries’) lead and called for “a bold new program” of technical assistance “for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas” in his famous Point IV speech.154 The subsequent U.S. commitment of funds substantially expanded the world organization’s existing assistance activities. Following Truman’s speech, Western UN member states allocated $20,000,000 to the UN and its specialized agencies for technical assistance purposes and the Secretariat assumed a coordinating role for the UN Expanded Program for Technical Assistance, or EPTA.155

Reporting back from a trip to Europe shortly after Truman’s speech, a UN Secretariat member noted that within all the UN specialized agencies, “very considerable and perhaps exaggerated interest [was] being shown in the possibilities of technical assistance.” To a greater extent than at the UN headquarters, he continued, “it seems to be felt that the Non-Self-Governing Territories are areas in which technical assistance may be most effectively offered.”156 By 1950, the excitement generated by Truman’s speech also reached the shores of the Trusteeship Department. Two memoranda explored the potential role of technical assistance in the trusteeship system and the significance of the system for UN assistance more generally.157

The memos noted that technical assistance was one of the most important aspects of the work of the UN, that trust territories were among “the most under-developed areas of the world,” and that economic and social advancement was one of the basic objectives of the trusteeship system. Yet attention to the development of these territories, in the eyes of the Trusteeship Department, had so far been insufficient. For reasons of prestige, the memos suggested, the UN should prioritize these places in its technical assistance program. In the trust territories, the UN could showcase its assistance capabilities and the territories’ development could serve as a shining example to other colonies. The author imagined the Trusteeship Council to have more leverage vis-à-vis the “administering authorities” than the Economic and Social Council (one of the six principal UN organs) had regarding sovereign UN member states, and that it was thus easier to push for direct involvement of the UN in the trust territories.

The memo stated that work in the trust territories would allow the UN to venture into entirely new fields of development beyond the economic and social realm and thus to pioneer new forms of assistance. The political advancement of the inhabitants and their progressive development toward self-government or independence was one of the most important aims of the trusteeship system. “It seems to be certain that … some kind of technical assistance [in this realm] is possible and desirable,” the memo insisted. Indeed, the authors imagined a “wide field of technical assistance towards self-government” opening up to the UN for tilling, a quite literal project of institutionalized technical state-building.158

As far as the trust territories were concerned, such dreams on the part of the Secretariat went largely unfulfilled. Requests for assistance from the UN had to be formulated by the “administering authorities” (the colonial powers), which were by and large ardently opposed to seeing the world organization involved in the politics of their dependencies.159 As one UN official put it: “I am doubtful whether any metropolitan government would—for the small advantages involved—be prepared to accept the precedent of direct United Nations help.”160 While the principle of international assistance to trust and “non-self-governing territories” was firmly established, observed another, it could hardly escape notice that demands on the UN program of technical assistance would likely be minimal, so that important UN contributions to the development of colonies were unlikely in the near future.161 In other words, while the United Nations helped to frame colonies as dependent upon international assistance for further advancement toward self-government and did much to promote an increasingly expansive vision of development, for the most part, UN representatives themselves would play no important roles in that process.

As Evan Luard pointed out in his seminal study of the UN during the age of decolonization, the world organization’s significance lay less in its impact on day-to-day rule in the colonies than in its emphasis on political, educational, social, and educational advancement as the purpose of colonial trusteeship.162 Its significance also lay in fleshing out quite concretely in questionnaires what exactly advancement or development might mean in a broad number of fields. While the Trusteeship Council itself provided a relative “safe space” for colonial powers, the establishment of ostensibly universal goals of colonial rule in combination with novel oversight mechanisms nevertheless created a space for holding colonial powers accountable for their lofty promises and providing a benchmark against which to measure progress.

The Secretariat’s efforts to more directly influence policy in trust territories (as well as colonies) ultimately failed, partly due to lack of personal investment on the part of Trusteeship Department officials, but above all in view of “administering powers’” claims to sovereignty and noninterference. As noted above, more insistent pressures on “administering authorities” and colonial powers emerged from several General Assembly committees: notably, the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing-Territories, the Fourth Committee, and, after 1960, the Committee of 24.163 Yet, as Luard writes, the UN could persuade but not compel, demand but not impose, condemn but not coerce. The power of decision-making ultimately lay with individual UN member states.164

The former Italian colonies, the subject of the next two chapters, proved an exception to this rule. When the Allies could not agree on these territories’ fate, the decision was ultimately passed on to the General Assembly, where government representatives decided to establish both Libya and Somaliland as sovereign states within a fixed time period. They also asked UN personnel to assist in the process. Libya and Somaliland thus became important early testing grounds for more immediate UN trusteeship and the organization’s capabilities in literal state-building. It was here that UN officials began to approach state-building as a technical challenge and an operational activity, the domain of bureaucrats and experts, rather than as a unique political or historical process. Otherwise, as subsequent chapters will show more clearly, political independence oftentimes became the de facto starting point rather than the end of UN trusteeship for the purpose of advancement.

Introduction  Chapter 2 will follow 


1. Stephen Wertheim, Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020).

2. Translation of “The Colonial Question after World War II,” Pravda 7 August 1947, Ralph Bunche Papers (hereafter RB), Charles E. Young Library, University of California, Los Angeles (hereafter UCLA), B86, F10.

3. It is unclear at what point overseas possessions, which the League of Nations Covenant, for example, still referred to as “colonies,” became “dependent territories” in international parlance. It is likely an American euphemism, designed to account for imperial holdings such as Guam or Hawaii that allowed the U.S. to maintain its anticolonial self-image, which gained wider currency through the U.S.-led wartime discussions about the future role of international organization in the colonial world. Wearing the newly agreed-upon teleological understanding of colonies on its sleeve, the UN Charter would ultimately settle for the cumbersome term “Non-Self-Governing ”

4. Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

5. On British positions, see Wm. Roger Louis, Imperialism at Bay: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire, 1941–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978). On the French, see Jessica L. Pearson, “Defending Empire at the United Nations: The Politics of International Colonial Oversight in the Era of Decolonization,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 45, no. 3 (May 31, 2017): 525–49; Jessica L. Pearson, “The French Empire Goes to San Francisco: The Founding of the United Nations and the Limits of Colonial Reform,” French Politics, Culture & Society 38, no. 2 (2020): 35–55. For general overviews, see Kenneth J. Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” Journal of Contemporary History 4, no. 1 (1969): 167–85; Evan Luard, A History of the United Nations, vol. 2: The Age of Decolonization, 1955–1965 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989). Spain and Portugal only joined the UN in 1955 and even then continued to evade UN oversight. On Portugal at the UN, see Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro, “The Inventors of Human Rights in Africa: Portugal, Late Colonialism, and the UN Human Rights Regime,” in Decolonization, Self-Determination, and the Rise of Global Human Rights, ed. Dirk Moses, Marco Duranti, and Roland Burke (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 285–315.

6. For an abbreviated, slightly revised version of this chapter, see Eva-Maria Muschik, “The Trusteeship System, Decolonization and (the Limits of) UN Agency,” in The United Nations Trusteeship System: Legacies, Continuities, and Change, ed. Julius Heise, Maria Ketzmerick, and Jan Lüdert (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

7. UN trust territories included: British Togoland, which, united with the British Gold Coast, achieved independence in 1957 as Ghana; Somaliland under Italian Administration, which, united with the British Somaliland Protectorate, formed the independent state of Somalia in 1960; French Togoland, which became independent Togo in 1960; French Cameroons, which gained independence as Cameroon in 1960; British Cameroons, whose northern part joined Nigeria, while the southern part joined Cameroon in 1961; British Tanganyika, which gained independence in 1961 and, in union with the former British Protectorate of Zanzibar, became Tanzania in 1963; Belgian Ruanda-Urundi, which a plebiscite divided into the two sovereign states of Rwanda and Burundi in 1962; Western Samoa, which gained independence from New Zealand as Samoa in 1962; Nauru, administered by Australia, which became independent in 1968; Australian New Guinea, which, together with the Australian colony of Papua, formed the independent State of Papua New Guinea in 1975; as well as the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, comprising the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and, last, Palau, which became “fully self-governing in free Association with the United States” in 1990 and 1994, respectively. “Trust Territories That Have Achieved Self-Determination,”, (last accessed 18 July 2016). The League’s Middle-Eastern mandates—Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, and Mesopotamia (Iraq)—as well as South West Africa, which was administered by South Africa, did not become UN trust territories.

8. Ruth Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter: The Role of the United States, 1940–1945 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1958); Louis, Imperialism at Bay.

9. Brian Urquhart, Ralph Bunche: An American Life (New York: W. Norton, 1993), 122.

10. Neta Crawford, “Decolonization through Trusteeship: The Legacy of Ralph Bunche,” in Trustee for the Human Community: Ralph J. Bunche, the United Nations, and the Decolonization of Africa, ed. Robert A. Hill and Edmond J. Keller (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010), 102; also see Herschelle S. Challenor, “The Contribution of Ralph Bunche to Trusteeship and Decolonization,” in Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times, ed. Benjamin Rivlin (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1990), 143. For a mixed assessment of the effects of the Trusteeship System on the decolonization of an individual territory, see Ullrich Lohrmann, Voices from Tanganyika: Great Britain, the United Nations and the Decolonization of a Trust Territory, 1946–1961 (Berlin: Lit, 2007). For a general overview of literature on the UN and decolonization, see the introduction to this book.

11. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 117.

12. For a discussion of calls for the return of trusteeship, see Crawford, “Decolonization through Trusteeship,” 94; Paul Kennedy, The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations (New York: Random House, 2006), 262–63.

13. Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations”; Yassin El-Ayouty, The UN and Decolonization: The Role of Afro-Asia (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971); Luard, The Age of Decolonization; Jan Lüdert, “Conditions Apply: Non-State Actors Challenging State Sovereignty through Intergovernmental Organizations: An Analysis of National Liberation Movements and Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations,” doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia, 2016; Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN.”

14. Julius Heise, Maria Ketzmerick, and Jan Lüdert, eds., The United Nations Trusteeship System: Legacies, Continuities, and Change (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

15. See, for example, Lu-Yu Kiang, “The Development and Operation of the Method of Supervision in the United Nations Trusteeship System,” PhD thesis, New York University, 1955; Will Joseph Selzer, “The Trusteeship Council of the United Nations and Self-Government, with Particular Reference to British East Africa, 1947–1951,” PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1959; Edward Rowe, “The Effects of the United Nations’ Trusteeship System,” PhD thesis, University of California Berkeley, 1966; Giuliano Ferrari-Bravo, “The Development of International Trusteeship at the United Nations with Particular Reference to British Reactions: 1944–1960,” PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1976; Adebisis Oluwatoyin Adebiyi, “The Role of the United Nations Visiting Missions in the Decolonization of East Africa, 1948–1960,” MLit thesis, University of Oxford, 1985; Catherine Burke, “The Great Debate: The Decolonization Issue at the United Nations, 1945–1980,” DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1986; Cherifa Belhabib, “The United Nations Trusteeship System, 1945– 1961,” PhD thesis, University of Cincinnati, 1991.

16. Lohrmann, Voices from Tanganyika; Meredith Terretta, “‘We Had Been Fooled into Thinking That the UN Watches over the Entire World’: Human Rights, UN Trust Territories, and Africa’s Decolonization,” Human Rights Quarterly 34, no. 2 (2012): 329–60. Lohrmann initially repeats Louis’s assessment of the trusteeship system’s strength, but then goes on to show at length how the few results of UN oversight quickly turned inhabitants’ high expectations into anger and disillusionment.

17. For a review of recent literature on the topic, see Anne Orford, “Book Review Article: ‘International Territorial Administration and the Management of Decolonization,’” International and Comparative Law Quarterly 59 (2010): 227–50.

18. Mark Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea (New York: Penguin Press, 2012), 254.

19. On Bunche, see Peggy Mann, Ralph Bunche, UN Peacemaker (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1975); Benjamin Rivlin, Ralph Bunche, the Man and His Times (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1990); Urquhart, Ralph Bunche; Charles P. Henry, Ralph Bunche: Model Negro or American Other? (New York: New York University Press, 1999); Carol Elaine Anderson, Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944–1955 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Robert Hill and Edmond Keller, eds., Trustee for the Human Community: Ralph J. Bunche, the United Nations, and the Decolonization of Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2010); also see discussions in Pedersen, The Guardians; Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2017, and forthcoming work by Christopher Dietrich.

20. Lawrence Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World: From Trusteeship to Decolonization,” in Rivlin, Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times, 114–24.

21. On moving beyond the success/ failure narrative, see Susan Pedersen, “Back to the League of Nations,” The American Historical Review 112, 4 (October 2007): 1090–1117.

22. Pandit led a “counter-delegation” to San Francisco to the one that the British had hand-picked for India. Manu Bhagavan, India and the Quest for One World: The Peacemakers (New York City: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 44.

23. For a discussion of self-determination as a counterrevolutionary Wilsonian concept meant to preserve international racial hierarchy, see Adom Getachew. Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), chapter 2.

24. In her 2019 essay on the mandates system, Pedersen suggests that it still remains to be seen whether her claim that the publicity and contestation that the mandates system entailed did more to destabilize the imperial order than to legitimize Pedersen, The Guardians; eadem, “An International Regime in an Age of empire,” American Historical Review 124, no. 5 (2019): 1680.

25. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 225, 538. In “Tomorrow, the World,” Stephen Wertheim shows that despite the anticolonial rhetoric, U.S. policymakers briefly considered forming a collaborative “Anglo-American Imperium” in 1941. Also see Thomas Meaney, “The American Hour: U.S. Thinkers and the Problem of Decolonization, 1948–1983,” doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 2017.

26. Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 16.

27. Stephen Wertheim, “Instrumental Internationalism: The American Origins of the United Nations, 1940–3,” Journal of Contemporary History 54, no. 2 (2019): 265–83.

28. Louis, Imperialism at Bay; also see Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter; Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations.”

29. The 9th conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations in Hot Springs, Virginia, in early 1945 seems to have been an important informal discussion setting prior to San Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN,” 36, 46.

30. El-Ayouty, The UN and Decolonization; Marika Sherwood, “‘There Is No New Deal for the Blackman in San Francisco’: African Attempts to Influence the Founding Conference of the United Nations, April–July, 1945,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 29, no. 1 (1996): 71–94; Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

31. For the Covenant, see, for example, .asp (last accessed 30 August 2019). On development in the mandates, see Simon Jackson,  “Transformative  Relief:  Imperial  Humanitarianism  and  Mandatory Development in Syria-Lebanon, 1915–1925,” Humanity 8, no. 2 (2017): 247–68. On continuities from the League to the UN, see Simon Jackson and Alanna O’Malley, The Institution of International Order: From the League of Nations to the United Nations (London: Routledge, 2018); specifically on the transition from the mandates to the trusteeship system, see Pedersen, The Guardians, conclusion.

32. For the charter text, see, for example, (accessed 2 April 2016); Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 122; Wertheim, “Tomorrow, the World,” chapter 3; Bradley Simpson, “The Atlantic Charter and the Imagined Future of Self-Determination and Decolonization, 1941–1945,” paper presented at Challenging the Liberal World Order: The History of the Global, Decolonization and the United Nations, 1955–2000, Leiden University, 2018.

33. See, for example, Sherwood, “There Is No New Deal,” 72–73.

34. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 121–22, 126–28.

35. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 134–35, 154–55.

36. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 134,140; Frederick Cooper, “Writing the History of Development,” Journal of Modern European History 8, no. 1 (2010): 9.

37. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 84.

38. In the president’s view, international trusteeship would not only be confined to “minors” of the international community, but could also be applied to lead “adult nations … back into a spirit of good conduct.” Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 148, 165–66.

39. Pedersen, The Guardians.

40. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 86; Wertheim, “Tomorrow, the World,” 24–25. Author’s emphasis.

41. Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” 173.

42. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 188.

43. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 87–88.

44. Lawrence Finkelstein, “Castles in Spain: United States Trusteeship Plans in World War II,” PhD thesis, Columbia University, 1970, 52.

45. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 197. On the views of the British Left, see Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations.” By referring to “dependent” rather than “colonial” peoples, the British left the door open for a further twist: namely, that the commissions might have as much—or as little— of a say with regard to “colonial subjects” as they would with regard to “dependent peoples” within sovereign states, such as Native Americans. The Canadians feared as much. See Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 406.

46. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 88.

47. Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 232, 246; also see Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” 174–75.

48. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 88.

49. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 77.

50. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, chapter XX, “The Stimson Memo.”

51. Finkelstein, “Castles in Spain,” 9.

52. Pearson, “French Empire Goes to San Francisco,” 46.

53. Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

54. The strategic trust territories have received comparatively little attention. John Maki, “U.S. Strategic Area or UN Trusteeship,” Far Eastern Survey 16, no. 15 (August 13, 1947): 175–78; Earl Pomeroy, Pacific Outpost American Strategy in Guam and Micronesia (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1951); Finkelstein, “Castles in Spain”; Wm. Roger Louis, National Security and International Trusteeship in the Pacific (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1972); Ganeshwar Chand, “The United States and the Origins of the Trusteeship System,” Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 14, no. 2 (1991): 171–230. Also see Elisa Leclerc, “Nuclear Testing on the Strategic Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands—How the U.S. Became an Imperial Power in the Region of Micronesia,” in The United Nations Trusteeship System: Legacies, Continuities, and Change, ed. Julius Heise, Maria Ketzmerick, and Jan Lüdert (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

55. For the larger argument about American designs to graft UN universalism atop a U.S. power base, see Wertheim, “Tomorrow, the World,” 24–25; for a history of S. overseas expansion, see Daniel Immerwahr, “The Greater United States: Territory and Empire in U.S. History,” Diplomatic History 40 (2016): 373–91; idem, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2019).

56. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 808.

57. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 819.

58. The French, too, were apparently uninformed about the American plans, and feared that Washington might pressure them to give up all overseas territories or that the principle of UN trusteeship might be applied to all colonies. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 124; Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN,” 528.

59. Pearson, “The French Empire Goes to San Francisco,” 48.

60. Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” 181.

61. For anticolonial calls for oversight mechanisms, see Sherwood, “There Is No New Deal”; Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

62. For League Covenant, Article 23 b), see; for UN Charter, Article 73, see charter/chapter-xi/index.html.

63. Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN.”

64. Russell, A History of the United Nations Charter, 816.

65. Sherwood, “There Is No New Deal”; Lüdert, “Conditions Apply”; also see Roger Normand and Sarah Zaidi, Human Rights at the UN: The Political History of Universal Justice (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008); and Carol Anderson, Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944–1955 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

66. Sherwood, “There Is No New Deal,” 84. 67. Sherwood, “There Is No New Deal,” 91.

68. Finkelstein, “Castles in Spain.”

69. UN Charter, Chapter XII: International Trusteeship System, Article 76, b.

70. Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

71. The Charter also left the door open for colonial powers to place other territories under UN supervision, though even the most optimistic among the internationalist postwar planners did not think this likely to happen.

72. Jean de la Roche, “Objectives of Trusteeship,” 23 September 1946, RB, B83, F2,

73. De la Roche, “Objectives of Trusteeship.”

74. See undated CV, RB, B92, F15, UCLA.

75. Jean Gottmann and Jean de la Roche, La Fédération Française: Contacts et Civilization dOutre Mer (Montréal: Editions de L’Arbre, 1945), 17.

76. For a discussion of the book, see António Ferraz de Oliveira, “Territory and Theory in Political Geography, c.1970s–90s: Jean Gottmann’s The Significance of Territory,” Territory, Politics, Governance (2020), 8–9.

77. De la Roche, “Objectives of Trusteeship.”

78. De la Roche thus welcomed the vagueness of the term “self-government” as wide enough to accommodate “national political autonomy” as well as interdependence.

79. De la Roche, “Objectives of Trusteeship.”

80. For a wider discussion of these issues in French government circles, see Frederick Cooper, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

81. De la Roche, “Objectives of Trusteeship.”

82. De la Roche, “Objectives of Trusteeship.”

83. The Secretariat’s Trusteeship Department, or more specifically Bunche, was nevertheless heavily involved in the discussions about the future fate of Palestine. For Bunche’s role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, see Rivlin, Ralph Bunche, the Man and His Times, part III; Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, chapters 11–16. On South West Africa, see Chris Saunders, “The Role of the United Nations in the Independence of Namibia,” History Compass 5, no. 3 (May 2007): 737–44.

84. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 126. The territories for which the first trust agreements were submitted to the General Assembly included New Guinea, administered by Australia; Ruanda-Urundi, administered by Belgium; Togoland and Cameroons, administered by France; Western Samoa, administered by New Zealand; and Tanganyika, Togoland and Cameroons, administered by the United Kingdom. See Yearbook of the United Nations 1946–1947 (New York: United Nations, 1947), 576.

85. Luard, The Age of Decolonization 2, 121.

86. Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” 179.

87. Lawrence Finkelstein, “The Trusteeship System: An Analysis: A Study and Interpretation of the Steps Leading to the Conclusion of the First Nine Trusteeships,” Master’s essay, Columbia University, 1948, Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Charmian Edwards Toussaint, The Trusteeship System of the United Nations (New York: Praeger, 1956), chapter 5; Gordon Morrell, “A Higher Stage of Imperialism? The Big Three, the UN Trusteeship Council, and the Early Cold War,” in Imperialism on Trial, ed. R.M. Douglas, Michael D. Callahan, and Elizabeth Bishop (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2006), 111–37; Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” 180.

88. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 122. Julius Lewin, “The Squalid Farce of Trusteeship,” The Nation 31 July 1948: 119–20.

89. Lewin, “Squalid Farce of Trusteeship.”

90. The United States, though in charge of “strategic trust territories,” which came under the purview of the Security Council, did not count as an “administering power” on the Trusteeship Council the first year. Somaliland became a UN trust territory under Italian administration in 1950, even though Italy would only join the UN as a member state five years later. Until then, Italy participated in the Council deliberations without the right to vote. Yearbook of the United Nations 1946–1947 (New York: United Nations, 1947), 577; Yearbook of the United Nations 1950 (New York: United Nations, 1951), 105.

91. The provisional questionnaire used until 1952 was based on drafts submitted by France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Secretariat. The “administering authorities,” the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies, and the specialized agencies were invited to suggest changes. Yearbook of the United Nations 1952 (New York: United Nations, 1952), 81.

91. Several states argued—ultimately unsuccessfully—for a simplification of the universal questionnaire or, rather, for its adaption to each trust territory. See Yearbook of the United Nations 1953 (New York: United Nations, 1953), 655.

92. “Confidential Resumé of a General Discussion between Representatives of Belgium, France and the United Kingdom on Future Policy towards the Trusteeship Council,” Ministère des Colonies. Direction des Affaires politiques, 1AFFPOL/3316/3, Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence (ANOM). I thank Julius Heise for this

93. Lewin, “Squalid Farce of Trusteeship.”

94. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, vol. 2, 127.

95. Ilya Gaiduk, Divided Together: The United States and the Soviet Union in the United Nations, 1945–1965 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012), 248.

96. Alan Burns, In Defense of Colonies: British Colonial Territories in International Affairs (London: Allen & Unwin, 1957), 16–17, cited in Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN,” 538.

97. See unofficial translation of the letter in the Literary Gazette of the USSR 11 October 1947, RB, B71, F15, UCLA.

98. Unofficial translation of Literary Gazette

99. Gaiduk, Divided Together, 248; Lawrence Finkelstein, Somaliland under Italian Administration: A Case Study in United Nations Trusteeship. (New York: Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1955), 32; Alvin Rubinstein, The Soviets in International Organizations: Changing Policy toward Developing Countries, 1953–1963 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964).

100. “Confidential Resumé of a General Discussion.”

101. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, 2:127.

102. Pedersen, The Guardians.

103. Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

104. See, e.g., Lohrmann, Voices from Tanganyika; Terretta, “We Had Been Fooled.” Also see Julius Heise, “Right to Petition vs. Rules of Procedure,” in The United Nations Trusteeship System: Legacies, Continuities, and Change, ed. idem, Maria Ketzmerick, and Jan Lüdert (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

105. Anecdotal evidence suggests that individual Secretariat members approached missions for their personal advancement—to increase their per diems and consolidate their respective positions within the UN bureaucratic hierarchy. “Preliminary Study Regarding the Organization of Visits” [n.d.]. RB, B83, F7, UCLA. See Mona Yung- Ning Hoo, Painting the Shadows: The Extraordinary Life of Victor Hoo (London: Eldridge & Co., 1998), 158.

106. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, vol. 2, 126.

107. Lohrmann, Voices from Tanganyika, 78.

108. The Fourth Committee is one of the six Main Committees of the General Assembly that correspond to the major fields of responsibility of the General Assembly. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, vol. 2, 127; Jan Lüdert shows that the General Assembly’s Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues also provided a site for contesting colonial sovereignty, arguing that as a comparatively unknown committee, it offered a “sheltered venue” from great power pressure that allowed smaller states to take the lead. See Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

109. Hoo’s personal papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford In 1989, seventeen years after her father’s death, Hoo’s daughter set out to write a biography, which was published nine years later: Hoo, Painting the Shadows.

110. A/C.4/29, para 24–35, cited in Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

111. Hoo, Painting the Shadows, 168.

112. Speech given by Hoo in honor of Bunche winning the Nobel Prize on 12 October 1950, Victor Hoo papers (hereafter VH), B5, F5.6 “Speeches and Writings, General, 1950,” Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University (hereafter HIA). See Broadcast manuscript, 16 November 1946, VH, B5, F5.1 “Speeches and Writings, General, 1946,” HIA.

113. On Bunche, see note 20 above.

114. Ralph Bunche, “The International Implications of Far Eastern Colonial Problems” Council on World Affairs, Cleveland, OH, 3 February 1945, quoted in Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, 115.

115. Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, 62; chapter 4.

116. Ralph Bunche, A World View of Race (Washington DC: Association in Negro Folk Education, 1936), 39; cited in Martin Kilson, “Ralph Bunche’s Analytical Perspective on African Development,” in Rivlin, Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times, 85–86.

117. Ralph Bunche, “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey,” PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1934; also see Pedersen, The Guardians, 321–22.

118. Getachew. Worldmaking after Empire, 7.

119. Bunche, “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey,” 388; cited in Kilson, “Ralph Bunche’s Analytical Perspective on African Development,” 87–88.

120. Bunche, “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey,” 41–42; cited in Nathan Huggins, “Ralph Bunche the Africanist,” in Rivlin, Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times, 78.

121. Bunche, “French Administration in Togoland and Dahomey,” 425; cited in Huggins, “Ralph Bunche the Africanist,” 73.

122. Daniel Maul, Human Rights, Development and Decolonization: The International Labour Organization, 1940–70 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 85.

123. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 121.

124. Crawford, “Decolonization through Trusteeship,” 102. Citing Peggy Mann, Ofuatey-Kodjoe writes: “In the final analysis, there can be no more fitting comment about Ralph Bunche than this: ‘It must be remembered that in his UN role as director of the Department of Trusteeship, Bunche did more than any single man in setting out the guidelines which helped the nations of Africa reach independence.’” W. Ofuatey- Kodjoe, “Ralph Bunche: An African Perspective,” in Rivlin, Ralph Bunche: The Man and His Times, 106; Mann, Ralph Bunche, UN Peacemaker, 333.

125. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 114–24.

126. Ramendra N. Chowdhuri, International Mandates and Trusteeship Systems: A Comparative Study (Dordrecht: Springer, 1955), 51.

127. Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, 119–20.

128. Bunche to his wife Ruth, 17 June 1945, cited in Urquhart, 121.

129. Lüdert, “Conditions Apply,” 83–84.

130. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 124ff.

131. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 124–25.

132. UN Charter, Chapter XI, Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories, Article 73 e).

133. Pearson, “The French Empire Goes to San Francisco.”

134. “Report on the Work of the Non-Self-Governing Territories Division for the Month of January 1949,” S-0504–0001–08, UNARMS.

135. Twitchett, “The Colonial Powers and the United Nations,” 183.

136. Benson to Hoo, 1 July 1950, “Monthly Report on the Division”; “Report on the Work of the Non-Self-Governing Territories Division for the Month of January 1949.”.

137. Initially, there were eight “administering powers” on the Committee: France, Great Britain, Belgium, the United States, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New While Portugal and Spain joined the UN in 1955, Spain refused to submit information to the Committee until 1960 but Portugal did so consistently, as did South Africa. Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN”; for a summary, see Luard, The Age of Decolonization; for Portugal at the UN, see Bandeira Jerónimo and Monteiro, “The Inventors of Human Rights in Africa.”

138. Benson to Hoo, 22 August 1947, S-0504–0001–08, UNARMS.

139. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, 176–79.

140. Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN,” 541.

141. Finkelstein, “Bunche and the Colonial World,” 127.

142. Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, 140.

143. Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, 154.

144. Urquhart, Ralph Bunche, chapters 11–16.

145. Taylor Shore to Bunche, “1950 on 1951,” RB, B468, F2, UCLA.

146. General Assembly Resolution 58, “Transfer to the UN of the advisory social welfare functions of UNRRA,” 14 December 1946, A/RES/58(I). Also see Jessica Reinisch, “Internationalism in Relief: The Birth (and Death) of UNRRA,” Past & Present 210, Supplement 6 (2011): 258–89.

147. Craig Murphy, The United Nations Development Programme: A Better Way? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 53.

148. Digambar Bhouraskar, United Nations Development Aid: A Study in History and Politics (New Delhi: Academic Foundation, 2007), 24. For a discussion of development issues at Bretton Woods, see Eric Helleiner, Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).

149. Economic and Social Council Resolution, “Expert Assistance to Member Governments,” 26 March 1947, E/RES/51(IV).

150. On the symbolism of sending the first comprehensive mission to Haiti, see Sunil Amrith and Glenda Sluga, “New Histories of the United Nations,” Journal of World History 19, no. 3 (2008): 263–64.

151. UN Mission of Technical Assistance to Haiti: Report (Lake Success: United Nations, 1949).

152. Bhouraskar, United Nations Development Aid, 33.

153. General Assembly Resolution, “Technical Assistance for Economic Development,” 4 December 1948, A/RES/200(III).

154. For a broader argument to see Truman’s speech and U.S. development initiatives more generally as a response to demands from the Global South, see Christy Thornton, “‘Mexico Has the Theories’: Latin America and the Interwar Origins of Development,” in The Development Century: A Global History, ed. Stephen Macekura and Erez Manela (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 263–82.

155. In fact, EPTA was directed by a three-layered steering structure: the UN Secretariat’s Technical Assistance Administration (TAA), which carried out the day-to-day work of the program; the Technical Assistance Board (TAB), where the heads of the specialized agencies came together to consult about the services rendered; and the Technical Assistance Committee (TAC), composed of government representatives, which was supposed to supervise and guide the UN program.

156. Benson to Hoo, 18 April 1949, “European Mission,” S-0504–0001–08, UNARMS.

157. “Brief Memorandum on the Role of the Trusteeship Council and of the Trusteeship Department in the Programme of Technical Assistance for Economic Development of the Under-developed Countries”; “Technical Assistance for Economic Development and the Trust Territories,” no date, S-1564–0000–0020, UNAMRS.

158. “Technical Assistance for Economic Development and the Trust Territories.”

159. For a similar argument, see Jessica L. Pearson, The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

160. Benson to Hoo, 23 June 1947, “Report to Victor Hoo on the Work of the Department for the Week Ending 21 June,” S-0504–0001–02, UNARMS.

161. Benson to Hoo, “Note on Technical Assistance for Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories,” 4 January 1950, S-0504–0001–08, UNARMS.

162. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, vol. 2, 141.

163. The Committee of 24 (initially the Committee of 17) was established by the General Assembly in 1961 to see to the implementation of its 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples. In contrast to the other two committees, the Committee of 24 did not feature an equal number of colonial and noncolonial powers and quickly became a year-round source of critiques of On the Committee of 24, see Luard, The Age of Decolonization, 187–95. On the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, see El-Ayouty, The UN and Decolonization; and Pearson, “Defending Empire at the UN.” On the Fourth Committee, see, e.g., Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, “Competing Developments: Intercolonial Organizations and Colonial Education (1940s-1970s),” in Education and Development in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa: Policies, Paradigms, and Entanglements, 1890s–1980s, ed. Damiano Matasci, Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, and Hugo Gonçalves Dores (London: Palgrave, 2020), 237–62. On the Third Committee, see Lüdert, “Conditions Apply.”

164. Luard, The Age of Decolonization, 2:197.