12 APRIL 1945, Page 1


AT the British Commonwealth meeting last week General Smuts said that the Dumbarton Oaks plan giving a special position to the Great Powers corresponded with the realities of the situation, and that concessions must be made by the smaller Powers. That is generally admitted, yet it would be idle to deny that there is much uneasiness among the smaller nations about the position which they will be asked to accept at the San Francisco Conference. Dr. Evatt, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, called atten- tion to some very important points in an address at Chatham House last Monday. He asked whether the Dumbarton Oaks plan as at present drafted was not a mere prolongation into the years of peace of the type of "Big Three" leadership which has been necessary for winning the war. Ought not the plan to be regarded as transi- tional, and capable of being modified when normal conditions return? But under the proposals there can be no amendment of the Charter without the unanimous consent of the " Big Five." This point deserves serious attention. It will surely be one of the conditions of the success of a world organisation that it should be capable of progressive adjustment to new conditions, and that it should not be saddled with a rigid constitution which it would be very difficult to amend ; the function of amending the constitution is one in which the smaller Powers would be peculiarly competent to take a share. If the Security Council is to be regarded as the executive body, then, as Dr. Evatt suggested, the Assembly might be expected to exercise legislative powers. But, in fact, the plan gives them no such powers. This distinction between an executive body and a legislative Assembly is worth further consideration. San Francisco will only justify the hopes set on it if, while providing for quick decisions on the part of the Great Powers, it also satisfies the proper demands of the lesser.