THE world's preoccupation with organizing the structure of the United Nations has, among other but minor reasons, caused Pan-Americanism to pass through a very critical period. In our effort to secure the success of the world system we practically laid aside the American organization, the result of a century of growth. However, peace will never be a matter of construction, but always of reconstruction. A new order cannot be created by cancelling the past achievements of human culture and civilization. Peace is a result; it cannot be a beginning any more than it can be an end in itself.

This work of reconstruction must be attempted on a continental basis and on a world-wide scale. The continental system of peace and security will facilitate the functioning of the world system of peace and security. There is no contradiction in this concept, despite the fact that because of the confusion still prevailing in the present "postwar" period the ideas of regionalism and universality are often presented as contradictory.

Under prevailing circumstances, the United Nations has not yet been able, for obvious reasons, to attain its goal. In view of this, the American countries have realized that their first tasks are to adjust and reinforce Pan-Americanism, to extend the Good Neighbor policy and to defend the American concept of life. They have felt that the best way to help the United Nations construct a peaceful world organization was to strengthen their own community. Beyond this, they have realized that they must expand the American concept of international federations, in order that their successful experiment in establishing a firm basis of peace on this continent may assist the world of today in establishing a real community of peoples.

The contribution of the Americas in the field of international organization cannot be disregarded by those who aim to build a durable peace structure for the world. Indeed, the statesmen who are endeavoring to develop our present world organization have a great deal to learn from the American experience. For the Americas have anticipated the international organization of the future.

II

The American family of nations has never been a source of war and conflict. Standing between the extremes of east and west, it has recognized its duty to contribute to the solution of the world's problems. To enable it to fulfill this historic task in the future, Pan-Americanism must be given an even fuller degree of organization. The basis has already been laid -- at Chapultepec in 1945, and then at the Petropolis Conference, which consolidated the gains made at Chapultepec and embodied them in the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed at Rio de Janeiro on September 2, 1947.

In my opinion, this development points the most desirable way of strengthening the United Nations, in which today a crisis of conscience and hope is evident. Hamilton Fish Armstrong, in a clear and concise treatise,[i] has registered the fact that a lack of confidence in the new organization in its present incomplete form is growing up, and that many members, large and small, are looking for means to put it in a stronger position to carry out the Charter's Purposes and Principles. To remedy this feeling of insecurity, he has suggested a Protocol which would perform a function for the United Nations similar to that which the Geneva Protocol was planned to play for the League of Nations -- and unhappily was not allowed to play. Under this Protocol, the United Nations would be kept intact but supplemented in its work and reinforced in its strength. Without violating the Charter, the signatories of the Protocol would bind themselves, when two-thirds so vote, to resist armed attack even if a veto prevented the Security Council from ordering them to do so.

The American nations bound themselves in such an agreement at Rio de Janeiro. In accord with Articles 33, 51 and 52 of the Charter, they resolved "to conclude the following treaty, in order to assure peace, through adequate means, to provide for effective reciprocal assistance to meet armed attacks against any American State, and in order to deal with threats of aggression against any of them." They further agreed "that an armed attack by any State against an American State shall be considered as an attack against all the American States and, consequently, each one of the said Contracting Parties undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations."

In other words, they would pursue peace by all the peaceful means set out in the Charter, and in case those means failed they would act together in the face of aggression. This action was not merely legal under the terms of the Charter; it had the specific purpose of strengthening the provisions of the Charter relating to peace and security.

Moreover, faithful to the tradition of the Pan American Union system, the Conference of Rio further broadened the obligation assumed by the member states by adding, in Article 6, clauses to the effect that "the inviolability or the integrity of the territory of an American State would be affected by: 1) aggression which is not an armed attack, or 2) extra-continental conflict or intra-continental conflict, or 3) by any other fact or situation that might endanger the Peace of America."

This Treaty, inspired by the will of the American nations "to coöperate permanently in the fulfilment of the principles and purposes of a policy of peace," could be the forerunner of what might be called a "Continental Protocol." Such a "Continental Protocol," I think, can and should be executed. Then, with different wording adjusted to individual needs, it should be adopted by all members of the United Nations and thus be extended to the whole world.

It is desirable -- indeed, at this crisis in the affairs of the United Nations it seems essential -- that attempts to strengthen the world system of peace and security should proceed so far as possible within the framework of the United Nations and in every case acknowledge the prior claim of the United Nations to act to the fullest extent of its capacity. The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance signed at Rio de Janeiro recognized and safeguarded the rights and duties of the United Nations. Mr. Bernard M. Baruch and Mr. John Foster Dulles have recently made suggestions that this treaty might now become a model for similar regional pacts in other parts of the world, specifically, of course, western Europe. I am glad to see this weighty confirmation of the wisdom of my own view.

The speech made by Foreign Secretary Bevin in the House of Commons on January 22 did not give any indication of his concern with the United Nations aspects of the regional problem. The West European Union which he proposed should, I think, be integrated with the United Nations and its functions should be tied from the beginning with the enforcement procedure of the Charter, just as is done so successfully in the Inter-American Treaty. Doubtless in the course of further discussions Mr. Bevin will reveal more fully his views as to the importance for the world system as a whole of whatever proposals the British Government may make regarding a regional organization for western Europe.

III

The Inter-American Treaty of Mutual Assistance signed at Rio de Janeiro created the basis of a continental peace federation. It made wars in the Americas and wars against the Americas alike impossible. The countries of this continent, thus united, represent at present perhaps the major economic and military force in the world -- in material and human resources, in technical and industrial capacity, in political cohesion for a common purpose.

However, as I noted above, this continental organization needs to be further augmented and developed within the basic scope of the Rio Treaty. Only when the forces just mentioned have become adjusted politically, economically and militarily in a "Continental Protocol" will the continent be in a position to bring to bear its full power for the promotion, conservation and defense of the peace of the world.

For this purpose, a preliminary project of a "Constitutional Pact of the Inter-American System" is to be submitted to the Bogotá Conference, in March of this year, by the Directing Council of the Pan American Union. It provides for the organization of four bodies, as follows: 1, Inter-American Economic and Social Council; 2, Inter-American Defense Council; 3, Inter-American Cultural Council; 4, Inter-American Juristic Council.

The Rio Treaty will have its own executive organ in the Inter-American Defense Council, the final plan for which will be submitted to the Pan American Union. The Defense Council as first created at the third Consultative Meeting at Rio de Janeiro was composed of military and naval technicians appointed by each of the governments concerned. It was charged with the task of studying and outlining plans for the common defense of this continent. In Chapultepec, it was transformed into a "permanent military organization." The forthcoming Bogotá Conference will give this body definite constitutional status.

Among the duties of the Defense Council will be that of devising plans for the fulfillment of the obligations undertaken at the Rio Conference. It must submit to the governments of the various American Republics means for bringing about the best possible military collaboration among them, not only for the defense of the continent, but also for the maintenance of world peace through collaboration with the United Nations.

The Defense Council will submit to the Pan American Union not only plans and projects for continental military coöperation, but will also have to suggest steps for the organization, instruction, equipping, expansion, conservation and coordination of American armed forces and concomitant military installations. It will thus strengthen continental political unity in such a manner as to put the full weight of the member nations behind its peace proposals both in the Americas and before the world.

This Pan-American military organization will have economic, cultural and political counterparts. The four Councils together will supplement the work of the United Nations, in accord with the Purposes and Principles of the Charter, the text of which expressly facilitates and counsels the formation of regional organizations. Thus the continental American organization has world-wide as well as local aims.

IV

In light of the foregoing, it is plain that America now has a greater mission than ever to perform. Continental unity, the very fountainhead of its force, is not simply a material fact, stemming from geographical contiguity and from progress itself, but is moral also, resulting from the same interpretation of the fundamental concepts of life. Despite their economic and social differences, the American peoples possess certain common traits which form a spiritual substance. One such trait is the ability to "get along" with people, which is the outcome of respect for the individual, no matter what his origin and regardless of his race or religion. That is real democracy. It is the basis of the American way of life, the definite mark of all American countries, regardless of the form of government which the circumstances of the moment may determine in the continuous effort to reach a balance between liberty and authority.

These common traits, by their very existence and the attending circumstances, have contributed powerfully to the formation of an international political unity. It conforms to an ideal of life which all the member states are ready to defend with all their means and resources. Thanks to the United States, those means and resources represent more than half of the world's wealth and potentialities.

Part of our task is to increase and to perfect these existing resources in such a manner that this continent, the savior of western civilization in two world wars, will again, by the Marshall Plan and the strengthening of Pan-American unity, preserve and insure the greatest achievement of those wars -- the United Nations organization, on which depends the peace of the world.

As I pointed out above, a regional organization of nations, formed to operate within the framework of the United Nations, can only strengthen that organization. At another time I hope to examine in all their aspects the effects of regional systems upon the future of the United Nations. For the time being I aim only to outline the problem, fix the guide-lines of continental policy, give the basic quotations from the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro and indicate the projects to be discussed at the forthcoming International Pan-American Conference at Bogotá. I trust that this will help my readers appraise the preliminary effects of this development upon the United Nations, its repercussions upon other continents and its meaning for the reconstruction of peace and security throughout the world.

In my opinion, America is making ready to maintain the United Nations organization and, if need be, to save the peace, as it has done in the past. The new orientation of Pan-Americanism, as seen in the Treaty of Rio and the plans for the forthcoming Bogotá Conference, will be a new pillar on which the growing power of the United Nations can be based.

[i] "The Calculated Risk." New York: Macmillan, 1947.

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  • OSWALDO ARANHA, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 1947; Brazilian Ambassador in Washington, 1934-38; Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1938-46
  • More By Oswaldo Aranha