No. 179  NAI DFA 226/1B

Memorandum by Frederick H. Boland
'Annual Contribution to the League of Nations'

DUBLIN, 5 February 1942

  1. A decision is required as to whether we are to pay a contribution to the League of Nations in respect of the year 1941. We have been assessed for a contribution of £8,216.
  2. After the matter had been before the Government, it was decided that we should pay our contribution to the League for 1940.1 It amounted to £10,670. For several reasons, the decision in the present case is not so easy.
  3. First of all, we had made full provision for the 1940 contribution in the Estimates for 1940-1. We were therefore able to pay without going specially to the Dáil. There is only a token provision in the Estimates for 1941-2, because when they were prepared, the League budget for 1941 had not been received and the exact amount of the contribution was not known. If it is now decided to pay the contribution for 1941, it will mean taking a special Supplementary Estimate in the Dáil.
  4. In the second place, the League budget for 1940 had been drawn up in a regular, constitutional manner and there was little or no question about our legal liability to pay our contribution in respect of that year. The same claim cannot be made about the 1941 contribution. The League budget for 1941 was not drawn up in a regular, constitutional manner. It was adopted hurriedly by a minority of the members of the Supervisory Commission at a meeting at Estoril in the autumn of 1940. The constitutional validity of the decisions taken at this meeting are open to question, and at least one member of the League Switzerland, who is always very scrupulous about the observance of her inter- national obligations has already decided not to pay her 1941 contribution on this very ground.
  5. There are other considerations which weaken the case for paying the 1941 contribution. Bad as was the situation of the League in 1940, it is worse now. It produced a number of statistical publications last year; but, from the political point of view, the degree of its internal disunity has greatly increased. Three of its members Finland, Roumania and Thailand are in an actual or virtual state of war with the principal pro-League powers Britain and her Allies and neither Russia nor the United States, who are now allies of Britain and the principal pro-League powers, are members of the League or show any interest in it. In the eyes of the pro-League powers, the Covenant has been completely supplanted by the Atlantic Charter2 and the Declaration of the Twenty-six United Nations.3
  6. Of the 31 states which are still nominally members of the League, only 12 paid their contributions for 1940 in full. We were one of the 12. Of the remaining 11, one The Netherlands has since ceased to exist as a State; another France has repudiated the League altogether, and the membership of a third
    Venezuela terminated in July, 1940. A fourth Switzerland has announced her intention of paying no contribution for 1941.
  7. Nor were the defaulters in 1940 all states hostile to the League or to the pro- Allied influence to which it is subject. They included such states as Egypt, China, Greece, Iran and Mexico, which are more or less closely associated with the Allied cause and are well able to pay their contributions. Two important European neutrals, Sweden and Turkey, paid nothing at all in 1940.
  8. Taking together the considerations:
    1. that the basis on which the contribution for 1941 was assessed is of doubtful legality.
    2. that the League has become even more disorganised and helpless within the last twelve months, and
    3. that the political value of continued membership is somewhat lessened by the new ascendancy on the Allied side of non-League powers such as Russia and the United States and by the recent international grouping constituted by the states adhering to the Atlantic Charter and the Washington Declaration,
    it is not easy to see what very strong case can be made to the Dáil in favour of a vote of £8,216 in the present circumstances of financial stringency.
  9. On the other side of the case are the considerations:-
    1. that to sever our connection with the League now would tend to increase our political isolation,
    2. that the withdrawal of our support from the League at this stage might be used against us in hostile propaganda,
    3. that we have not given formal notice of the termination of our membership as required by the Covenant, and that not having done so, to withhold our contribution might be argued to be a breach of our obligations, and
    4. that the withholding of our contribution would be regarded badly in London, both as involving an addition to the financial burden borne by the British Government and as marking a turning of our backs on whatever element of solidarity the League still represents.
  10. Perhaps the best course to adopt in the circumstances would be, not to take a Supplementary Estimate, which would involve paying our 1941 contribution before the end of the present financial year, but to include in the Estimates for the year 1942-43 a sum sufficient to cover the 1941 contribution, viz., £8,216. It happens that this is also the amount of our contribution for the year 1942, notification of which was received just as this memorandum was in course of preparation. The course suggested would have the merits of avoiding the disadvantages of a Supplementary Estimate, of obviating any charge of intention to default on the 1941 payment, and of enabling a definite decision as to whether payment should be made or not to be deferred for some time longer. The unpunctuality in payments involved in not providing for the 1941 contribution within the present financial year is condoned by the past practice of about 90% of the members of the League.
  11. It is proposed therefore that no provision for our 1941 contribution to the League should be made within the present financial year, but that a sum of £8,216 should be provided in the vote for the League of Nations in the Estimates for the year 1942-43.

[initialled] F. H. B.

1 See Nos 27, 28 and 29.

2 Issued as a joint Anglo-American declaration on 14 August 1941, the Atlantic Charter was intended as a blueprint for the postwar world and was one of the first steps towards the creation of the United Nations in 1945.

3 On 1 January 1942 twenty-six governments, pledging to continue the war effort, signed the August 1941 Atlantic Charter it was the first occasion on which the term 'United Nations' was used to describe the wartime Allies.

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