United Nations Admits Its First New Member States Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The United Nations admitted Sweden, Iceland, Afghanistan, and Thailand to membership in the world organization, even as Albania, Mongolia, Ireland, Transjordan, and Portugal faced delays in their acceptance because of objections from members of the Security Council. Admitting new members tested the admissions process and exposed its political character, including the tensions between two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union.

Summary of Event

At the forty-seventh plenary meeting of November 9, 1946, under the leadership of Secretary Trygve Lie and General Assembly president Paul-Henri Spaak, the General Assembly adopted a resolution admitting Afghanistan, the Republic of Iceland, and Sweden to membership in the United Nations. At the sixty-seventh plenary meeting of December 15, the General Assembly adopted a resolution admitting Siam (now Thailand) to membership in the United Nations. These new members comprised only four out of nine that had applied for membership. [kw]United Nations Admits Its First New Member States (Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946) [kw]Member States, United Nations Admits Its First New (Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946) [kw]States, United Nations Admits Its First New Member (Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946) United Nations;expansion United Nations;expansion [g]North America;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [g]United States;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [g]Sweden;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [g]Iceland;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [g]Afghanistan;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [g]Thailand;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [c]United Nations;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [c]Organizations and institutions;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] [c]Government and politics;Nov. 9-Dec. 15, 1946: United Nations Admits Its First New Member States[01870] Gromyko, Andrei Andreyevich Johnson, Hershel V. Lie, Trygve Spaak, Paul-Henri

Their admission was a result of recommendations made by the U.N. Security Council, which had the power to discuss membership applications and make recommendations to the General Assembly. In 1946, the Security Council was composed of five permanent members (China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America) and six nonpermanent members (Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Poland).

The Security Council members had discussed and debated applications for membership in the United Nations submitted by Albania, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Transjordan, Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Siam, and Sweden in August. During the discussion, the American representative, Hershel V. Johnson, expressed the United States’ reservations about admitting Albania and Mongolia (then both under communist control) but proposed that all applicants be admitted, in keeping with the United Nations’ principles of universality and the goal to admit as many states as possible. This proposal was supported by China, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, and the Netherlands. The Soviet Union’s representative, Ambassador Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko, opposed the en bloc admission of states and eventually asked for the withdrawal of the U.S. proposal. In response, the United States requested a delay in deciding about the admission of Albania and Mongolia. Gromyko also opposed the admission of Ireland, Portugal, and Transjordan on the grounds that these states had no formal relationship with the Soviet Union.

The recommendation to the General Assembly to admit Afghanistan, Iceland, and Sweden was made on August 29, with ten Security Council member votes in support and one member abstaining (Australia). The recommendation to admit Siam was made unanimously on December 12.

Significance

Sweden, Iceland, Afghanistan, and Siam became the first members of the United Nations admitted after the founding of the influential international body. Prior to their admission, the United Nations comprised the original fifty-one member states. These nations had participated in the San Francisco conference in 1945 or had signed the Declaration of the United Nations in January of 1942.

The process of admitting new members was important because it tested the procedure for admission and exposed the political character of the process. States wishing to join the United Nations first needed to secure a recommendation from the Security Council, which required seven affirmative votes. Any permanent member, however, could veto admission in cases of substantive issues. The Security Council’s recommendation was to be followed by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly.

The process of admission also exposed tension between the world’s two ideological blocs, led by the two superpowers: the communist states under the leadership of the Soviet Union and the noncommunist states, led by the United States. The process of admission revealed that the permanent Security Council members used veto power as a political tool despite the fact that there were no substantive grounds to use it. For example, the Soviet Union hindered admission of Italy, which enjoyed support of the United States and other Western members, even though the Italian government had met all the conditions to be admitted. The United States did not use its veto power during these proceedings, in part because initially it was able to secure a majority of countries on the Security Council to vote for pro-Western candidates. United Nations;expansion

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bailey, Sydney D., and Sam Daws. The Procedure of the U.N. Security Council. 3d ed. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1998. Examines the procedures of the U.N. Security Council, including examples of discussions about specific membership applications.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bishop, William W., Jr. “Conditions of Admission of a State to Membership in the United Nations.” American Journal of International Law 42, no. 4 (October, 1948): 927-934. The text of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice dated May 28, 1948.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chamberlin, Waldo, Thomas Hovet, Jr., and Erica Hovet. A Chronology and Fact Book of the United Nations, 1941-1976. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 1976. Details U.N. events and activities, including those surrounding the 1946 membership debates. Lists members, presidents of U.N. bodies, and dates of member states’ application for U.N. membership along with dates of admission.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Malone, David M., ed. The U.N. Security Council: From the Cold War to the Twenty-First Century. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2004. A thorough history of the U.N. Security Council and its powers within the international organization.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rudzinski, Aleksander W. The Admission of New Members. New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1952. Discusses the process of admitting new member states to the United Nations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. “The So-Called Double Veto.” American Journal of International Law 45, no. 3 (July, 1951): 443-461. Explores the application of the veto power in the Security Council. Gives examples of how the veto has been used in cases of application for membership.

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