Trusteeship Council

At the end of World War I, control over territories that had once been part of the German and Ottoman Empires was transferred by the League of Nations to other European countries. These territories, referred to as League of Nations Mandates, were renamed United Nations Trust Territories once the UN Charter came into force in late 1945.

The UN Trusteeship Council Chamber in 1952

The UN Trusteeship Council Chamber in 1952

 

Under Article 77 of the Charter, the Trusteeship System applied to:

– Territories held under Mandates established by the League of Nations after the First World War;

– Territories detached from “enemy States” as a result of the Second World War;

– Territories voluntarily placed under the System by States responsible for their administration.

The Trusteeship Council was established to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories and to make sure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self government or independence.[1]

The eleven Trust Territories were:

  • Togoland (under British administration)

United with the Gold Coast (Colony and Protectorate), a Non-Self-Governing Territory administered by the United Kingdom, in 1957 to form Ghana

  • Somaliland (under Italian administration)

United with British Somaliland Protectorate in 1960 to form Somalia

  • Togoland (under French administration)

Became independent as Togo in 1960

  • Cameroons (under French administration)

Became independent as Cameroon in 1960

  • Cameroons (under British administration)

Northern territory joined Nigeria and Southern territory joined Cameroon (1961)

  • Tanganyika (under British administration)

Became independent in 1961 (in 1964,Tanganyika and the former protectorate of Zanzibar, which had become independent in 1963, united as a single State under the name of the United Republic of Tanzania)

  • Ruanda-Urundi (under Belgian administration)

Voted to divide into the two sovereign States of Rwanda and Burundi in 1962

  • Western Samoa (under New Zealand administration)

Became independent as Samoa in 1962

  • Nauru (administered by Australia on behalf of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom)

Became independent in 1968

  • New Guinea (administered by Australia)

United with the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Papua, also administered by Australia, to become the independent State of Papua New Guinea in 1975

  • Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands:

(a) Federated States of Micronesia

Became fully self-governing in free Association with the United States in 1990

(b) Republic of the Marshall Islands

Became fully self-governing in free Association with the United States in 1990

(c) Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Became fully self-governing as Commonwealth of the United States in 1990

(d) Palau

Became fully self-governing in free Association with the United States in 1994

 

By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence, either as separate States or by joining neighbouring independent countries. The last to do so was the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands —Palau— which was administered by the United States and became the 185th UN Member State.

One month after Palau’s independence, the Trusteeship Council suspended its operations. Although the Council’s work has been completed, the formal elimination of the Trusteeship Council would require the revision of the UN Charter. As the Charter states, “amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.”


[1] Although South West Africa (which later became Namibia) was a League of Nations mandate administered by South Africa, the South African government refused to place this territory under UN Trusteeship. Consequently, South West Africa was not one of the original UN Trust Territories.

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