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The Historical Security Council of 1961

Membership of the Historical Security Council of 1961 Membership of the Historical Security Council of 1961

  • Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
  • Chile
  • China
  • Ecuador
  • France
  • Liberia
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Republic (Egypt)
  • United Kingdom
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian Federation)
  • United States of America

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Introduction Introduction

The 2019 American Model United Nations Historical Security Council (HSC) will simulate world events beginning beginning on 1 January 1961. Historically, the key international security concerns at this time revolve around the continuing hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union, the civil war in the Congo and the rise of hostilities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Another key issue confronting the Security Council is the emerging role of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, whose actions challenged the authority of the Security Council on several occasions.

In early 1961, colonialism was collapsing while changing political and social climates forced governments to make drastic changes to deal with new pressures. Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were high and played out on all levels of foreign policy and diplomacy. The internal political landscape of many developing and newly independent countries was influenced by this struggle for global ideological dominance. Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld continued his efforts to energetically use the Secretariat to fulfill the roles of the United Nations Charter as he saw fit, pursuing peace actively, sometimes at odds with the Security Council’s Member States.

The brief synopses presented here offer merely introductory coverage of prominent international issues that can direct representatives’ continued research and preparation. For each topic area, representatives should consider the following questions, which should assist them in gaining a better understanding of the issues at hand, particularly from their country’s perspective:

How did this conflict begin?

  • Is this a new conflict or a re-ignition of a previous conflict?
  • How have similar situations and conflicts been peacefully resolved?
  • What State and regional actors are involved in this conflict? If there are non-State actors involved in a conflict, are there any States supporting them? If so, which ones?

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The Situation in the Congo The Situation in the Congo

Throughout the 1950s, Belgium faced increasing pressure to grant independence to the Belgian Congo. In an effort to avoid fighting a prolonged insurgency, such as had been encountered by other colonial powers that sought to maintain their colonial holdings, Belgium agreed to grant independence to the Congo on 30 June 1960. 

As the agreed-upon date for independence approached, Congo found itself ill-prepared for self-governance. Its great size, coveted natural resources, fractured political leadership, tribal loyalties and dependence on the 10,000-strong Belgian colonial civil service contributed to an extremely precarious situation. Although a Treaty of Friendship, Assistance, and Cooperation with Belgium was signed by the first government on the eve of independence, it was never ratified and was quickly disregarded.

The first government of the newly independent Republic of the Congo (also called Congo-Leopoldville; note this is not the same as the current day Republic of the Congo) was a coalition formed between the leaders of two opposing political factions, President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. The power-sharing structure of national government created by the newly minted constitution proved to be problematic, though, as two powerful and opposing factions, each vying for dominance and control, quickly led to instability. 

Problems in the Congo began just five days after independence. A series of mutinies swept through the Congolese army, as Congolese troops removed the European officer commanders and installed native Congolese commanders between 5-9 July 1960. Mutineers roamed the capital city of Leopoldville and attacked Europeans. The new, all-Congolese military created a terrifying environment for Europeans living and working in the Congo, causing thousands of Belgians to flee to Congo-Brazzaville, Rhodesia and Belgium. On 10 July 1960, the Belgian military intervened unilaterally, sending 1,200 troops to supplement the force of 2,500 already in Congo under the Treaty of Friendship. By 12 July 1960, the Belgian troops had reestablished order in Leopoldville as well as other cities.

Neither Kasa-Vubu or Lumumba were backed by Belgium and Belgians living in the Congo, and power struggles between Belgian influencers and the new Congolese government intensified. Belgium found an ally in Moise Tshombe, the President of the Katanga Province. Under Belgian rule, the Katanga Province was administered separately from the rest of the Congo; it was mineral rich and economically vital. The provisional constitution called for a unitary system, joining the Congo’s provinces together in one government. Because of Katanga’s economic strength and close ties to Belgium, Tshombe and his political faction supported a federated system and he was unable to reach an agreement with Kasa-Vubu and Lumumba. With Belgian political, civilian and military support, on 11 July 1960, President of the Katanga Province Moise Tshombe declared Katanga Province independent from Congo. 

The severity of the conflict and violence drew the attention of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who actively campaigned for United Nations involvement in establishing peace in the region. Ralph Bunche, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, kept Hammarskjöld apprised of the evolving situation. On 10 July 1960, the Congolese Cabinet formally requested United Nations help in the form of “technical assistance in the military field.” 

On 13 July 1960, Hammarskjöld invoked Article 99 of the Charter, requesting an immediate meeting of the Security Council to discuss the situation. The Security Council passed Resolution 143 (with abstentions by China, France and the United Kingdom) which called for the withdrawal of Belgian troops and the establishment of a United Nations force providing “military assistance as necessary,” per the Congolese request. On 18 July, the first 3,500 United Nations troops, composed mainly of African regiments, entered the Congo.

United Nations forces faced many challenges in the initial months of the mission. Resolution 143 had several problems: first, the Secretary-General’s responsibilities were not clear; second, there was no timetable for action; third, there was no description of the military assistance required; fourth, there was no mention of territorial integrity or direction with regard to the Katanga situation; and fifth, United Nations troops were authorized to use force only in self defense and were not to become a party to any internal conflicts.

The entry of United Nations forces into Katanga exacerbated problems in the Congo and the United Nations and were resolved only by a personal visit from Hammarskjöld to Katanga on 12 August. Prime Minister Lumumba grew extremely critical and distrustful of United Nations aid, issuing several ultimatums for the United Nations to conform to his policies and provide United Nations military force against Tshombe in Katanga or withdraw.

Hammarskjöld was deeply and personally involved in the handling of the Congo crisis, repeatedly appearing before the Council seeking endorsement of his actions. On 8 August, the Council passed Resolution 146, backing Hammarskjöld’s plan and actions, clarifying the territorial integrity issue by calling upon all States to refrain from any action that might undermine the territorial integrity of the Congo, and, again, demanding the departure of Belgian troops. Although the first United Nations troops entered Katanga in mid-August, the Belgians did not fully withdraw until mid-October.

In early September, Kasa-Vubu dismissed Lumumba and declared a new government with the support of the Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Joseph Mobutu. Lumumba, in turn, announced that President Kasa-Vubu was no longer Head of State and called upon the people, workers and the army to rise. The Council of Ministers published a communiqué depriving Kasa-Vubu of his power, nullifying his ordinances, revoking the government and accusing him of high treason. Both houses of the Congolese parliament voted to support Lumumba. With the opening of the United Nations General Assembly that fall, both factions vied for the Congo’s seat. The Kasa-Vubu delegate was seated after a long, drawn out political battle.

The interplay of Cold War politics was an underlying factor in the Congo crisis. While western-bloc countries like the United States supported Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu, the Soviet Union supported the legitimacy of the Lumumba government and the Congolese Parliament by providing military aid to Lumumba and several factions. The Soviet Union also used the crisis as an opportunity to attack Hammarskjöld’s leadership. Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev addressed Hammarskjöld specifically in his remarks at the opening of the General Assembly in 1960, accusing Hammarskjold and the United Nations forces of conspiring with the United States and Belgium against Lumumba.

Other African States also played a major role in influencing the political situation of the Congo. Seventeen African States were admitted to the United Nations General Assembly in the fall 1960 session, immediately becoming a bloc influencing negotiations and actions. While they joined the West in isolating the Soviet bloc, they were not united and often disagreed with the West on specifics in the Congo. Three major African groups arose: those which backed Lumumba, those which backed the actions of the United Nations, and those which backed Mobutu and Kasa-Vubu.

Near the end of 1960, events again moved toward an imminent crisis. On 28 November, Lumumba was arrested by forces loyal to Mobutu and jailed, and he currently remains a captive as 1961 dawns. Katanga is independent, with a strong Belgian infrastructure still in place, and both the Belgians and the Soviets are supplying various factions in bids to establish new independent territories.

Bibliography  Bibliography 

  • Cordier, A.W. and Wilder Foote (1967). The Quest for Peace: The Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Lectures
  • Heinz, G. and H. Donnay. (1970). Lumumba: The Last Fifty Days.
  • Hoskyns, Catherine (1965). The Congo Since Independence: January 1960 – December 1961.
  • Hofmann, Paul (1960). Congo is Alerted to Fight the U.N.: Army Regime Sees Threat of ‘Occupation’ and Attack by World Body’s Troops.
  • House, Arthur H. (1978). The U.N. in the Congo: The Political and Civilian Efforts
  • LeFever, Ernest W. (1967). Uncertain Mandate: Politics of the United Nations Congo Operation
  • O’Brien, Conor Cruise (1968). The Rise and Fall of Moise Tshombe: A Biography
  • Rosenthal, A.M. (1960). New U.N. Policy to Use Force Tests Soldiers on Duty in Congo
  • Text of Premier Khrushchev’s Speech Before United Nations General Assembly (24 September 1960). The New York Times. 
  • United Nations (1996). The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peace-Keeping, 3rd 
  • Edition
  • Urquhart, Brian (1994). Hammarskjöld
  • Urquhart, Brian (1991). A Life in Peace and War
  • Young, Crawford (1965). Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence. 

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United Nations Documents  United Nations Documents 

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The Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean The Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean

Many Latin American and Caribbean countries were dealing with severe and mounting problems in the first years of the 1960s. Countries in this region often faced challenges in their attempts to develop an industrialized economy, enact land reform and establish stronger civilian control over the military. The rapidly changing domestic political, social and economic climate in Latin American and Caribbean countries, coupled with the growing importance of the Cold War in international affairs, led to significant instability throughout the region. 

For example, in Argentina, after a series of military coups in the 1950s a civilian government was elected in 1958. Among the many challenges facing the new civilian government, mass strikes and rapid inflation were two of the most pressing issues. Brazil, attempting to achieve decades of economic growth and reform in a few years, was facing pressure from international creditors and growing military unrest. Civil unrest and economic instability were also prevalent in Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The seizure of power in Cuba by Fidel Castro in early 1959 shocked the region and international community—especially the United States. While Castro did not consider himself a Marxist, the growing mistrust between the Cuban government and the United States heightened Cold War tensions in the region. Castro increasingly relied on assistance from the Cuban Communist Party for organizational and political support in pursuing a populist economic agenda and a clamp down on unsympathetic organizations and press. Further, Castro began developing stronger political, economic and military ties with the Soviet Union. These developments meant the United States and its Latin American allies were concerned about the possibility of a Marxist state in the Caribbean coupled with the potential for a Soviet military presence close to the US mainland. The political developments in Cuba added to the global tension concerning the spread of communism, further heightening the conflict between communist and democratic states. The Cold War, and its attendant military, political and economic implications, threatened to destabilize the system of alliances and economic relations in the region. 

Cuba accused the United States of seeking to destabilize and overthrow the Cuban government. Cuba claimed the United States was arming and protecting Cuban war criminals and counter-revolutionary elements, and cited multiple violations of Cuban airspace in 1960. In July 1960, the Cuban government requested to be heard before the Security Council to discuss “repeated threats, reprisals and aggressive acts” by the United States against Cuba. On 19 July, 1960, the Security Council responded with Resolution 144, which deferred the issue until a report was received from the Organization of American States (OAS) on the issue. In addition, the Security Council called for all parties to reduce tensions in the region.

Current issues facing the Council include the possibility of increased tension between Cuba and other States in the region and the likelihood of new political instability caused by economic and social turmoil.

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Bibliography Bibliography

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Security Council / Secretariat Cooperation Security Council / Secretariat Cooperation

During its early years, the United Nations was generally allowed only those duties and roles the great powers were willing to extend to it. As a result, the relationship between the Security Council and the Secretary-General and the Secretariat was rarely acrimonious. Furthermore, the United Nations as an organization rarely took an active role in international crisis. After Dag Hammarskjöld took over the role of Secretary-General from Trygvie Lie in 1953, the Secretariat took on a more activist role. Compared to his predecessor, Hammarskjöld demonstrated an increased willingness to take independent action in international affairs to promote the ideals of the United Nations. As Secretary-General, he expanded the influence of the United Nations and the role of peacekeeping efforts, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

Hammarskjöld promoted the use of the good offices of the United Nations in a number of situations around the world to attempt to prevent war and further the ideals of the United Nations Charter. Though rebuffed by the great powers, Hammarskjöld attempted to intercede during the Suez Crisis and other conflicts in the Middle East. Hammarskjöld was also active in Africa, as decolonization issues came to prominence in the late 1950s. In addition to providing the good offices of the United Nations, Hammarskjöld promoted the role of the United Nations as a peacekeeping force.

Under Hammarskjöld, United Nations peacekeeping forces were deployed to more areas of dispute than any time before, and were deployed the Republic of Congo in one of the largest peacekeeping operations in history. Hammarskjöld’s activist approach to his role as Secretary-General and the Secretariat often lead to tensions both within the United Nations bureaucracy and between the Secretariat and Member States. Hammarskjöld was willing to take actions without having first gained what others considered to be full approval for those actions, or to take a particularly broad interpretation of the approval. Hammarskjöld’s role in interpreting the orders of peacekeeping forces, and reporting back to the Security Council, is one such example. Hammarskjöld often defended his actions on the principles of working toward the maintenance of international peace and stability, or on expansive views of General Assembly actions and authority.

Irrespective of the source of his authority, the activist nature in which the office of the Secretary-General was viewed (both by Hammarskjöld and his Secretariat support staff) led to many disagreements. Several Member States publicly expressed disapproval with what they viewed as the Secretary-General’s meddling in what were otherwise sovereign affairs or policies.

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Bibliography Bibliography

  • Bloomfield, Lincoln P (1963). Headquarters-Field Relations: Some Notes on the Beginning and End of ONUC.
  • Cool Under Fire: Dag Hammarskjold (27 September 1960). The New York Times.
  • Othen, Christopher (2015). Katanga 1960-63: Mercenaries, Spies, and the African Nation that Waged War on the World.

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Relations Between the Great Powers Relations Between the Great Powers

Cold War tensions affected international relations throughout the middle of the 20th Century. Most political thinkers viewed the international situation as a zero-sum game for virtually every decision made by the United States, the Soviet Union and both countries’ allies. It was increasingly accepted by politicians and decision makers that any success by an ‘enemy’ country meant a loss for their country, and that the ‘enemy’ needed to be confronted around the globe. In 1960, tensions were reaching the highest levels since the start of the Cold War. 

While many minor events occurred during the period, the most significant issue occurred on 1 May 1960 when Soviet missiles shot down a United States U-2 spy plane in Soviet airspace. The incident took place just prior to a major East-West Summit in Paris, significantly increasing the tense setting for the meeting. The Security Council took up the discussion under the heading “The Question of Relations Between the Great Powers,” and discussions were held in several meetings from May through July 1960. A draft resolution concerning the violations of Soviet airspace failed to gain a majority on 26 May. A more acceptable and neutrally phrased resolution, Resolution 135, passed on 27 May. This resolution appealed to United Nations Member States to refrain from the threat or use of force in international relations, called for continued disarmament talks between the major powers (especially on nuclear issues) and urged the four nuclear powers (France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States) to continue discussions in order to reduce tensions. 

The Soviet Union again complained to the council of continuing aggressive acts and overflights of Soviet territory by the U.S. Air Force, which was met with repeated denials from the United States. This led to three additional draft resolutions in July, but each failed due to vetoes by Permanent Members of the Security Council. It is in the context of Cold War relationships and tensions that the Security Council must address the issues of 1961. The Council’s ability to act, and the efficacy of such action, could be predicated on overall United Nations activity and on the actions of its Member States.

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Bibliography Bibliography

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United Nations Documents United Nations Documents

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