The United Nations Trusteeship Council, one of the principal organs of the United Nations, was established to help ensure that non-self-governing territories were administered in the best interests of the inhabitants and of international peace and security. The trust territories – most of them former mandates of the League of Nations or territories taken from nations defeated at the end of World War II – have all now attained self-government or independence, either as separate nations or by joining neighbouring independent countries. The last was Palau, which became a member state of the United Nations in December 1994.
The Trusteeship Council was formed in 1945 to oversee the decolonization of those dependent territories that were to be placed under the international trusteeship system created by the United Nations Charter as a successor to the League of Nations mandate system. Ultimately, eleven territories were placed under trusteeship: seven in Africa and four in Oceania. Ten of the trust territories had previously been League of Nations mandates; the eleventh was Italian Somaliland.
Under the Charter, the Trusteeship Council was to consist of an equal number of United Nations Member States administering trust territories and non-administering states. Thus, the Council was to consist of (1) all U.N. members administering trust territories, (2) the five permanent members of the Security Council, and (3) as many other non-administering members as needed to equalize the number of administering and non-administering members, elected by the United Nations General Assembly for renewable three-year terms. Over time, as trust territories attained independence, the size and workload of the Trusteeship Council was reduced and ultimately came to include only the five permanent Security Council members (China, France, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States).
With the independence of Palau, formerly part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, in 1994, there presently are no trust territories, leaving the Trusteeship Council without responsibilities. (Since the Northern Mariana Islands was a part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and became a commonwealth of the USA in 1986, it is technically the only area to have not joined as a part of another state or gained full independence as a sovereign nation.)
The Trusteeship Council was not assigned responsibility for colonial territories outside the trusteeship system, although the Charter did establish the principle that member states were to administer such territories in conformity with the best interests of their inhabitants.
Full article ▸