Since trusteeship territories were merely entrusted to the administering authorities, the precise terms of the agreement had to be carefully prescribed for each territory and approved by a twothirds vote of the General Assembly, or by the Security Council in the case of a strategic area.
Article 82 of the Charter provided that there may be designated in any trusteeship agreement a strategic area or areas, which may include part or all of the trust territory concerned. In such cases, all trusteeship functions of the UN were to be exercised by the Security Council.
In fact, there exists only one strategic area agreement—that concluded between the UN and the US government on the Pacific islands mandated to Japan after World War I. Most of the general provisions of the other trusteeship agreements are included in it, but the right of accessibility to the area is curtailed, and supervision by the UN is made dependent on US security requirements. The US is also authorized to close certain areas for security reasons.
Administering countries were given full legislative, administrative, and judicial powers over the territories entrusted to them. If they so desired, they could administer the trust territory in conjunction with one of their own colonies. Thus, the trust territory of Ruanda-Urundi was united administratively with the Belgian Congo, and Australia established an administrative union between the trust territory of New Guinea and its own dependency, Papua. However, UN trusteeship territories were never considered to be under the sovereignty of the administering authorities, which governed them only on behalf of the UN.
In essence, the work of the Council consists in the exercise of the powers specifically granted to it by the Charter for the purpose of supervising the operation of the trusteeship system and ensuring that the administering authority is carrying out its obligations as laid down by the trusteeship agreement.
The work of the Trusteeship Council has diminished progressively as, one by one, the 11 trust territories either achieved independence or, on being granted self-determination, chose to unite with another independent state.
In November 1993, Palau, the last remaining Trusteeship Territory succeeded in passing a referendum approving a Compact of Free Association with the United States. In January, 1994, at its sixty-first session, the Council requested the United States, in consultation with the Government of Palau, the last remaining Trusteeship Territory, to agree on a date on or about October 1, 1994 for the full entry into force of the Compact of Free Association.
The council considered that the United States had satisfactorily discharged its obligations under the terms of the Trusteeship Agreement and that it was appropriate for that Agreement to be terminated with effect from the date referred to above, as agreed upon by the two Governments.
At that session the Trusteeship Council also amended its rules of procedure 1 and 2, which were replaced by the following:
"The Trusteeship Council shall meet as and where occasion may require, by decision of the Trusteeship Council, or by decision of its President, or at the request of a majority of its members, or at the request of the General Assembly, or at the request of the Security Council acting in pursuance of the relevant provisions of the Charter."
The Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994 after Palau became independent. The Council amended its rules of procedure to drop the obligation to meet annually and agreed to meet as occasion required—by its decision or the decision of its president, or at the request of a majority of its members or the General Assembly or the Security Council. As of fall 2002, the Council remained suspended but there had been no decision by the General Assembly to dissolve it.