213 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs
Cablegram UN687 NEW YORK, 13 November 946,12.41 a.m.
MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET
Committee 3. Refugees.
1. In view of paragraph 2 of your UNY.348  we introduced amendment designed to test, by the only practical means still available, the views of the Committee on preliminary question whether Commission of E.S.C. should be preferred to specialised agency. Numerous other amendments were tabled before the deadline, and as these had not been distributed before the Committee met today, our proposal was taken first. The Soviet Union had suggested postponement of consideration of the Australian proposal until the functions and scope of the Organisation had been considered in detail, but the Committee decided by a vote of 19g to 9 to proceed immediately as issue was clear-cut.
2. In opening debate, we stressed the fact that we were not contesting the importance or urgency of the refugee problem but were concerned with the best method of dealing with it. Tendency to establish new specialised agencies to handle any new problem should be resisted and the onus of proof lay on those supporting the proposal. We referred to complications which new organisations entailed, including additional conferences (involving distant and smaller countries in special difficulties as regards representation and cost) and also probable additional over-all cost. We added that the onus of proof had not so far been discharged. We concluded by stating that if the Committee approved creation of Commission under E.S.C., it would be advisable to set up a sub-committee immediately to consider best method of organising the Commission and of adapting draft constitution of I.R.O. to the new proposal.
3. In a 90 minute debate South Africa and Chile supported Australia without reservation. The Soviet Union said there might be some advantages in the Australian viewpoint but a decision should not be taken until the precise scope of the work to be done in relation to refugees had been discussed and determined. If, for instance, the functions of the Agency were to be limited to work of repatriation, it might be easier to support the proposal for a Commission.
4. Poland, United Kingdom, Denmark, United States, Yugoslavia, Byelo-Russia, Brazil and Belgium spoke in favour of a specialised agency, arguing that- (a) The temporary problem of refugees could best be dealt with by a non-permanent organisation, (b) A specialised staff would be required which could not be provided by the U.N. Secretariat, (c) The U.N. already had difficulty in dealing with permanent tasks and assignment to U.N. of the refugee problem would further complicate its work.
(d) Much field and operational work would be required of a kind which U.N. had not yet been called upon to perform, (e) Establishment of a specialised agency would facilitate voting of contributions by Governments.
5. Several other countries expressed agreement in principle with the Australian views regarding specialised agencies, but their attitude to the specific proposal was strongly influenced by statements made during the debate that creation of a special Commission under E.S.C. to deal with refugees would mean that all members of the United Nations would have to contribute. As finance questions have still to be discussed there was considerable unexpressed fear that support for Commission might involve heavy financial commitment, whereas if costs of the specialised agency were heavy, countries need not join.
6. When put to a vote, only 3 votes were cast in favour of the Australian proposal (Australia, South Africa and Chile) while the Soviet Union registered abstention.