270 Report by Australian Delegation

[3 August][1] 1948

REPORT OF THE FIRST WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY [matter omitted]

With reference to regional organizations, much discussion was occasioned. It became evident from early in the discussions that there was a strong body of opinion in favour of de-centralisation of the activities of the World Health Organization, with a greater proportion of income spent in the field and not at Headquarters. India led this section, and were insistent and continuous in their efforts to obtain a regional organization in India. The Arab countries were also determined to have a regional organization and a recognition of the old Alexandria Bureau. China and the Philippines were energetic in pressing claims of a Western Pacific Area, while U.S.S.R. and satellite countries stressed the need for some special organization to take care of that part of Europe which had suffered war devastation. The representative of Liberia attacked the Committee for its neglect of the African area, and claimed to be the sole representative of the coloured races of Africa. His insistence eventually obtained the establishment of a Working Group to consider the African area.

Working Groups considered the 5 other areas proposed, while it was generally accepted that the Americas and the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau could be regarded as a suitable regional area for eventual integration with the World Health Organization. As a result of the Working Parties and the discussions in the Committee, it was decided that 6 regional areas could be recognized. These were - (1) the Americas covering the whole of North and South America but requiring no development at present except negotiations to integrate the Pan-American Sanitary Organization with WHO under conditions which would allow the entry of all nations, including Canada, into the regional organization;

(2) a Western Pacific Area which would include Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, with Indo-China, Malaya, Indonesia, new Guinea and Borneo as Associate Members;

(3) a South Asia Area consisting of Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Burma and Siam;

(4) the Eastern Mediterranean Area consisting of Egypt and the Arab countries Pakistan, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Aden, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus;

(5) a European Area consisting of all the nations of Europe;

(6) an African Area consisting of the nations south of the Sahara Desert, which would mean Liberia and South Africa as members, with Colonial Territory of France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Portugal as Associate Members.

The Committee also decided to delegate authority to the Executive Board to set up active regional organizations in any of these areas, when, in accordance with the constitution, the majority of nations in those areas had agreed and consented to such an organization. The practical result of this is that - (1) the Americas: Negotiations will continue for the integration of the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau with the World Health Organization;

(2) the Western Pacific Area: Consultation will be required between China, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand to obtain a majority agreement for the setting up of an organization. As China and the Philippines are very anxious to start this organization, Australia or New Zealand will have the casting vote on the actual start. It is probable that the Philippines Government will suggest a conference in Manila on this matter;

(3) South Asia Area: The 5 Governments of this area have signified their desire and consent to start an organization, and this organization has been authorised by the Executive Board. As the nations have agreed that Mysore in India should be the headquarters, this will be the site of the regional centre;

(4) Eastern Mediterranean Area: The Assembly authorised the integration of the Alexandria Bureau with the World Health Organization and active steps will be taken to put this into effect. The Alexandria Bureau is already functioning as a Epidemiological centre in a building provided by the Egyptian Government, but it will probably extend its activities as time proceeds;

(5) Europe: No regional organization will be set up, but the Assembly decided, at the request of the U.S.S.R., to set up a special temporary administration office to overcome the sanitary problems created in war devastated countries. Since this decision, pressure has been put on the Executive Board to establish the administration office in Czechoslovakia, but the Board took no decision as to the site, but has promised to have this office in operation by 1st January, 1949;

(6) African Area: As South Africa and Portugal, which regards itself as a member of this area on the grounds that its territory there is part of metropolitan Portugal and not a Colony, are opposed to any active steps at the present time, there is no possibility of a regional organization being set up in this area during 1948 or 1949.

With the defection of Pakistan and China from the idea of one Asia-Australasia Area, it soon became apparent to the Australian Delegation that Australia could not afford at this Assembly meeting to commit itself to joining the South Asia region. Although in the discussions the Australian Delegation allowed Australia to be included on a geographic basis in the Western Pacific Area, it was made plain to the Committee that the Australian Government made no promise to join in the activities of this area. It appeared to the Delegation that if Indonesia and Malaya joined the Western Pacific Area, it would not be logical for Australia to join the South Asia (India) Area, and that as Indonesia and Malaya were not committed even to joining the Western Pacific Area based on China it would not be proper for Australia to be committed to that area. Therefore the action already noted was taken. The Australian Government, therefore, is not committed to join either or any area. The Australian Delegation, however, feels that joining the Western Pacific Area would give Australia some say in the activities in this area, and would not necessarily involve the Australian Government in further expenditure. It would also enable an extension of what is believed to be the Australian Government's policy, i.e. friendly co-operation with the authorities in the areas north of Australia. Consideration should be given to this matter, as it is probable that only a short period will elapse before official approaches are received from either the World Health Organization or the Governments of China and the Philippines, requesting Australian co-operation in their area.

New Zealand acted on the terms of their instructions of which you are already aware, and made no modifications in the light of the development of the Western Pacific Area. They remain, therefore, not committed to join either area.

Your instructions to support India in obtaining their desires of an Indian area were followed, and, as the Australian Delegation was able to help India in this matter, friendly relations with India have been fully maintained, and expressions of gratitude have been received by the Australian Delegation for their help to India. This friendly relationship has not been impaired by Australia's frank statement that it could not commit itself to joining the Indian area. Friendly relationships have also been maintained with China and the Philippines in spite of the same frank statement, as the Australian Delegation has expressed some sympathy with the Chinese and Philippine ideals as it has with the Indian ideals.[2]

[1] The report itself is undated but Redshaw's covering letter to Burton bears this date.

[2] The Regional Office for South East Asia was established in New Delhi early in 1949.

[AA : A1838, 860/5/1/1]