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213 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN687 NEW YORK, 13 November 946,12.41 a.m.



Assembly 145.

Committee 3. Refugees.

1. In view of paragraph 2 of your UNY.348 [1] 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

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.

[matter omitted]

1 Document 206.

[AA:A1067, ER46/3/15]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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