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Historical documents

225 Evatt to Dedman

Cablegram G23, 41[1] , CANBERRA, 28 January 1948, 6 p.m.


Detailed statements as to the agenda items for the Sixth Session are being forwarded to the Australian Delegation to the United Nations, New York. The following notes should, however, be of assistance to you. They have been prepared as a result of consultations between departments mainly concerned, i.e. External Affairs, Treasury and Post-war Reconstruction.[2]

Australian policy has been to endeavour to strengthen the authority of the United Nations in economic and social matters by enlarging the status and efficiency of the Economic and Social Council. Now that we have become a member of the Council we have the opportunity to press forward with this policy where it will be most effective.

So far the record of the Council has not been good. It has failed on the whole to face problems of substance, standing remotely apart from the most urgent economic problems of the day and the policies of national governments confronted with them.

This was not the Australian intention when our Delegation at San Francisco helped to win for the Council the status of a major organ of the United Nations and the present position should not be allowed to persist.

It seems to us that there are at least seven essentials in making the Council an effective body. These are:

(i) The Council should aim at achieving technical competence, with the smallest possible intrusion of political and ideological issues.

(ii) Representatives appointed to the Council and subsidiary organs should be able to speak for governments and should be supported and advised by those highly qualified in the technical fields in which they are appointed to work.

(iii) The programme of meetings of the Council, Commissions and Sub-Commissions should be adequate to the scope and importance of the functions which they should perform. From this point of view, the existing programme requires substantial revision.

(iv) Member governments should report fully on action taken to implement Council recommendations. This will tend to give the Council a practical influence on national policies.

(v) Funds should be provided for an improved Secretariat which will be able to service the Council and subsidiary bodies adequately.

(vi) The Council should co-ordinate the activities of the specialised agencies not only at the administrative level and to avoid overlapping of functions, but also to give a policy lead through appropriate reports and recommendations to the various agencies. In this last capacity, it should initiate as well as co-ordinate action.

(vii) Adequate economic reports should be presented to the Council by the Secretariat.

In the detailed questions which come before the Council, our attitude should be determined by the extent to which proposed policies contribute to these overall objectives.

References in the following statements made by me during the course of the Second Session of the General Assembly expand the above points and should be of assistance to you;

(i) Speech during General debate in the General Assembly, 18th September, 1947.

(ii) Statement before the Economic and Financial Committee of the Second Session of the General Assembly.

(iii) Note submitted to the Administrative and Budgetary Committee of the Second Session of the General Assembly on 10th October 1947.

(iv) Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures delivered at Harvard University in October, 1947.

These statements will be available to the Australian Delegation to the United Nations, New York.[3]

[1] Because Dedman was en route between the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment in Havana and the sixth session of the Economic and Social Council in New York, Evatt sent the cablegram to both Havana and New York.

[2] On consultation see Volume 12, Document 65 (p. 89).

[3] Makin put Australia's views on co-ordination and world economic trends to the Economic and Social Council in statements on, respectively, 13 and 17 February 1948.

[AA : A1838, 855/6/3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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