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Historical documents

226 Appraisal by Tange

, [NEW YORK], 30 March [1948]

[matter omitted]

ECOSOC and outside international economic activity
The major policies of international economic co-operation of the day are being shaped outside the United Nations - in the Committee of Economic Co-operation, in bilateral agreements, in the discussion of the Five-Power Treaty. To some extent, they are being shaped in international organizations other than the United Nations, such as in the IEFC work of FAO and in the Bank and Fund.[1]

The Economic and Social Council's lot is to receive the backwash and to be a sounding board for arguments for and against policies which it has no part in making. Because of their dependent positions, the majority of the Council, the recipients of United States aid, naturally discourage the Council from taking up and arousing controversy at the Council table or in the United States on any question related to that programme. The Council gets the backwash when the opponents, the Slav bloc, choose to use the Council to criticise and to propagandise.

The hope of getting U.S. aid appeared to affect the conduct of Members at the Sixth Session more strongly than ever before. U.K. particularly now seems to have no policy in the Council except to do what it thinks the U.S. would wish. No other power is so faithful and constant an ally. This sometimes goes to absurd lengths - e.g. in seeking to avoid discussions that might remotely influence Congress the wrong way. It is worth considering whether the Council should for the next few years omit sessions scheduled for the early part of the year while Congress will be debating ERP[2] appropriations. Arutiunian[3] remarked publicly on the general subservience of Council Members and there was much truth in what he said. Nevertheless one of the brighter features of the Session was the refusal of the majority of the Council to be pushed into a decision on the power of the Council to make recommendations to individual Members which would have removed its important Members from the reach of direct recommendations.

Regardless of whether the international aid programmes were being shaped inside or outside the United Nations, the simple fact of dependence upon United States action would make difficult a dispassionate treatment of current economic ailments. No one but an Eastern European would be likely to propose a serious international food rationing programme or a cessation of political discrimination in the current flow of international lending.

The Council at the Sixth Session had on its agenda the Secretariat's Survey of World Economic Trends. Any aspect of international economic relations was open for the proposal of concrete resolutions. The only resolution came from Poland. It was directed at discrimination in foreign lending. It was withdrawn for lack of support.

A good reason for the Council's failure at this Session to reach any conclusions on international economic policy is one that we ourselves advanced. Since significant measures of international cooperation are essentially an orientation of domestic policy, no Government would be in a position to subscribe to any new policy until it had had the time to assess the implications of the international picture against its own domestic needs and policies which are the main point of focus. The Secretariat's report was received only two or three weeks before the Council opened for business.

It is clear enough, however, that if any country whose role in international economic affairs is significant or whose problems could be eased by international action (the United States, the United Kingdom or France let us say) desired to use the Economic and Social Council, they would not await the study of the Secretariat's report for inspiration; nor would they necessarily have to wait until other less well-informed delegations had been conditioned into a receptive mood by study of the survey.

[matter omitted]

Co-ordination of Specialized Agencies
The Council did about as much as could be expected about the FAO item on the food crisis considering that it was poorly presented. The experience showed that the Council's function of coordinating positive policies among a number of agencies toward a single end cannot be brought into play quickly unless the Agency (or Government) bringing the matter forward has a well documented line of action to suggest. The United Nations cannot hold in reserve a pool of experts on all subjects in anticipation that it may be called into action.

There is a good deal more interest in co-ordination than in former sessions, when one detected a feeling that the achievement of written agreements with specialized agencies was the end of the matter provided the Commissions kept a watch on and advised about coordination problems in their special field. Now, as a result of this Session, there is a settled procedure for treatment of coordination as a distinct agenda item in the mid-year Session. The Commissions are no longer looked to as the main source of positive advice on coordination policies. The main concern is that Commissions should not themselves create coordination problems.

The Session has got the treatment of coordination on what seems to us a more promising basis. Standard procedures are now fairly clearly laid down.[4] The Council is in fact doing what Australia suggested at the last General Assembly by giving a separate place to 'coordination' on its agenda. There are no obvious cases calling for coordination at the policy level at the moment, and the quasi-administrative aspects are being well looked after by the Secretary-General's committee of the chiefs of the agencies. But it also appears to us that successful intervention by the Council will depend on careful analysis, in some of the home capitals, of where the activities of different agencies are leading; and if there are conflicts or gaps it is again in the home capitals where proposals for implementation by the agencies as well as the ECOSOC need to be worked out. New York is too much at the periphery for local personnel (Secretariat or Delegations) to detect more than the failures of coordination as they emerge from reports of the activities of the agencies and the United Nations itself.

The positive and creative side of coordination sometimes referred to as 'stimulation', which would induce the S.A's to follow complementary policies e.g. in economic development, or promoting full employment would require a positive lead from Member Governments. It will hardly arise out of the existing machinery.

Work of Commissions
Some of the Commissions are finding their feet. Quiet progress is going on in statistical and population studies. The Narcotics Commission and the Opium Board have a history of achievement behind them, and precise quasi-administrative functions to perform, and in both respects have the advantage of most other Commissions.

The other reports before this session came from the Human Rights, Status of Women and Social Commissions. With the exception of Human Rights, these Commissions are unlikely to formulate any major policies. Their field of work has been to organize series of practical projects for the Secretariat to undertake. In this they have not been very successful, and the Council has had to go over their reports in detail and reorganize their work. This has kept the Council busy with trivial matters, and has wasted the time of senior officials of the Secretariat.

There are various reasons for this, which experience might remedy. The reduction in the number of meetings of these two Commissions to one in 1948 is not likely to reduce the effectiveness of their work; on the contrary since their possibilities of effective action do not go beyond guiding the Secretariat in selecting fields of enquiry, a role which the Commissions are not performing very well, one session a year is adequate. Political wrangling in these Commissions has had a serious effect in preventing the majority reaching an understanding on how to work.

The fact has to be accepted that the social-human rights work of the United Nations has no real impact on Eastern Europe. But unlike the economic field, the split does not threaten the acceptance by a majority of members of a rule of law or code of principles for voluntary application.

[1] Respectively, International Children's Emergency Fund, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

[2] European Recovery Program.

[3] A.A. Arutiunian, the representative of the Soviet Union.

[4] On co-ordination procedure see Volume 12, Document 65 (p. 88-89).

[AA : A1838, 701/2/6/6, II]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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