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135 Cablegram from Gordon Walker to Australian Government

London, 16 January 1951


My telegram 75 16th December to Government of Canada and other Commonwealth Governments concerned variously numbered.2

Colombo Plan

1. In paragraph 5 of telegram it was suggested that one of the main objects of the proposed meeting of the Consultative Committee might be to make recommendations to Governments regarding functions and procedures of the Committee and for the establishment of any permanent machinery that may seem necessary in the light of those functions.

2. We have been giving much thought to this important question; and felt that it might be useful if we circulated to Governments our preliminary views to provide a basis for discussion.

Size and functions of any permanent organisation

3. It is common ground that the permanent organisation should be small. Discussion at the September meeting of the Consultative Committee showed that feeling was strongly against anything on the lines of an Asian O.E.E.C.; and that aid should be provided on a bilateral basis. This is reflected in paragraph 36 of Chapter X of the report.3 To judge by the views which we understand the United States authorities have recently expressed to all Commonwealth Governments,4 this conception also accords with current thinking of United States administration.

Role of Consultative Committee

4. Given limits outlined in paragraph 3 above, it is suggested that the Consultative Committee should be the body responsible for reviewing progress on behalf of participating Governments and where necessary, making to them any recommendations on policy. It should meet regularly. Its normal chosen instrument might be an annual report which could�and should�be regarded as of crucial importance. Past experience with international bodies has shown the supreme importance of having an annual report of broad and constructive nature; without it, and given the best will in the world, the tempo of operations tends to slow down. It provides the incentive to continue dynamic action over a period of years.

5. Consultative Committee itself would be responsible for drawing up the report. It would meet, it is suggested, not less than twice yearly; once at official level in June or July, when general form of the report and also questionnaires for the report (see paragraph 7) would be decided. The teams would come into permanent Headquarters, say, by 1st November, and officials would assemble to prepare final version of draft report ready for meeting of Consultative Committee at Ministerial level towards the end of November.

Report would, it is suggested, normally consist of three parts:–

(a) A report on progress of development programmes, working of the Technical Cooperation Bureau etc;

(b) An exposition of general problems arising and possibly proposals to deal with them.

(c) Programme for following year and stated needs of each country for external finance, appropriately analysed. Here precedent of the recently published report would be followed in that it would contain countries' own estimates of their needs; Committee would neither formally screen nor endorse the programmes.

Location and chairmanship of the Consultative Committee

7. It is suggested that the annual ministerial meetings should take place by mutual agreement in the capitals of the participating countries. The Chair might be held by the host Government: function of Chairman would rest with the holder of the office until next ministerial meeting so that responsibility for initiating action at Govemment–Govemment level would be clearly defined.

8. As regards meetings at official level it is thought that these should be held at the seat of the permanent Secretariat (see paragraph 11). Chairman for official meetings should, it is proposed, be elected ad hoc by the official representatives. This office would, however, lapse immediately after the end of the meeting to avoid overlapping with functions of ministerial Chairman and Secretary-General.

Secretary-General and Permanent Secretariat

9. In intervals between meetings of Consultative Committee, it is suggested that there is need of small machine at centre of operations responsible to Committee which is yet strong enough to do what is necessary to provide continuity and to make effective deliberations of Consultative Committee. Function of this machine would be to service the Committee and thus to focus attention on bottle-necks in execution of the Plan; to circulate and give assistance where necessary in completing questionnaires for annual report (for this purpose it may have to provide roving missionaries at any rate in early stages); to summarise and classify the replies and to give expert help in drafting annual report. In addition members of the Secretariat may be invited by individual Governments to help in making studies of particularly difficult problems which countries may encounter in carrying out their programmes: while the Head (the Secretary-General) would hold himself available for consultation by any participating Government which might wish to seek his advice.

10. Secretariat would, it is proposed, be very small. Secretary-General might need only two or three administrative grade officers in the initial stages: and would increase his staff only if their range of duties made it necessary. Secretariat would be of a �combined character� and not composed of a number of National Delegations. It would be separate from the staff of the Technical Co-operation Bureau. Secretariat would be under control of Secretary-General personally responsible to Consultative Committee.

Location of Permanent Secretariat

11. Concept of Permanent Secretariat implies that it should be stationed permanently in one spot. The Committee will, therefore, wish to address itself to selection and recommendation of suitable site in the area.

Standing Council for Technical Co-operation

12. On Technical Co-operation side activities of Bureau for Technical Co-operation are at present supervised by a Standing Council consisting of National representatives in fairly frequent session in Colombo. Its President is chosen by rotation from the Delegates. It is suggested that this arrangement be left in force with the Standing Council and Bureau separate from sphere of the Secretary-General who would, however, be responsible for securing the progress on Technical Co-operation side for inclusion in Annual Report.

Staff for Secretariat

13. On the assumption that the establishment of some small permanent Secretariat not of course necessarily on above lines, will be recommended by Committee, it might be useful if representatives attending proposed meeting were to come prepared with offers of any staff they would be able to make available.

14. We propose to pass copy of this message to United States authorities and to the other non-Commonwealth Governments which are being invited to the forthcoming meeting.

[NAA: A9879, 2202B]

1 The cablegram was addressed to the members of the Consultative Committee, and repeated to the UK Embassy in Washington.

2 Document 127.

3 The paragraph read: 'At such time as these additional countries in the area become fully associated with the work of the Consultative Committee and are in a position to make their programmes available, it will be necessary to make some adjustment in the name and structure of the Committee in order to permit it to operate effectively on a wider basis. If other countries find themselves able to help in the work of economic development in South and South-East Asia, further and probably more radical alterations in the organisation will be required. It may be the wish both of countries providing external finance and of those receiving it that it should be made available on a bilateral basis. It may be, however, that there would also be need for an organisation of participating Governments which could review progress, which could draw up periodic reports, and which could serve as a forum for the discussion of development problems in South and South-East Asia. The form of such an organisation cannot be determined until it is clear what the source of external finance will be. But it would seem preferable if the organisation could include both countries supplying capital and countries receiving it, who would all meet to consider the problem of development as a matter of common interest'.

4 See Document 128.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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