Volume #22 - 370.|
UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
TWENTY-FIRST SESSION, NEW YORK, APRIL 17-MAY 4, 1956
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs|
CABINET DOCUMENT NO. 87-56|
April 12th, 1956|
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS TO THE CANADIAN DELEGATION TO THE 21ST|
SESSION OF ECOSOC - NEW YORK, APRIL 17-MAY 4, 195672
Canada has this year begun a third term of membership on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, having been elected last year to replace Australia. Our earlier terms were from 1946 to 1948 and 1950 to 1952.
2. While ECOSOC has not unexpectedly fallen short of the original hopes for its role in the solution of major international problems, especially in the economic field, we have based our continued support on the conviction that, under United Nations auspices, definite programmes for alleviating the economic conditions of the under-developed countries in particular can be undertaken and effective discussions concerning social inequalities can be held. The United Nations economic assistance programmes have had constructive economic results, and on the social side, world criticism through the medium of the United Nations has not been without influence even on the major powers.
3. Canadian delegations at Council sessions have consistently stressed the necessity for realism in tackling the wide range of existing economic and social problems and for careful selection of projects on a basis of practicability and urgency. We have made a useful contribution towards finding sensible compromises and helping to reduce over-ambitious schemes to manageable proportions. This useful task of preventing the undesirable, combined with our more positive role in the specialized agencies themselves, could, however, give the impression of a negative attitude towards the Council's work, particularly on the part of the under-developed countries in the economic field, and of the anti-colonial powers in the field of human rights.
4. ECOSOC is one of the prime means for promoting co-operation and collaboration among the nations of the free world in economic, social and humanitarian fields. However, with increased participation by the Soviet Bloc in the work of the Specialized Agencies and its bid for the favour of under-developed areas, the Council can no longer be looked upon as a preserve of the Western powers. It can be expected that the concept of competitive co-existence will be carried by the Soviets into the arena of ECOSOC. They will probably no longer resort to unconstructive propaganda, but develop the more factual and cogent attitude initiated last year. Such tactics must be anticipated and countered, and may call for more constructive action taken jointly by Western democracies towards economic and social progress.
5. Canadian policy remains basically unchanged: to improve the relations between under-developed countries and the more industrialized countries of the free world. Very often the objectives of both groups are the same, differing only in means and methods and it is on these that both sides should concentrate. So far, our policy has been adequate on the whole, but circumstances are now different in the U.N. and it may be that our policy may have to be adapted to achieve the same effect. This does not mean that additional expenditure or, on the other hand, that no additional expenditure will be required. Often, for instance, in the field of human rights, embarrassing proposals can be suitably amended if constructive alternatives are suggested at the appropriate moment. It may therefore be necessary for Canadian delegations in the future to take an interest in certain matters at an earlier stage and that an attempt to influence proceedings should be made sooner. In many instances, the problems are theoretical in nature and no expenditure is involved. It cannot be assumed that in these fields influence is necessarily related to financial commitments.
6. The Canadian delegation should accordingly seek opportunities to recommend to the Government how Canada might best achieve our broad objectives in relation to both economic issues and social and human rights matters which may arise in the changed circumstances of future meetings. On proposals which we must vote against but which are close to the hearts of under-developed or anti-colonial countries, the Delegation should also, within the limits of its instructions, show its understanding and sympathy by taking as constructive a part as possible in the debate. The Delegation should continue to urge restraint and compromise on contentious issues and strive to retain the goodwill of countries for whose favour and understanding we are competing, bearing in mind that their emotional demands cannot be answered simply by logic or the application of the yardstick of practicability. The Delegation should of course keep in mind the necessity of the closest co-ordination with the United States and the United Kingdom, and the financial limitations established by Cabinet on particular issues. This instruction should not be interpreted as authorization to propose or support new expenditures. It is a general guidance to problems as they arise, with the intent that the Delegation's approach be as objective and positive as can be, both to proposals which cost nothing and to those which involve funds. If there are financial implications, the matter should as usual be referred to Ottawa.
7. The Delegation should do what it can to prevent irrelevant and time-consuming propaganda debates. However, should East-West difficulties emerge and the USSR attempt to exploit issues for their propaganda value, the Delegation should not hesitate to make adequate reply in collaboration with other Western Delegations.
8. While a better balance appears to have been struck between ECOSOC on the one hand and the Specialized Agencies on the other, the Delegation should be alert to any indications as to how the present arrangement is working. This vital question of the co-ordination of the activities of the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies as a whole is to be examined at the Council's 22nd Session this summer.
9. A consequence of the admission of new members to the United Nations will be a pressure to enlarge the membership of ECOSOC, and Canada will be expected to accept some responsibility for working out the techniques for this change. While there are economic and administrative disadvantages to an increase in the Council and its Functional Commissions, the reasons for our initiative last year are also valid for ECOSOC - the political advantages and the assumption that the organization would be more effective through being more representative. Increases of some sort moreover appear to be inevitable. We are prepared to support immediate increases of three in the size of each of the 3 Functional Commissions whose membership (15) is now smaller than that of the Council itself (18). We would wish to keep any increase in the Council to the minimum and to maintain a balance between the advanced and under-developed countries. It would be preferable to consider an enlargement of the Council in the wider context of the Charter Review. However, although an expansion of the Functional Commissions would make it possible for some of the new members of the United Nations to participate in ECOSOC's work, they will very probably not be content to delay membership on the Council itself until the results of the Charter Review Conference have been implemented. The question of enlarging the Security Council moreover raises such difficult political issues that there is much to be said for giving way on the question of enlarging ECOSOC at an earlier date, in the hope that other more difficult questions of Charter Review may be postponed. The Delegation should make generally known its sympathetic interest in these increases but should take no initiative beyond attempting to bring the United Kingdom, United States and France closer to our point of view. It should seek further instructions on any specific proposals.
10. At present the Executive Board of the United Nations Childrens' Fund (UNICEF) consists of the 18 members of the Social Commission plus 8 members chosen by direct election. If the Board were divorced from the Social Commission and were made entirely elective, Canada and other major contributors such as Australia and New Zealand would be better able to maintain their seats and more frequent election of other countries seriously interested in UNICEF would make it more responsible and effective. The pressure caused by countries seeking membership on the Social Commission would also be eased by eliminating those which do so as a means of securing or maintaining their representation on UNICEF. Our representations to this end to the United States, France and the Commonwealth countries have been favourably received. The Delegation should support and possibly co-sponsor this proposal.
13. These are several important questions in the economic field of particular interest to Canada which will not be dealt with by the Council until its 22nd Session this summer. Our policy in regard to one of these, the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED), is at present under review.
14. Attached as an Annex is a brief review of some aspects of ECOSOC's development.
At the beginning of Canada's third term on the Economic and Social Council, after three years absence, it may be helpful to re-examine Canadian policy during our earlier terms (1946-1948 - 1950-1952) and to assess the work of the Council since then.
Canadian policy at the San Francisco Conference of 1945 was based on the belief that no international organization for the maintenance of peace and security could be adequate which did not include effective machinery for dealing with the world's major economic and social problems. The Canadian Delegation took an active part in drafting the section of the Charter on economic and social co-operation. Canadian amendments were aimed at increasing the authority and position of ECOSOC and defining its relationship with the Specialized Agencies, in order to strengthen its position as the body charged with co- ordinating the activities of the Agencies. Our early attitude to the Council was that it provided the positive, constructive means of implementing the social, economic and humanitarian purposes and principles of the Charter.
By the end of 1948, when we completed our first term of membership, the spirit of hope and the strength of purpose which underlay our original attitude to the Council had weakened perceptibly in the face of its apparent inability to promote the solution of fundamental problems. Our experience from 1950 to 1951 made it difficult not to become even more skeptical about the importance of the role which ECOSOC was capable of playing in the amelioration of major international problems, particularly in the economic field.
At the fourteenth session in 1952, however, previous programmes and plans were consolidated and a new and encouraging trend was established. There was much less acrimony and fewer exchanges of bitter propaganda between the Communist Bloc and other countries, and while the divergence of views on a number of basic issues has persisted, there has been little acute controversy in the meetings of the Council and its committees, particularly during the nineteenth and twentieth sessions in 1955. The practical work of ECOSOC has correspondingly benefited. However, the agenda of the 21st session provides plenty of opportunity for the Soviet Union to exploit issues for their propaganda value.
The functioning of the Council has been greatly improved as a result of a general review, which was carried out during the past two years, "of the development and co-ordination of the economic, social, and human rights programmes and activities of the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies as a whole". There has been greater concentration upon the attainment of limited objectives and a more practical approach which has significantly reduced the duplication, overlapping and misdirection of effort which the complex organizational structure tends to promote. Much credit is due to the Secretary-General Mr. Hammarskjöld, under whose chairmanship the Council's Administrative Committee on Co-ordination has been playing a useful role. It is to a considerable extent due to his personality and popularity that the Specialized Agencies have shown a greater willingness to co-operate, and a better balance has been struck between the Council and the Agencies. The present arrangement seems to be working well, but caution should be exercised in carrying the process further in the direction of centralized control of the Specialized Agencies. It will be necessary to examine in this light proposals by the United States, which favours centralization under the Council, in which it is in a stronger position than in any one Agency. It should be borne in mind that the Specialized Agencies are in fact autonomous, with separate constitutions and larger memberships than ECOSOC or the United Nations. The role of ECOSOC, as the central and responsible body, is one of co-ordination; while it can make recommendations to the Specialized Agencies, its resolutions can be taken by the Agencies as permissive rather than mandatory. It is however too soon to say whether the present arrangement is the best possible one and our new term will give us an opportunity to determine whether in fact the balance has been adjusted adequately in favour of ECOSOC. While respecting the constitutional position of the Agencies, we should be on guard against their isolationist tendencies and the resultant higher expenditures, and should seek means to improve coordination.
The record of the Council, while not spectacular, shows considerable progress and some worthwhile accomplishments. Among these are its work on refugee questions; the valuable work of some of its Functional Commissions, especially the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Social, the Statistical and the Population Commissions; the initiation of steps leading to the creation of UNICEF; its initiative in calling the World Health Conference which led to the establishment of WHO; the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention; the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance; the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency; the International Finance Corporation and, most recently, the preparatory work towards the establishment of SUNFED; continuing supervision of operational programmes in the above fields, and numerous technical services, studies, surveys and seminars.
It is hard not to be cynical about the many idealistic resolutions, conventions and programmes sponsored by countries which do little or nothing to implement them or to correct social, economic and racial inequities at home. Among their mixed motives, which include sincere idealism, there is sometimes a political intent which is often related to anti-colonialism in both its forms, economic and political. Two examples of this are the draft International Conventions on Human Rights and the "right of self-determination of peoples and nations", both of which moved from the Human Rights Commission through ECOSOC to the Social Committee of the General Assembly. We should be alert to this aspect of ECOSOC as a body where camouflaged political issues are introduced as a more convenient way of obtaining political ends than in the political committees or plenary sessions of the General Assembly. In other words, we should attempt to determine the real nature of the issues involved and endeavour to have them referred to the competent organizations.
Because of its limited membership and the fact that on most issues Western democracies control a bare majority of the votes, ECOSOC has served as a brake on contentious or ill-advised proposals originating in the functional commissions or the General Assembly, where the under-developed or newly independent countries are in the majority. Attempts to keep such items out of the political arena of the Assembly in this way have however resulted in a feeling that ECOSOC is the tool of a minority. Everything possible should be done to dispel such apprehensions, which on occasion have prompted the majority in the General Assembly to bypass the Council by giving directions to the Council's subsidiary organs, the functional commissions. Such a practice, while understandable, is improper and detrimental in that it undermines the competence of one of the main Councils of the United Nations. Without prejudice to the General Assembly's and the Council's legitimate interest, it is however desirable to assign to the Specialized Agencies issues which afford opportunities for political propaganda in ECOSOC and the United Nations, but essentially require technical consideration for their solution (the examination of Forced Labour by ILO is a good example).
There will in all probability be an attempt to redress the balance of votes in the Council in favour of the Asian African and Latin American countries by proposing an increase in membership of the Council. Some justification for this can be found in the increased membership of the United Nations as a whole. It can be expected that the United States and others who, like ourselves, stand to lose by such a change, will be obliged to give away in the end. One proposal, discussed among the Latin-American states, that two councils be established, each of 18 members, to deal separately with economic matters and social matters, is unacceptable and has apparently been dropped. It would mean unnecessary duplication in cost and time and would destroy the essential co-ordination which has been evolved. Experience in the Council has underlined the interdependence of economic and social progress; economic and social problems cannot be effectively treated separately, let alone in two separate councils. A second proposal is that the Council's membership be increased from 18 to 21 or 24. While it would be desirable to consider such a major amendment to the Charter in the wider context of a conference on Charter Review, it is improbable that the new members of the United Nations will be prepared to wait till then. We would do well to take as positive an attitude as possible on an earlier expansion, short of openly initiating such a proposal.
If, as seems certain, there will inevitably be some increase in the membership of ECOSOC, there will be nothing gained in fighting a rear-guard action against it. In this question and others where the undesirable is unavoidable in view of the number of new, underdeveloped or anti-colonial countries, we should determine our position as far in advance as possible and cash in on the goodwill of these countries by supporting their aspirations, without of course overdrawing our account of goodwill with the developed countries close to us.
While an increase in the membership of ECOSOC would require an
amendment to the Charter by the General Assembly, the Council is
competent to increase the membership of its functional
commissions. From the point of view of the new members of the
United Nations, this is an urgent matter, since they will not be
able to take part in any of ECOSOC's work until at the earliest
after the next General Assembly, unless room is made for them on
the Functional Commissions by the Council at its forthcoming
session. Without taking the initiative ourselves, we should
attempt to have the major western powers agree to an immediate
expansion by three of each of the three commissions whose present
membership (15) is less than that of ECOSOC, (Transport and
Communications, Statistical and Population Commissions).