Volume #13 - 434.|
UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION
Memorandum from Head, Information Division,|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
January 14th, 1947|
This is a useful summary, but a minatory one too! Finance will be even more constraining than they were and I think rightly. Until by creating a solid commission in Canada we have established a satisfactory public support for UNESCO. I should think we should continue to be unpleasantly parsimonious about UNESCO. Our last appearance in that role left a good and strong impression on as far afield as Australia.
[Ottawa], January 13, 1947
UNESCO GENERAL CONFERENCE - 1946
A report has already been prepared dealing with the work of the General Conference in some detail. However, inasmuch as a rather wide distribution might be made of that report, I thought it best to embody more confidential comments and assessments in a separate memorandum.
It is difficult to estimate the success of the Conference in any absolute manner. A certain amount was accomplished but I confess to a feeling of disappointment that the Conference was not able to achieve more. The general wooliness and impracticality that our representatives on the Preparatory Commission had noted was still abundantly in evidence. The phrase, "It is as important, if not more important, to feed the minds as to feed the bodies of the world" was bandied about glibly and the general attitude betrayed some lack of perspective on the most pressing problems to be faced by the world in 1947. However, most delegations did seem to realize that governments had to make appropriations for the expenses of other international organizations and that UNESCO could only claim a limited proportion of the funds made available. The lack of perspective followed down into the detailed fields of UNESCO — the Natural Scientists insisted on the largest slice of the budget for the Natural Science section of UNESCO and wanted vast sums spent on some rather extraordinary scientific projects. Similarly in the other fields — the Arts, Mass Media, etc. — Mr. Benton reported a current Parisian jibe that "UNESCO is a pork-barrel floating on a pink cloud." In addition to this professional selfishness there was, of course, a discernible national selfishness and a number of delegations apparently thought that world peace was best ensured by any projects which would be of outstanding service to their own governments.
However, in spite of these almost inevitable difficulties, the Conference succeeded in establishing a Program for UNESCO in 1947 which offers great possibilities. If sensibly executed by the Organization it will serve the world well and will gain an initial prestige for UNESCO which will be essential for its continued existence. On the other hand, the Program still contains a vast number of projects, of widely disparate importance, not all of which can be accomplished by UNESCO in 1947. If the Director-General and his staff, in consultation with the Executive Board, choose wisely and carefully and carry out effectively the most important projects, the Organization has little to fear. If, however, UNESCO dissipates its energies on a wide variety of projects of doubtful importance, the prospect is gloomy.
It is because of this that I fear that the Conference was not the success it might have been. In the opening sessions the excellent criteria were established that the program projects must be, "few in number, of crucial importance and of obvious usefulness." One can only report that these criteria were not consistently observed. In all fairness, however, the Conference did succeed in sifting out the more fantastic proposals of the Preparatory Commission. (International bird-watching stations will not be established on Heligoland — governments will merely be asked not to bomb the island so that migration routes will not thereby be disturbed; international Homes for Philosophers will not be established, etc.) But, in the main, the Conference was not sufficiently critical of the draft program advanced by the Preparatory Commission and too many projects were approved for 1947.
The Conference finally succeeded in establishing a. budget for 1947. A full report on this was sent from Paris. The establishment of the budget at a considerably lower figure than that sought by the Secretariat will make it essential for the latter to exercise discrimination as to which items of the Program must be sloughed off or deferred. Thus, although the Program Commission was unable drastically to reduce the number of projects, the same effect may have been achieved by the Financial Sub-Commission in reducing the budget.
The third major achievement of the Conference was to appoint a Director-General. Although this appointment was threshed out by the Executive Board in secret conclave, everyone knew that the nomination of Julian Huxley was faute de mieux. In addition to the very real doubts that existed as to his administrative ability, he has a unique knack for losing friends and alienating people. (During the Conference he would drop in on the various sub-commissions and lay down fiats as to what these committees must decide. In a couple of instances he spoiled a perfectly good case by his tactlessness and intransigence.) I have no idea whether the fact that Dr. Huxley accepted the post for only two years (a six-year term is called for by the Constitution) proceeded from his own genuine request or whether this was a compromise worked out by the Executive Board. The Conference determined to limit greatly the discretionary powers of the Director-General by making it mandatory for him to seek the approval of the Executive Board for many important items of policy and administrative procedure. The Administrative Sub-Commission, on which I sat, worked out these amendments and it was noticeable that the initiative came from the U.S. delegation with support from France and no opposition from the United Kingdom.
I know that Mr. Dori intended to write you a full memorandum on the establishment and operations of the Executive Board. It might be sufficient for me to say that it has membership of effective people and that there is great hope that its clear guidance should steer UNESCO away from many of the pitfalls in which it might have bogged down.
A few comments on the various delegations and personalities at the Conference might be of interest.
The U.S. delegation was outstanding. They fielded a very strong team and everyone considered it most encouraging that they attached sufficient importance to UNESCO to do so. Although Mr. Benton led the delegation, it was Mr. MacLeish who made the greatest impression. I should say he was one of the most hard-working and effective delegates at the Conference. Dr. Compton was one of the most useful and practically-minded scientists present. On the administrative problems, Dr. Milton Eisenhower and Dr. Walter Laves were really outstanding. In Mass Media, Anne O'Hare MacCormick was restrained and sensible. Throughout, one had the impression that the American delegation worked harder, was more practical, more serious, even more conciliatory than any other.
The French had naturally sent a strong delegation. Leon Blum enjoyed the respect and affection of the Conference for his personal qualities and good chairmanship. René Cassin led the delegation brilliantly. François Mauriec brought great distinction to the discussions. Dr. Etienne Gilson proved a skilful conciliator and general confidant. (There was nothing he wouldn't do for our delegation. As a "vieux Torontovingien" he spent a great deal of time with the Canadians and was of considerable assistance.)
The United Kingdom delegation was not as effective as one might have hoped. Their outstanding people proved to be Sir John Maud, Mr. J.B. Priestley and (not surprisingly) Mr. John Grierson.
Australia and New Zealand had exceedingly competent representation.
Our own delegation was well prepared for the Conference but failed to make the contribution and impact that I had hoped for. There were a number of reasons for this which I should like to discuss with you when there is an opportunity.