327 Dunk to Mills

Letter CANBERRA, 25 June 1946

I refer to my memorandum UN46/Ed.1 of 20th June, referring to documents of the committees of the Preparatory Commission of UNESCO. [1] You will appreciate that in view of the preliminary work done by these committees various issues affecting policy in the field of international education, scientific and cultural co- operation will arise at the Preparatory Commission meeting. The comments which follow express the views of this Department concerning the development of UNESCO as a specialised agency of the United Nations. [2] It is realised that many of the issues facing UNESCO are of a nature which is more directly the concern of your office than of this Department.

The Department's comments are as follows:

1. General Considerations.

A survey of the documentation concerning UNESCO's activities and projected programme indicates certain trends which Australian influence in the organisation should endeavour to offset:

(a) While recognising that UNESCO in virtue of its constitution has a very wide field of responsibility, present indications are that it is trying to spread its resources, as yet limited, over much too wide a field of enterprises.

(b) There is little evidence of a careful appraisal and separating out of the practicable short term and long term activities which the organisation might effectively undertake. As a permanent organisation UNESCO should begin with a reasonably limited and practicable field of activity and broaden its scope as it develops adequate staff, administrative efficiency and experience. (c) Many of the proposals and projects submitted to the Preparatory Commission and its committees seem to have been approved without critical examination as to whether they are appropriate for the organisation to engage on at the present stage. (d) There is a danger of much duplication of activity with the work of existing international and national agencies, particularly in the field of research projects (e.g. proposals submitted to the Social Science Committee include a study of international trade, of social security and an international conference on housing, etc. Such activities are directly within the scope of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, I.L.O., and other established international agencies).

2. Programme of Activities.

In the light of the foregoing the following is suggested as a basis for a more limited and practicable programme for the organisation and one which attempts to combine immediate and practicable tasks with more long range planning and research projects:

(a) Educational and cultural rehabilitation of devastated areas:

It is considered that this should be in the forefront of UNESCO's major undertakings and should have priority in the disposition of UNESCO's resources. The attention of the Preparatory Commission should be drawn to two factors bearing on this:

(i) The projected winding up of UNRRA at the end of this year.

(ii) The need to co-ordinate such work not only with UNRRA (while it continues) but with the Temporary Sub-Commission of the Economic and Social Council set up in June 1946 to assist in the economic reconstruction of devastated areas (Australia is a member of the Sub-Commission).

(b) Provision of facilities for widening international contacts in education and culture (e.g. exchange of teachers, provision of travelling scholarships, bursaries, etc.) (c) Re-education of defeated Axis powers: UNESCO should have a positive role to play in advising Allied occupation and control authorities on this problem.

(d) Backward areas: UNESCO should be prepared to provide advice and technical assistance to countries requesting such aid.

(e) Research: Careful consideration should be given to selecting a limited number of appropriate study projects and every effort made to see that such projects are undertaken by really competent authorities. Priority should be given to studies which take into account the present stage of international relationships and emphasis placed upon those which lend themselves to objectivity of treatment rather than grandioseness of design.

(f) Information and Statistics: The proposal already submitted for an Educational Year Book should be supported as an example of a concrete and useful project. Work in the statistical field should be coordinated with that of the Statistical Commission of the Economic and Social Council.

(g) Co-ordination: UNESCO has an important role in coordinating the activities of existing agencies with a view to reducing overlapping and duplication of effort. (e.g. International conferences).

3. Organisation.

(a) Regional: The proposal to be discussed at the Preparatory Commission that UNESCO be organised on a regional basis with a central secretariat requires close examination. It is recognised that there are definite advantages to be gained from a decentralising of some functions and specialisation according to special needs of certain areas. It is considered doubtful, however, whether this is the time in UNESCO's development for establishing a formal regional organisation. it is plain that the secretariat is by no means adequately staffed or competently established at the present time and the added burden of coordination imposed by a regional scheme would be very considerable. At the same time full use can and should be made of existing regional agencies which are concerned inter alia, with education and culture. In this connection Australia will wish UNESCO, whether organised regionally or no, to make full use of the South Seas Regional Commission, soon to be established, which will have as one of its functions the educational welfare of the dependent peoples of the South West Pacific.

It is recognised that a regional organisation of UNESCO, which might have Australia as one of its regional headquarters, would do much both to stimulate Australian interest in the Organisation and to make our participation more effective. It would also lessen the danger of UNESCO's becoming over-centralised and removed from real contact with its members, particularly those situated remote from Paris. But such advantages can be gained only when UNESCO is adequately prepared to adopt an effectively coordinated plan of regional organisation.

(b) Existing Inter-governmental Agencies: It is in keeping with declared Australian policy to see UNESCO established as the sole inter-governmental agency in its field. (e.g. by the incorporation of other inter-governmental agencies such as the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation and the Bureau of Education).

(c) National Cooperation Bodies: Attention is drawn to the view expressed by the Australian representative on the Committee on Education that 'UNESCO should consider working closely and positively with governmental and private organisations in its member States.' It is understood that Australian conditions do not call for establishing either a national commission or national cooperating bodies in any formal sense. Consideration will doubtless be given by your Office to the manner in which educational, cultural and scientific bodies in Australia will be drawn into consultation in accordance with the constitution of UNESCO. (Art. VII, para. 1).

The foregoing comments have not as yet received ministerial consideration. No doubt you will take the opportunity of communicating by cable from London any important matters of policy which arise at the Conference, so that ministerial direction on these matters can be obtained and transmitted to you. [3]


1 A conference in London in November 1945 had established a Preparatory Commission for creation of an Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nations. As a preliminary to the fifth meeting of the Commission, in London from 5 to 12 July, seven expert commitees met in May and June, each for two days of informal discussion of possible projects suggested in Secretariat paper. Australian representatives on the committees were: Education, L. C. Key (National Library of Australia);

Libraries and Museums, L. C. Key; Natural Sciences, G. B. Gresford (Scientific Liaison Officer, Australia House); Social Sciences, E.

R. Walker (Australian Legation, Paris); Media of Mass Communication, W. T. Bearup (Overseas Representative, Australian Broadcasting Commission); Fine Arts, J. T. A. Burke (Professor Designate of Fine Arts, University of Melbourne); Letters and Philosophy, Rev. R. S. Lee (Organiser, Overseas Religious Broadcasts, B.B.C.). Reports of these committees formed the basis for deliberation at the meeting of the Preparatory Commission.

2 UNESCO's constitution provided that it be brought into relation with the United Nations a specialised agency under Article 57 of the U.N. Charter, with its budget approved and financed by the U.N. General Assembly. There were some Australian reservations concerning, in particular, an apparent requirement for a national commission to be established as the channel of communication with the organisation, a perceived threat to the inter-governmental character of the organisation by appointment of members of its Executive Board as individuals rather than as representatives of governments, and its proposed location in Paris. Cabinet nevertheless had approved in ratification on 25 March and Australia's Instrument of Acceptance was lodged with the U.K. Govt in June. Responsibility for implementing UNESCO's constitution in Australia lay with the Commonwealth Office of Education.

3 Mills reported formally on 29 July that, in accordance with Dunk's letter, the delegation had agreed to aim at preventing too ambitious a program in the organisation's early stages, at a cautious approach to decentralisation and at encouraging the organisation to work through existing agencies where possible. The outcome of the July meeting seemed satisfactory, in particular as a system of priorities had been applied to suggested projects and an emphasis made on urgent needs for relief and rehabilitation, and there had been no apparent pressure for regional decentralisation. Mills recommended consideration, as early as possible before the November UNESCO Conference, of establishment either of an informal consultative organisation, or of ad hoc bodies to serve as 'national cooperating bodies'.

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