66 Report by Wilson

Extracts CANBERRA, 5 March 1947



The conclusions and recommendations of the Economic and Employment Commission at its first session [1] are adequately set out in the 'Report of the Commission', a copy of which is appended hereto.

[2] As this document (in its essential parts) is not unduly lengthy, it has not been considered necessary to summarise the Commission's conclusions in these notes. They are accordingly restricted to some general observations on the work of the Commission as a whole, and to comments on matters of more particular or immediate interest to Australia.

[matter omitted]

Economic Development

The recommendations under this head are quite satisfactory [3], although I found it necessary to reiterate very frequently the views which were put forward in London by our delegation to the Preparatory Committee for the Trade and Employment Conference.

This was not due to any lack of enthusiasm by members of the Commission for vigorous international action in the field of the economic development of underdeveloped areas, but rather to genuine uncertainties as to how such activities could best be organised. The removal of these uncertainties was not helped by a fairly evident tendency on the part of some of the Secretariat officers to seek for the Secretariat jurisdiction over as much of the technical field as possible. The influence of the Secretariat, exercised in subtle and apparently minor ways, was somewhat difficult to combat and sometimes even to identify. Its chief danger to our policy arose in connection with the exercise of positive developmental functions by the proposed International Trade Organisation, especially the furnishing of technical advice and assistance in connection with plans for industrialisation.

The Exercise of Developmental Functions by the International Trade Organisation

The case for the I.T.O. to perform positive functions in this field is well stated in the Report of the Preparatory Committee, and in the relevant sections of the draft Charter appended thereto. [4] Paragraph (3) of Article 11 of the draft Charter was included only provisionally in that document, on the understanding that the Economic and Social Council would be asked to advise the Preparatory Committee whether its inclusion was consistent with the views of the Council on the appropriate division of such functions amongst the existing and proposed Specialised Agencies, Commissions and Sub-Commissions of the United Nations.

Since we are not represented on the Economic and Social Council itself, I pressed strongly for the inclusion in the Commission's Report of a favourable recommendation to the Council, which could form the basis of the Council's reply to the Preparatory Committee. The matter was discussed time and time again on the basis of draft clauses prepared jointly by myself and the member for the United Kingdom. For a long time we remained in the minority, and I was compelled to make some fairly strong remarks on our general attitude to I.T.O. and the whole problem of international economic co-operation (which were badly garbled- possibly by design-in the Summary Record of the proceedings).

Eventually we won the point with the support of most of the smaller-country representatives, Britain, France and China, and even gained the acquiescence of the United States and Russia.

The recommendations finally adopted leave it open to the Preparatory Committee to retain para. (3) of Article 11, with or without modification as may be decided. They still have to be accepted by the Economic and Social Council before the Preparatory Committee can act on them, but there is no reason to suppose the Council will reject them in their present carefully-worded form, which implies that there will be later opportunities of review.

These can, I think, be made to prove illusory, should the necessity arise. If the next session of the Preparatory Committee deals promptly and favourably with this matter, I feel confident that procedural techniques at the Commission's level can be used to have the issue regarded as 'committed'. [5]

Economic Stability and Full Employment

The recommendations under this head are not perhaps as detailed and precise as could have been desired, but I did not consider it an opportune occasion on which to press for a full-blooded restatement of Australian views. The recommendations are limited to setting out a programme of work for the (as yet uncreated) 'Sub-Commission on Economic Stability and Full Employment' and the Department of Economic Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat.

As such they are fully consistent with accepted Australian policy, though they will no doubt need considerable amplification and clarification at a later stage. It seemed to me desirable to await further developments in relation to the constitution and personnel of the new Sub-Commission before defining its tasks in very specific detail. Any functions not passed over to the Sub- Commission (on which we may not be directly represented) will of course remain with the full Commission (on which we are represented). It is very important in this field to be in a position to initiate discussions at the appropriate times at the lower levels, as procedural barriers can be very easily raised at later stages to stifle discussion of a matter which has not run its appointed course through the appropriate range of advisory bodies. In consequence my attitude was always in favour of retaining as much right of initiative as possible for the full Commission, in case we should find ourselves in the position of not being able to initiate at the Sub-Commission level.

There was a tendency on the part of some members to minimise the part which the Secretariat should play in the assembling and collection of data, the formulation of draft proposals for action, and the development of techniques of analysis and presentation of economic data. This was successfully resisted, but not at the expense of approving any unwarranted incursion of the Secretariat officials into the determination of policy.

Periodical Analysis of and Report on World Economic Conditions

When the provisional agenda was under discussion I asked that it be widened to include 'an examination of the methods and form of reporting to the Economic and Social Council on- (a) current world economic trends and conditions; and (b) "the probable influence of the policies and activities of other commissions and of specialised agencies" on the various economic issues referred to the Commission.' The proposal was explained in a brief note, a copy of which is appended hereto. [6] It was agreed to include the item (by a reference to this document under a related item already on the agenda). Lack of time precluded its discussion, but I secured the Commission's assent to its inclusion in the agenda for the Second Session.

[matter omitted]

Establishment of Sub-Commissions

The Commission was instructed by the Economic and Social Council to establish two Sub-Commissions-one on Economic Stability and Full Employment and one on Economic Development. It was also instructed to give further consideration to the question of the establishment of a Sub-Commission on Balance of Payments.

The original authors of the proposal for a Sub-Commission on Balance of Payments withdrew their suggestions at the outset, and there was practically no support for the idea amongst Commission members. All members considered that questions relating to balances of payments were so significant as to require the attention of the full Commission itself. It was therefore recommended that the creation of a Sub-Commission to deal exclusively with balance of payment problems was not considered necessary at the present time.

In relation to the establishment of the other two Sub-Commissions, opinion varied from choosing their personnel exclusively from members of the Commission itself to selecting the full membership from outside sources. At one stage, the United States representative favoured selecting two members of each Sub- Commission from the personnel of the Commission, with the five remaining members chosen from other sources. This question has not yet been resolved, as it was decided to defer actual selection until the next meeting of the Commission. In the meantime, members of the Commission are expected to notify the Secretariat by 1st April of suggested names for inclusion in a panel from which the final selection will be made by the Commission. Any number of names may be suggested, but not more than one member of each Sub- Commission may be selected from any one country. It is quite clear that the very highest qualifications will be required, whether the members are drawn from the Commission itself or from other sources.

The availability of individuals to serve on these Sub-Commissions will naturally depend in large part on the amount of time they will be required to devote to their duties, and the arrangements (should such be necessary) which may be made in relation to remuneration. So far as can be foreseen at present, the Commission envisages that the members of the Sub-Commissions 'might be required to give considerable time at their places of residence to the study and analysis of various documents that would be submitted to them. They might also be expected to make recommendations, by mail and otherwise, relative to matters within the competence of the Sub-Commissions. They might be expected to attend meetings of the Sub-Commissions for periods approximating two or three weeks, perhaps twice a year. Under exceptional circumstances, longer sessions might be needed.' From this it will be seen that there is a possibility, at least, of members having to spend a fair amount of time on the work of the Sub-Commissions at the expense of the employment from which they earn their normal income. No serious difficulty may arise where the employer of the member is a public or semi-public authority which is prepared to grant leave of absence with pay and to make the necessary arrangements for the member's home duties to be carried out in his absence. It is conceivable, however, that the amount of time required may be such as to interfere seriously with the satisfactory performance of the member's home duties.

While expenses of travel will be paid by the United Nations, it seems very unlikely that remuneration for services or sustenance will be paid by the Organisation. It is not suggested that any solution can be found in advance to this problem, which may not in fact arise, but it requires to be borne in mind when considering the types of persons who might be nominated.

The Question of Alternates

There is no provision at present for alternates to take the place of members of the Economic and Employment Commission, although I understand the matter is on the agenda for the current session of the Economic and Social Council. Further, no provision has been made by the Economic and Social Council for alternates to act in place of members of the two Sub-Commissions. The matter was briefly discussed by the Commission, the members of which hold widely divergent views.

To my mind there is a reasonable case for providing alternates on the full Commission, with at least the right to participate in the discussions even if not to vote. I am much more doubtful about the desirability of providing for alternates on the SubCommissions which are much smaller in personnel, much less 'representative' of national interests, and whose members are to be chosen above all for their technical competence. Their work, if it is to be successful, must be very highly personal in character and will require a great deal of continuity of thought and discussion. Any system which would make it easy for members to take their duties lightly, and to avoid a particular meeting in order to suit their personal convenience, would seem to be a mistake in the light of the extremely important and technical problems with which they will have to deal.

[matter omitted]

1 Held from 20 January to 5 February.

2 Not published.

3 These included instructions to the Sub-Committee on Economic Development about the planning and co-ordination of research and technical advice for members and notes about assistance required from the Secretariat.

4 Paragraph (3) of article 11 of the draft charter read: 'The Organization, at the request of any Member, shall advise such Member concerning its plans for economic development and, within its competence and resources, shall provide such Member with technical assistance in completing its plans and carrying out its programmes'.

5 The Economic and Social Council approved the inclusion of paragraph (3) of article 11 in the charter on 8 March.

6 Not published.

[AA : A1068, ER47/3/20]