258 Statement by Walker

, GENEVA, 14 August 1949

AUSTRALIA'S POSITION ON THE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE RESOLUTION Verbatim Report of statement by Dr. E.R. Walker in the Plenary Session of ECOSOC on 14th August 1949 [matter omitted]

Mr. President, I think several of the Governments represented on the Committee, the Economic Committee[1], have felt grave doubts as to whether the organisational arrangements envisaged would in fact ensure, even when the Agencies are guided by these principles, that the money provided under this scheme would not be to some extent dissipated on many unrelated activities. I don't mean dissipated in the sense of being spent on worthless activities; what I mean is that it may be dissipated by being spread over a very wide range of different projects and different services without adequate assurance that in any particular country, in any particular region, these various activities will tie together and lay the foundation for economic development. That has been our main concern in opposing some of the organisational suggestions contained in this document.[2] Other Governments represented here have had every confidence that these arrangements would be sufficient and adequate, but we are by no means convinced on that point yet, and we do trust that all Governments as they study this matter over the next month will give very serious consideration to that aspect of the problem. We had considered it would probably be desirable, if I may borrow a term that has been used, to centralise the administration to a great degree, not so much in the interests of avoiding overlapping or of centralising for its own sake, but in order to ensure that, as various requests come in in different fields, and as the Specialised Agencies being considering them, they will be looked at from the point of view of their contribution to economic development; and we stress once again that that is not something that you can merely determine from a specialist's point of view. Every specialist and every specialised agency inevitably are inclined to assume that their activities, if not the most important, at any rate are of very great importance in relation to economic development. We think it essential to find some way of ensuring that thought is brought to bear upon these requests from a central point of view, that the emphasis is not on agriculture, health, education or industries as such, but on the economic development of the country concerned. Whatever solution is made on the administrative level, we believe that the success or failure of this scheme will depend upon whether we do succeed in establishing an effective thinking unit connected with this scheme, and ensuring that the views of the group of analysts, who are concerned with analysing these requests from the general view-point of economic development, do in fact make an impact on the day-to-day activities of the Specialised Agencies and the United Nations itself. We don't want to see a large research staff built up to write monographs that have no influence on the course of events, but we do think it most important that every attempt should be made to secure the application of a good deal of intellectual activity to deciding whether certain proposals do fall within the framework of the scheme of economic development and are of value to the country as a whole, and do not merely boost up its agriculture or improve its health standards or whatever other specialty may be particularly interested in the matter.

I stress this because some Governments such as my own that are contemplating contributing to this scheme, and which I hope will be able to contribute substantially in relation to their own resources (we sometimes overlook the fact that a modest contribution from a small country often represents just as large a sacrifice from its point of view as a big contribution from a much greater country) are faced with a serious dilemma; if they fear that the arrangements are such as to dissipate their contributions, they may well prefer, when they have responsibilities in certain regions, to adhere to a bi-lateral approach and not to contribute on a very large scale to this sort of plan. No doubt many Governments will be considering over the next few weeks whether these arrangements are likely to give them the sort of guarantees that they want, that in effect they will be contributing to economic development and not be merely contributing to the budgets of the Specialised Agencies through an unusually devious and hitherto unenvisaged channel. That is a problem which we will all have to face. For the time being we are prepared to take the scheme proposed to us and consider it very sympathetically.

[matter omitted]

[1] A committee of the Economic and Social Council.

[2] The report of the Economic Committee (E/1526).

[AA : A1838, 716/1/1, III]