55 Departments of External Affairs and the Treasury to Australian Delegation, United Nations

Cablegram UNP56, CANBERRA, 28 October 1948, 5.15 p.m.


Your Austdel 96 and 105.[1]

1. It does seem to us necessary to take the initiative in the general discussion but it is considered that you should be guided by the following points:-

(a) Steps to raise funds for Arab relief should depend on a clear indication of Arab willingness to help their own people, if necessary by diversion of energies from the maintenance of military forces. In fact there is strong case for refusing relief aid to either parties unless arms laid down.

(b) An indication of willingness on the part of major powers particularly the United States to bear their share is required and it is considered that this should be a prerequisite before Australia considered making any commitment. At this point no commitment for further aid is possible without Cabinet consideration, nor should we be asked to aid until other Governments respond to Bernadotte's appeal as we did.[2]

(c) In view of recitation of commitments of the Capital Fund contained in the Advisory Committee's Report (A/598) it appears quite impracticable to find funds from this source. The use of the fund would involve a commitment on Member countries to provide reimbursement in dollars although this dollar commitment might be offset if sufficient relief supplies were purchased for dollars from member countries outside the dollar area. Any relief Cabinet might approve from Australia would presumably be in the form of an offer of goods.

(d) If relief aid were to be agreed upon UNICEF experience shows that it would be preferable to adopt some universal scale as a target for contributions. So far as United Nations scale is concerned the willingness expressed by the United States from time to time to contribute in accordance with capacity to pay to operational expenditures should be kept in mind. It is realised that the Americans may have domestic political difficulties.

(e) In our view every effort should be made to protect UNICEF from being pressed into activities which will disturb its operations and involve any departure from its basic principles.

2. It is clearly desirable that relief assistance would be directed to the repatriation recommended by Bernadotte. Please advise us whether general opinion confirms Cilento's conclusion that repatriation is unrealistic.

3. You have details of Australia assistance already provided as a result of Bernadotte's request. Advice as to what others have done would be appreciated.

[1] Documents 52 and 53 respectively.

[2] See Document 48.

[AA : A1838, 191/2/2, I]