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200 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 95A LONDON, 26 May 1943

Post War Relief Recent developments in the progress of the war and the appointment by the United States of Governor Lehman have under-lined the necessity of working out now some broad principles upon which provision should be made to meet the needs of the people of occupied countries. Duncan and I have had discussions with United Kingdom Ministers, Leith Ross and Treasury officials on the matter with a view to advising you of the trend of thought now current here.

While the problem of providing foodstuffs, medical supplies, clothing, agricultural seeds and appliances and possibly some essential raw materials had originally been viewed as an immediate post war problem, it is now felt that relief will arise as an immediate problem of the prosecution of the war. As occupied territories are cleared, essential supplies will have to be provided and this task will be part of the military administration. At a later stage as Governments are re-established they will become recipients and be responsible for distribution subject to supervision by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

The discussions with Lehman have been down the lines that the existing wartime organisation for the procurement, allocation and transport of supplies, namely the several Combined Boards, should be utilised. When it is set up the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration will provide machinery for the co- ordination of relief requirements and present to the Combined Boards a balanced import programme for countries needing relief.

The Combined Boards will consider these requirements as demands additional to those before them for the United Nations and will co-ordinate the provision of relief supplies with the total programme. The Combined Boards will also allocate sources of supply and shipping based on convenience and the efficient and economical use of ships.

Finance is the most troublesome aspect of the problem. Some countries, for example Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, will be without external resources. Others will have resources. It is contemplated that the former will have relief provided free of all liability while the latter will no doubt wish and may be expected to pay for supplies. In these cases finance will be settled separately from allocation by arrangement between the supplying and receiving countries direct.

Co-ordination is contemplated in order to secure that prices charged and terms of payment are comparable and also to ensure an equitable distribution among supplying countries of the task of meeting requirements of recipients unable to pay.

In relation to their requirements all United Nations will be asked to associate themselves with the Relief Organisation and this will involve an obligation:

(i) to put their requests for relief through the Relief machinery which in turn will put them to the appropriate Combined Board; and (ii) not to use financial and shipping resources to purchase in outside markets to the possible detriment of countries without resources.

The above is a synopsis of the proposals which are in the minds of the United Kingdom representatives and Lehman has been informed by the Chancellor that in principle the United Kingdom will be ready to make available from the United Kingdom goods of which the appropriate authority decides United Kingdom should be the convenient supplier. In practice as we see it such supplies would probably consist of coal, some manufactured goods, food and textiles from Army stocks, shipping, possibly some wool, cotton etc.

While we assume that you will desire to associate the Commonwealth with the scheme on humanitarian grounds it is realised that the volume of goods you can make available will be determined by the extent of the demands made upon you in Australia, the requirements of the United Kingdom population, your limited manpower resources and not least your budgetary position now and after the war. We laid some emphasis in our discussions on all these aspects and especially that last named. Attention was drawn in this connection to the respective financial positions of the Commonwealth and other members of the Commonwealth of Nations notably Canada, and there seemed to be acceptance in principle of the view that not only convenience but also financial capacity will have to be considered in the working out of the arrangements.

It seems fairly clear that world supplies of essential commodities, especially foodstuffs, will only be capable of meeting world demands for some time if restricted consumption is continued in the countries now practising restriction and that in some countries it may have to be intensified.

As we are able to gauge the position, Australia, after meeting its own needs and supplying the United Kingdom, will only have a limited range of commodities to offer, possibly wheat, flour, fruits, and maybe some wool etc. There will arise for your determination the proportions which could be made available by way of gift and payment respectively in order to maintain economic stability and in this latter connection consideration will have to be given here to the assistance which would be forthcoming from possibly some financial pool within the Empire.

I gather that a conference of the United Nations will be convened shortly to discuss the matter of relief, possibly towards the end of June.

I have set out for your information the problems in broad outline and the way thoughts are running here, and in due course would be glad to have your views.


[AA:M100, MAY 1943]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History