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272 Full Cabinet Submission by Evatt

Agendum 728 CANBERRA, 6 September 1944


Introduction In May, 1943, a conference of officials representing the Governments of the United Nations met at Hot Springs, Virginia, U.S.A. to discuss problems associated with Food and Agriculture.

2. This conference of officials recommended to Governments the setting up of an Interim Commission to survey the work to be done and to draw up a Constitution for a permanent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

3. The Australian Government was represented on the Interim Commission by Mr. F. L. McDougall, Economic Adviser to the Australian High Commissioner at London. He has taken an active, and in fact a leading part in the work of the Commission in accordance with the Australian policy that the organization of agriculture, and steps taken to increase levels of food consumption and nutrition throughout the world, are of vital importance to the future of Australia, and the well-being of all peoples of the world.

4. The Interim Commission has now completed its work, and accompanying this Agendum is a copy of the Report of the Interim Commission and the Constitution [1], and a copy of the letter of the Chairman of the Commission [2] in which he refers these to Governments for their consideration. The Constitution becomes operative on the receipt of twenty acceptances.

Functions 5. The purpose of the Organization, in the terms of the Preamble, is to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action by member nations to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to secure improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products; to better the conditions of rural populations; and thus to contribute towards an expanding world economy. These functions extend to fisheries, forestry, fibres and other non-food agricultural products.

6. The methods the Organization proposes to employ include:

research; dissemination of knowledge on nutrition, food and agriculture; advice to member Governments; work and other organizations such as the International Labour Organization and the proposed International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; assistance in the formulation of commodity arrangements between Governments; and generally the stimulation of research by establishing research institutes and fellowships, and by prompting Governments to take suitable action to increase the level of the food consumption and nutrition.

7. In general the power of the Organization on matters of policy is limited to the making of recommendations to Governments, and before a recommendation can be made a two-thirds majority approval of the Conference is required.

Administration 8. The Organization will consist of a Conference representing all Member Governments, an Executive Committee elected by the Conference, consisting of between nine and fifteen members, standing and advisory committees, a Director-General and his staff. There will also be regional and liaison officers in various parts of the world.

Obligations 9. Notice of withdrawal cannot be given until four years after the acceptance of the Constitution (Article XIX). The particular obligations to be undertaken by Member Nations are:

(a) to make specified reports to the Organization; (Article XI) (b) to contribute to the expenses of the Organization; (Article XVIII) (c) to accord appropriate diplomatic privileges to the Organization and members of its staff, (Article VIII) (d) to respect the international character of the responsibilities of the Organization's staff-, (Article VIII).

10. With regard to expenses, the budget for the first year has been estimated as 2,500,000 dollars. A provisional basis for allocation has been agreed upon and is attached to the Constitution as Annex II. It will be seen that Australia's contribution for the first financial year will be 3.33 per cent.

of the budget, or 26,000. It has been pointed out by the Interim Commission that in making the allocations, a temporary reduction of their financial obligations has been given to those countries occupied by the enemy. It is anticipated that shortly after the war allocations will be readjusted so as to place a greater burden on these countries, and perhaps to include countries which are not at present eligible for membership. In this way Australia's contribution should be reduced considerably. On the other hand, the total budget might increase after a few years when the Organization has developed.

Benefits 11. This Organization is likely to be as valuable to Australia as any of the proposed United Nations Organizations. Australia is greatly affected by world standards of consumption and the organization of agricultural products. Moreover, support of this Organization is in harmony with Australian international economic policy. The Australian employment approach is designed primarily to bring about increased consumption and increased living standards. The success of a direct attempt to increase nutrition levels and to increase consumption of food will probably depend upon the maintenance of high levels of employment, but in any case should be supported strongly by Australia.

Recommendation 12. The Constitution of the Organization and the Report of the Interim Commission have been considered by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, Health, Post-war Reconstruction, Treasury and External Affairs, and the Ministers responsible are associated with my present recommendation which is that (i) A Bill be presented to Parliament providing for suitable appropriation, and for the approval of the Constitution as drawn up by the Interim Commission.

(ii) The Chairman of the Interim Commission be informed of the action taken. [3]


1 Not published.

2 Not published. The Chairman was Lester B. Pearson of Canada.

3 Cabinet approved these recommendations on 12 September, and also approved the appointment of a committee comprising representatives of the External Affairs, Post-war Reconstruction, Commerce and Agriculture, and Health Depts and Treasury, to consider matters associated with F.A.O. as they arose, and to report to the Minister for External Affairs.

[AA:A2700, VOL. 12, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History