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216 Australian Delegation, United Nations, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram UN698 NEW YORK, 14 November 1946, 8.10 p.m.


Assembly 155.

Committee 3-Refugees. Further to our Assembly 147. For references below, see Document A/127 (text of Constitution [1] and annexes).

Over 150 amendments to draft constitution have now been submitted.

These are being forwarded by airmail immediately.

2. The great majority of amendments are submitted by the Eastern group, and are designed to (a) Reduce to a minimum or eliminate settlement plans, for instance, by giving countries of origin a veto on such plans affecting their Nationals.

(b) Eliminate or restrict certain categories of refugees from scope of I.R.O. See annex 1 parts 1 and 2, for instance, elimination of persons who voluntarily gave non-military help to enemy for humanitarian reasons.

(c) Increase influence of Eastern Group in I.R.O. for instance, amendment to Article 7, Paragraph 2 to ensure 'adequate representation' on executive council for countries of origin.

(d) Permit fullest access by representatives of countries of origin to Refugee camps and to complete lists of refugees.

(e) Avoid liability for contribution to operational Budget, for instance, by permitting 'countries which have suffered from enemy occupation in World War 2' to make merely voluntary contributions.

3. A few Western group amendments on the other hand are designed (a) To underline overall responsibilities of all countries which become members, for instance Article 4, paragraph 7-United States proposal to delete second sentence [2], Article 17, paragraph 1- Canadian proposal for new sub paragraph (c) under which no state may become party to constitution by signature or acceptance which is accompanied by reservation purporting to exempt it from financial obligations.

(b) To protect interests of 'unaccompanied children' by making it possible not to repatriate them if some other plan is preferable in their interests.

(c) To take special account of situation of countries who 'receive' refugees, and to credit them with costs of resettlement, for instance, Chile-Peru amendment which would permit countries to join I.R.O. after expiration of period prescribed by constitution, provided they (1) undertake to liquidate outstanding contributions or (2) submit resettlement plans for admission to their territories of refugees involving an expenditure or investment approximately equal to contribution they would otherwise have to make as members of organisation. (note-French amendment proposes that contributions for large scale resettlement expenditure shall be on voluntary basis.) 4. Close study of Eastern Group amendment shows insistence, almost to the point of obsession, on political view that Nationals are the property of the State, which can dispose of individuals as it deems fit, irrespective of their wishes or welfare. In addition, there is evidence of morbid fear that refugee camps are being used to prepare aggression. In the circumstances it is difficult to see how Eastern and Western groups can reach common ground regarding I.R.O. even if question of finance is left out of consideration.

Committee 3 may be faced with following dilemma- (a) I.R.O. without membership and willing co-operation of Eastern group may not be effective.

(b) Co-operation of Eastern group may be obtainable only at cost of yielding on fundamental principles.

Some members of United States and United Kingdom Delegations incline to the view that if I.R.O. were constituted without Eastern group it could still be effective- (a) because Eastern group opposition within I.R.O. would be avoided (b) because countries of origin will still take refugees who wish to be repatriated.

5. Refer your UNY353, paragraph 1(b). [3] Present text of Article to provides that total Budget, covering administrative, operational and large scale resettlement costs, shall be allocated to members in proportions for each heading to be determined from time to time by a two-thirds majority vote of members of General Council present and voting. As indicated above, Yugoslavia will try to secure modification permitting voluntary contributions from 'countries who suffered from enemy occupation'. Do you wish us to take positive steps in effort to widen this proposed modification by trying to secure acceptance of principle of voluntary contributions to operational budget in respect of all countries (question) this might attract support of Eastern Group, but might also draw western group resentment, particularly if we decide later not to join organisation. Alternative would be for us merely to indicate that if principle of compulsory contribution to operational budget remains intact, this will be an additional reason for adhering to our general reservation regarding membership of I.R.O. Please advise urgently. [4]

1 i.e. the draft constitution of the proposed International Refugee Organization.

2 The sentence in question exempted from any specific obligation imposed by resolution of the organisation any member not expressly accepting the obligation.

3 Dispatched 13 November. Paragraph 1(b) conveyed an instruction not to support a U.S. proposal that contribution to the operational budget be essential to participation ill the organisation.

4 In Cablegram 364, dispatched 18 November, the delegation was instructed not to participate in the debate and, if compulsory contributions were approved, to reiterate Australia's reservation.

[AA:A1067, ER46/3/15]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History