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

Cablegram UN728 NEW YORK, 18 November 1946, 9.59 p.m.


Assembly 183.

In further discussion on relief measures in Committee 2, Canada announced preference for an international organization under the auspices of the United Nations with emphasis on universal contributions and promised support. [1] Yugoslavia made apologies for any suggestion that there had not been due recognition of what UNRRA had done and made an appeal that an unfortunate frontier incident [2] should not be used to deprive the people of food.

This conciliatory speech was followed by a brief and equally conciliatory speech from Russia which recognized the contribution that UNRRA had made to relief and rehabilitation and argued that relief should be continued to meet pressing needs. Russia supported wholeheartedly the La Guardia proposal. [3] France argued that relief ought to be organized and suggested a compromise between the proposal by La Guardia and the bilateral plan suggested by the United States. [4] France proposed a United Nations Committee agreed by donor countries to collect information on needs and possibilities of supply and to give direction to allocations.

2. After minor contributions to the debate, Australia was asked to speak, though we had preferred to wait until Monday. We drew attention to the large contribution that Australia had made as the fourth largest contributing nation and the low costing of Australia's supplies so that our contribution was greater in proportion to resources than most. We also mentioned continuance of rationing and of other controls to divert resources into urgent needs not only for ourselves but for other countries.

3. We suggested that any relief given voluntarily in place of UNRRA should be associated in some way with United Nations, and suggested that the role of any United Nations machinery might be restricted to one of screening claims and estimating needs and arranging consultation among countries likely to contribute voluntarily as to what could be supplied and to whom each country should supply it. This is radically different from the La Guardia machinery for mobilizing compulsory contributions up to an amount agreed in advance to which United States objected and which we will continue to oppose in the light of your UNY.363. [5] Restricted United Nations machinery of the kind outlined would appear to have advantages against private arrangements under United States leadership. We said that Australia would consider any plan on a limited scale that had international flavour privately. Canada has advised us that any bilateral arrangement completely outside United Nations would be embarrassing to her, and we feel that the same might be true of Australia. The existence of an agency would afford some protection against extravagant relief requests upon us in that we would be able to make our position known internationally. It is understood that any plan would be on a voluntary basis. We made some observations to the Committee on difficulties that some countries would experience in making any commitment if they had a difficult balance of payments problem and had been starved of imports during the war.

This was done by way of illustrating to the recipient nations that there were differing circumstances as between former contributors and not all were in an easy situation to continue help.

4. We supported the French proposal to examine the issues in subcommittee with the object of possibly finding compromise between the approach of United States and La Guardia.

5. In further discussion this morning, Poland, Byelo-Russia and Ukraine broadly supported the La Guardia plan. The United Kingdom came down strongly in favour of the United States of America proposal arguing that it would provide sufficient relief where it was needed and when it was needed, and that there was no question of political ties to any contribution. No details were given as to how United States of America plan would be operated except to refer to consultation among contributors, and use of United Nations Secretariat as clearing house. It is probable that United Kingdom will actively support United States of America proposal with only nominal reference to the United Nations. United Kingdom then supported reference of problem to a sub-committee. On the Chairman's proposal a sub-committee was appointed consisting of already appointed cereals sub-committee plus Australia, Czechoslovakia and Netherlands. [6]

1 With a view to the termination of UNRRA activities, its Council had recommended in August that the U.N. General Assembly establish or designate an agency to review the needs in 1947 for urgent imports of basic life essentials for UNRRA recipient countries, and to make recommendations on financial assistance required to meet such needs.

2 Presumably a reference to clashes between western and Yugoslav troops in Trieste in July, and subsequent exchanges of notes between the U.K. and Yugoslav govts.

3 La Guardia had proposed the establishment of a U.N. Emergency Food Fund to which U.N. members would contribute money and goods, and which would operate until the end of the 1947 harvest, at which time the General Assembly was to determine further action.

4 The United States had opposed the establishment of an international organisation and proposed instead that relief be furnished by U.N. members on a bilateral and voluntary basis.

5 Dispatched 16 November, it had instructed the Australian delegation that, pending provision of fuller details on the attitudes of the major contributing countries, it was to make no commitments and to state only that the matter of possible voluntary contributions would be submitted to the Australian Govt for consideration.

6 Although the majority of the sub-committee preferred the principle of action by an international agency, the United States and the United Kingdom explicitly stated that they would not adhere to a decision which did not meet their point of view, and the matter was referred back to Committee Two. In plenary session of the General Assembly on 11 December, a compromise resolution was unanimously adopted establishing a technical committee of ten experts to study the minimum import requirements of basic life essentials, to survey the means available to each country concerned to finance such imports, and to report on the likely financial assistance required (Resolution 48(1)).

[AA:A1067, R46/3/7]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History