Report to Committee by Preliminary Meeting of Officials on Technical Assistance
1. The Conference of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers at Colombo recommended, inter alia (see Committee Document CC/SY/1/2)1 that the participating Governments should:—
(iii) contribute to the technical assistance work of the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies, and support in these organisations as high a priority as possible for the needs of South and South-East Asia';
(iv) examine the possibility of making supplementary bilateral arrangements in appropriate cases for the provision of direct technical and other assistance.
This decision has been re-affirmed by Governments.
2. In the consideration of this question the Preliminary Meeting of Officials had before it papers prepared by the United Kingdom Committee (Committee document CC/SY/1/5)2 and by Australia (CC/SY/1/10)3 and the proposals submitted by Australia in Committee document CC/SY/1/7.4
3. The economy of the area is primarily agricultural, with a very large proportion of the manpower producing a low yield, chiefly because of primitive methods and lack of mechanical equipment and modem hand tools, fertilizers and pesticides. The same considerations apply to fishing, which produces an important item in the diet of the people. Industry gives employment to only a small proportion of the population in spite of the fact that there are considerable mineral resources, in the mining of which present methods preclude large yields. A considerable proportion of the industrial population is employed in cottage industries, which offer very great scope for technical improvement. Many countries in the region have plans at various stages of completeness for the development of light and heavy industries, public works and utilities. Expansion is, however, hampered by lack of technical skill at all levels, by the shortage of both internal and external investment capital and by the need to develop basic services, while the present necessity of certain countries to import large quantities of foodstuffs limits the amount of foreign exchange available for development.
II. CONSIDERATION BY PRELIMINARY MEETING OF OFFICIALS
4. Technical assistance may take the following forms:—
(a) Training of personnel from the area in more highly developed countries where suitable instruction is available.
(b) Provision of experts by more highly developed countries to assist in planning, development or reconstruction in countries in the area, or training of personnel.
(c) The provision of equipment necessary for the effective application of other technical assistance; endowment of existing institutions.
5. In a discussion of the need for technical assistance supplementary to that already available from the United Nations and to the specialized agencies, and from other international and national organizations, the representatives of Commonwealth countries which are in need of technical assistance expressed the view that the present facilities are inadequate. In each case it was indicated that considerable benefit had been received from existing organizations but that the resources available to those organizations have up to the present been inadequate to satisfy the total needs of the area for technical assistance. It was pointed out that in some cases at least money was available to pay the cost of technical assistance, but it had been found impossible to find the type of assistance required through the existing organizations. An additional cause of difficulty was that the machinery for meeting commitments for technical assistance had been slow and cumbersome and did not enable experts and facilities to be obtained within a reasonable time.
6. The present plans for an extended programme of technical assistance through the United Nations and the specialized agencies was discussed. In addition the Preliminary Meeting of Officials took note of the programme of the United States for direct technical assistance and the recent allocation of $63 million to some South-East Asia countries. It was agreed that these plans would provide considerably augmented funds of which an unascertained proportion would be allocated to the area. It was the general opinion, however, that even with this increase in international and United States assistance supplementary assistance from the Commonwealth would still be required.
7. In considering the form in which supplementary assistance should be provided by the Commonwealth, the Preliminary Meeting of Officials had before it three proposals:—
(a) The proposal contained in the Australian paper (CC/SY/1/7) for the establishment of a fund to which contributions would be made by some or all Commonwealth countries on a mutually agreed scale; the contribution to be available for use on personnel, facilities and supplies from all soft currency countries or confined to expenditure in the contributing country, according to the stipulations of the contributor; the establishment of machinery for implementation.
(b) The activation and full employment of a pool of experts and technical facilities which would record the availability of such services within the Commonwealth and elsewhere, receive applications for assistance and facilitate the conclusion of bilateral agreements between applicants and participating countries for the provision of technical assistance.
(c) The continuance and expansion of existing bilateral arrangements for technical assistance.
8. In respect of the Australian proposal, the Delegation of Australia explained that it aimed at a flexible programme which should be directed to building on to local institutions, and provision for the endowment of local institutions. The funds should supply missing components in local finance as well as external finance and experts. It could be shown that some countries could not find finance for paying the cost of technical aid required. The action of the Commonwealth functioning together and backed by a fund would impress on Governments in the area and outside interested Governments the willingness of the British Commonwealth to share to the maximum of their ability, the burden of raising economic standards in South and South-East Asia. The provision of a fund would enable the programme to be flexible, properly co-ordinated with local situation and to have a broad range of application. Any programme that was accepted would have to provide finance to cover the cost of travel from country to country, to provide technical staffs and equipment and to endow local institutions. A fund would be necessary in order to maintain a flexibility that would enable the scheme to find and finance the training of Asian personnel in countries outside the Commonwealth, and the secondment of experts from those countries. One delegation gave full support to this proposal and another gave qualified support.
9. A number of delegations, however, considered that the second proposal, for the organization of the pool of expert knowledge, would meet the needs of the situation, and did not consider that such a programme would require the formal establishment of a fund. It was pointed out that the major difficulty confronting many countries was to find the needed experts and training facilities physically. In spite of the availability of finance, there were major obstacles in the way of obtaining experts from more developed countries, and these obstacles were of such a type that they would not be reduced by the provision of a fund.
10. In regard to the third suggestion—the continuance of the present bilateral arrangements—it was generally considered by all delegations that while this method is most valuable it has limitations. It was suggested that, if carried out intensively, it might prove more expensive administratively than a combined Commonwealth approach. This, however, did not apply to bilateral arrangements between Governments and private firms abroad.
11. On the question of the obstacles facing the procurement of experts, it was clear from the experience of both recipient and contributing countries that there is an urgent need for definition of terms of engagement, provision of local amenities and security in respect of return to employment in the contributing country. It was generally agreed that experts provided should be of the highest quality, who could be made available by contributing countries only at considerable sacrifice, and for this reason it was essential that conditions should be created which would ensure the most successful use of their services. The training of personnel of the area involved special problems, which included the acceptance by the experts and teachers supplied from abroad of different and sometimes difficult conditions, the learning of local languages, and toleration towards divergencies between local and overseas methods and practices.
12 In a survey of the availability within the Commonwealth of additional technical assistance it became clear that there are considerable resources available both in the more developed and the less developed countries. It was considered generally that greater emphasis should be placed on training personnel from the area within their own countries or within the area and also on the importance of training personnel of intermediate skill; foremen, supervisors and technicians.
13. The tapping of sources of additional assistance would require the removal of existing obstacles some of which have been mentioned above. It would also require appropriate organisation and the strong encouragement and interest of both government and nongovernmental concerns.
14. It was suggested by some Delegations that a good deal of the additional assistance required could be provided at no considerable extra cost but some organisation would be necessary to function, not merely as an agency which dealt with lists of applications for assistance and facilities available to fill them but more actively to function in the removal of obstacles, in matching availability to need and in directing applicants to the most appropriate sources whether within or without the Commonwealth. Several members of the Preliminary Meeting of Officials considered that the organisation should be on the simplest possible terms and on an experimental basis initially but all agreed that some cost would be involved and some method of finance would be required for the maintenance of this organisation.
15. As a result of these findings the Preliminary Meeting of Officials as a whole was agreed that there was scope for the appointment during the meetings of the Consultative Committee of a sub-committee to consider in more detail the implications of extending supplementary technical assistance to the area, the organisation required and the method of financing it.
[NAA: A10617, 1950/8]