Memorandum of Discussion in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson), February 17, 1943

The British Ambassador, the Soviet Ambassador and the Chinese Ambassador met with Mr. Acheson to discuss further the points raised by their Governments with reference to the draft plan for the establishment of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Mr. Noel Hall, British Minister, Mr. Liu Chieh, Minister and Counselor of the Chinese Embassy, and Mr. Roy Veatch of the Department of State also were present.

Mr. Acheson referred to the discussion of the same group, on January 11, 1943, at which time consideration was given to certain points with respect to the proposed draft agreement which had been raised by the British, Soviet and Chinese Governments. He mentioned the British Ambassador’s letter of January 24, 1943 in further comment upon some of the points discussed on January 11, and said that the Soviet Ambassador had now received further instructions from his Government on those points. The Soviet Embassy’s memorandum of February 16, 1943 was then read and Mr. Acheson also read the substance of the Canadian Legation’s memorandum of February 9, 1943 setting forth the attitude of the Canadian Government on some of the issues involved.

At the suggestion of the British Ambassador, the points at issue in the draft agreement were discussed seriatim. The following is a résumé of that discussion:

1. The Soviet Government’s proposal that Article I should be so amended as to require the consent of the government of the state receiving relief as regards the forms these activities may take in that state, and as to admit of ways by which the government of [Page 870] the country receiving relief may undertake the whole responsibility for relief measures within its territory.

Ambassador Litvinov called attention to his Government’s statement in the memorandum of February 16, 1943 that it was not intended to extend this formula to enemy countries, which is a question deserving special consideration. He said that his Government was concerned regarding the position of recognized governments which would be members of the proposed Administration, with respect to the degree of control which they might exercise over relief measures within their territories—his Government’s concern extended beyond its own territories.

The discussion led to a clarification of the Soviet Government’s suggestion. Ambassador Litvinov emphasized the use of the word “admit” in the second part of the proposal, pointing out that it was not the intention to require or make mandatory the granting of full responsibility for relief measures to any government which might desire such responsibility. He explained that it was the concern of his Government to keep open the possibility of such full responsibility for relief measures. He recognized the necessity for agreement between the government in question and the United Nations Administration with respect to methods of administering relief in the territory of that government, pointing out that the Administration itself would have the power to decide whether any relief should be granted to that area. He suggested that all member governments should clearly have the right, under the agreement, to advance proposals with respect to the administration of relief in their territories, including the possibility of full responsibility for such administration, but he recognized that in making such proposals a member government would be required to make its case, that the Policy Committee would have to have some criteria for judging the soundness of that case, and that the Director General would need to have access to pertinent facts concerning the situation for submission to the Policy Committee.

While recognizing that the second part of the Soviet Government’s proposal was not so worded as to be mandatory, Mr. Acheson pointed out that the first part of that proposal was mandatory, giving the government receiving relief a veto on the forms which the relief activities might take in the territory in question. In his opinion such an arrangement would in effect give each government the power to insist upon undertaking the whole responsibility for relief measures within its territory since it would be able to veto any other arrangement as unsatisfactory to itself. He suggested, therefore, that Article I might be so worded as to give the mandatory power to any member government to say whether it would wish to receive relief and rehabilitation assistance or not and beyond that to provide or “admit” ways [Page 871] in which a member government in actual control should be able to determine in agreement with the Administration the forms and methods of administering relief within its territory.

Lord Halifax saw no objection to agreement to the suggestion made by the Soviet Government since as a practical matter he felt that the Administration would have adequate bargaining power in reaching an agreement on such questions in as much as it would be in a position to withhold relief assistance if it felt that the forms of distribution proposed by any government would not be satisfactory. He went on to say, however, that paragraph two of Article IV, or some other provision of the draft, should be so worded as to require consultation and collaboration with the governments of the affected areas. Some escape clause would be needed to cover territories in which no recognized civilian government existed or cases in which even recognized governments might not have effective control of the territory.

The suggestion was made that the Policy Committee should have the power to determine whether the government of a given territory, even though recognized by the Allies, was in effective control of that territory. Ambassador Wei and Mr. Liu expressed the opinion, however, that it might be dangerous to place with the Policy Committee the power to decide whether a given government was an “effective” government; in their opinion the important question would be whether the government was recognized or not.

Lord Halifax thought that there might be cases in which recognized governments were not in a position to make decisions for the territory over which they had nominal sovereignty, and Ambassador Litvinov agreed that in cases where a recognized government was not in control of its territory, the Policy Committee would have to determine the authority with which the Administration should deal.

It was agreed that Mr. Acheson should draft such provisions as would give effect to the Soviet Government’s suggestions on this point, as developed by the discussion outlined above.

2. The Soviet Government’s suggestion, as set forth in the Soviet Embassy’s memorandum of February 16, 1943, that the control of the Policy Committee over the Committee on Supplies should be made explicit in the proposed new paragraph four of Article III.

It was agreed that the object of the Soviet Government’s suggestion would be achieved through substituting the word “recommend” for the word “report” in the third sentence of the draft of that paragraph. It was thought that this change would clarify the relationship between the Committee on Supplies and the Policy Committee and the Council, emphasizing the fact that the Committee on Supplies could only propose or recommend policies, final decision resting with the Policy Committee and the Council.

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It was also agreed, in response to Ambassador Litvinov’s suggestion, that the order of the wording of this sentence should be changed so that the Committee on Supplies should recommend “to the Policy Committee and the Council”.

3. Suggestions of the British Government with respect to the wording of the proposed new paragraph four of Article III, concerning the Committee on Supplies.

Lord Halifax and Mr. Hall suggested that the third sentence of the proposed paragraph should be so worded as to require the transmission of recommendations of the Committee on Supplies through the Director General to the Policy Committee and Council, and so as to eliminate the word “procurement”. It was their feeling that the responsibility of the Director General as the channel for communications by the Committees should be made explicit and that the wording should preclude any possibility of an assumption that the Committee on Supplies itself would have anything to do with procurement.

There was general sympathy with the British observation on the first point and it was agreed that this could be achieved best through a new paragraph under Article IV specifying the Director General’s responsibility for serving as a means of communication between committees and for maintaining records and files of such communications and of all action taken by the Council and its committees.

It was agreed that the second point raised by the British Government with respect to this sentence could be met by rewording the sentence in question substantially as follows:

“It shall consider, formulate and recommend to the Policy Committee and the Council policies designed to ensure the provision and distribution of required materials and their continued flow from available sources of supply to areas of need”.

4. The British Government’s proposal that the membership of the Policy Committee be expanded to seven so as to include Canada and one European Ally.

Lord Halifax reported that his Government still felt strongly that this modification should be made. He had been impressed with and had reported Ambassador Litvinov’s reference to the possibility that a decision in this case might set a pattern for international organization in other spheres. His Government had replied that there was a distinction between political and economic subjects and that in the field of relief and rehabilitation it would be possible to provide for a Policy Committee of seven without prejudicing later decisions in other fields.

Ambassador Litvinov said that the instructions from his Government, as set forth in the memorandum of February 16, contained the same insistence on a Policy Committee of four as provided in the draft agreement.

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Ambassador Wei said that he had been instructed to say that his Government supported the arrangement in the draft agreement, for a Policy Committee of four.

Mr. Acheson said that, although the United States Government recognized that strong arguments could be made in favor of both positions, it considered it best, in view of the difference of opinion, to continue with the plan for a Policy Committee of four. He said that the importance of Canada to the scheme was recognized, and that the desire of Canada to be a member of the Policy Committee was given considerable weight, that the United States would like to do everything possible to meet Canada’s position, but that it felt that any extension of the membership of the Policy Committee would create difficult new problems. He believed that there was some misapprehension on the part of the Canadian Government with respect to the powers of the Policy Committee; he hoped that the Canadians would understand that the Council would have the fullest possible discussions of policy at its semi-annual meetings, and that the Supplies and regional committees of the Council would be in constant session to give full consideration to policy matters affecting them.

Mr. Acheson said that his Government was not opposing a Policy Committee of seven as a matter of principle, but that it was concerned over the necessity of securing rapid progress in establishing the proposed United Nations Administration. Three of the four Powers were now in agreement on a Policy Committee of four and he hoped that it would be possible for all four to move forward on that basis.

Lord Halifax was in full agreement on the urgency of moving forward. He inquired whether the question of the membership of the Policy Committee could be left for the general meeting of the United Nations or for the first meeting of the Council to decide. This arrangement might avoid the possibility of forcing through an agreement which would be jealously regarded and only grudgingly accepted by many of the smaller nations.

Ambassador Litvinov expressed the fear that the conference of the United Nations and the Council would not only favor a Policy Committee of seven rather than four but would be led to a considerable extension of the number.

Mr. Acheson expressed his conviction that the four Powers must be in agreement when the full United Nations meeting takes place if discord and the possibility of permanent harm to the program are to be avoided. He said that in his opinion the question of membership on the Policy Committee was not so important as appeared at first glance because of the necessary relationship of that Committee and its functions to other committees and their functions. In his view there were three main functions to be performed: (1) The provision of supplies, in which the Director General and the Committee on [Page 874] Supplies must take the leading role; (2) determination of requirements, in which the Director General and his deputies would work largely with the regional committees; (3) coordination and adjustment of these two, which should be secured largely through the Council and the Policy Committee. He believed that the European Allies would have very little to do with the function of supplying and in the coordination of the supply program with requirements; and he pointed out that in any event they were represented on the Council and had the right to sit with the Policy Committee when the problems of their respective countries were considered.

Ambassador Litvinov expressed the wish that Lord Halifax would place this problem before his Government again pointing out the fact of agreement between the Soviet, Chinese and United States Governments on a Policy Committee of four.

Lord Halifax said that he was certain that his Government would not wish to be the cause of delay in moving forward and that it would be willing to have the draft agreement, as it now stands on this point, submitted to the other United Nations, with the understanding that the British Government would not consider itself committed to pressing for a Policy Committee of four members if subsequent discussions should prove a majority of the United Nations to be strongly of a contrary opinion. Lord Halifax and Ambassador Wei were forced to withdraw at that point, but Lord Halifax said that Mr. Hall was fully informed of the British Government’s position and was empowered to continue the discussions in the place of the Ambassador.

Mr. Hall explained that the British Government had been convinced at the beginning that a Policy Committee of four members would be the most workable arrangement; his Government had been led to press for an enlargement of the membership only because of its desire to get the scheme accepted by all of the United Nations involved. In order to facilitate progress the British Government is now willing to go ahead, however, with general discussion of the draft as it now stands on this point. Nevertheless the British Government expects widespread opposition to this arrangement and suggests, therefore, that the four powers consult again shortly before the scheduled conference so that they may, at that time, reconsider the matter in the light of the responses of other governments received in the meantime.

Ambassador Litvinov expressed the belief that there would be less dissatisfaction on the part of the smaller nations with a Policy Committee composed of the four great Powers than would be the case with a larger body; he felt that the leadership of the four powers was already widely accepted.

Mr. Hall said that the proposal to circulate the draft as it now stands for comments would afford an opportunity to test that point; [Page 875] the four Powers would then be in a position to know the point of view of the smaller Powers.

Mr. Acheson said that he would expect some proposal to be made at the conference, on the part of some of the smaller Powers, for a larger Policy Committee. He felt that the support of the smaller Powers could be secured for a committee of four, however, because of three safeguards: (1) The establishment, as standing committees, of the Committee of Supplies and the regional committees; (2) the provision suggested by the Soviet Government that the form of activities of the Administration within the territory of a member government in control thereof should be determined after consultation with and consent of that government; and (3) the existence of the Council with the provision for at least semi-annual meetings at which each member government would have full opportunity to discuss all policy matters, and its right to participate in the discussions of the Policy Committee when its interests were concerned.

Ambassador Litvinov inquired what position the British Government would take in the event that some controversy arises at the proposed general conference, with respect to the membership of the Policy Committee—would the British Government be neutral or would it expect to take a position for either a committee of four or a committee of seven?

Mr. Hall reiterated the statement that the British Government at this time could not commit itself to pressing for a committee of four and he expressed the opinion that it might wish actually to vote for a committee of seven if, at the conference, there was strong support of a reasonable proposal for such an amendment of the draft.

Mr. Acheson said that his Government would have to consider very carefully whether it could sponsor the proposal without the full support of the other three Powers. Should the proposal be launched without full agreement, there would be the risk that it might lead to disagreement and disunity and this would be a grave risk to take during the war. Rather than run such a risk, the United States Government might wish to explore other methods of organizing the relief work.

Mr. Hall said that he would report Mr. Acheson’s concern on this point to Lord Halifax, and expressed the opinion that the views of the governments should be reconciled.

5. The suggestion of the British Government that Deputy Directors General be appointed for each region with responsibility for close cooperation with regional committees.

Mr. Acheson referred to an informal note from the British Embassy25 setting forth the following proposal: [Page 876]

“The Director General shall recommend to the Policy Committee a Deputy Director General to be appointed for each regional area, and the Deputy Director General shall, with the approval of the Director General, make periodic reports to the committee of Council, for the regional area concerned, as to the general programme of relief operations in that area, consult the committee on all questions of policy and principle that may arise, and give effect so far as practicable to any recommendations made by the committee.”

Mr. Acheson said that this suggestion had been given some study and that an alternative draft had been prepared designed to secure the principal objectives of the British suggestion by (1) amendment of paragraph four of Article IV so as to provide for appointment by the Director General of a Deputy Director General for each organized region, and (2) amendment of the proposed new paragraph five of Article III so as to provide that periodic reports by each Deputy Director General should be transmitted by the Director General to the appropriate regional committee, and that policy recommendations of the regional committees should be transmitted to and acted upon by the Council and the Policy Committee and appropriate instructions transmitted by the Director General to the appropriate Deputy Director General.

Mr. Hall recognized that this proposed arrangement would require close collaboration between the regional Deputy Directors General and the regional committees. He saw a definite advantage, however, in the British proposal that the Deputy Directors General for the regions should be appointed by the Policy Committee on recommendation of the Director General—he explained that the intention of the proposal certainly was not to take the appointive power away from the Director General but merely to require the approval of the Policy Committee for these important appointments.

6. The possibility of re-naming the Policy Committee.

Mr. Veatch made the suggestion that the name of the Policy Committee might be changed to the “Central Committee of the Council”. In his opinion this name would be more truly descriptive of the position and functions allotted to the Policy Committee, especially with the addition to the draft agreement of specific provisions for two regional committees of the Council and a Committee on Supplies of the Council. He called attention to the fact that the function of determining policy was placed with the Council and with the Policy Committee when the Council was not in session. He advanced the suggestion particularly as a means of reassuring the Canadian Government which, in its memorandum of February 8 [9], indicated particular concern over restriction of effective participation in the formulation of policy to the four big Powers.

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There was general agreement that such a change might have merit, but Ambassador Litvinov urged that, in the interest of expediting action, the present form of the draft should not be changed unless some definite advantages were assured. He suggested, therefore, that this change should not be made unless it had been ascertained in advance that such a change would definitely aid in meeting the fears of the Canadians.

It was agreed that Mr. Acheson should prepare a redraft of the agreement embodying the proposed changes on which general agreement had been reached, and that this new draft should be circulated as promptly as possible as a basis for further consideration at an early date.

It was agreed also that Mr. Acheson should furnish copies of the Soviet Embassy’s memorandum of February 16 to Lord Halifax and Ambassador Wei.26

  1. Note of February 2, not printed.
  2. Copies of the Soviet Embassy’s memorandum were transmitted by the Secretary of State to the British and Chinese Ambassadors on February 20.