840.50 UNRRA/10–444: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the American Representative on the Advisory Council for Italy ( Kirk )35

236. For your information, the following is a report of the consideration by the Council of UNRRA of the proposal introduced by the US to authorize UNRRA to conduct certain limited operations in Italy.

As previously reported to you, the Department and other agencies of the Government have had under consideration for several months the problem of financing relief and rehabilitation supplies for Italy after the termination of military responsibility. At one time the Department considered the possibility of requesting UNRRA eventually to assume the full responsibility for relief and rehabilitation supplies for Italy but this proposal was abandoned in view of the cost of this operation in relation to UNRRA’s total resources. Accordingly, other arrangements with which you are familiar were devised to finance the bulk of civilian supplies to Italy after the military period, including the proposal to transfer certain dollar funds to the credit of the Italian Government for this purpose. In this connection the Interdepartmental Liberated Areas Committee decided early in August that the US should propose at the Second Session of the UNRRA Council a resolution authorizing UNRRA to conduct a limited program in Italy in the fields of health, welfare and displaced persons, the total foreign exchange cost to UNRRA of this program to be limited to fifty million dollars.

This proposal was immediately discussed with the British who indicated strong opposition on the ground that it would arouse great [Page 348] opposition from the allied countries of Europe. The British continued to oppose the proposal despite our insistence until after Prime Minister Churchill’s visit to Italy. Shortly before the opening of the Council session on September 15 the British Delegation received instructions to support our proposal but to abandon such support if the proposal should meet with excessive opposition from the allied countries. The matter was discussed at Quebec36 by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, both of whom expressed to Mr. Richard Law, the Chairman of the British Delegation, their support of the proposal. Nevertheless, the task of putting the proposal through the Council rested almost entirely upon the US Delegation.

Before the beginning of the Session conversations were held by the Department with representatives of the USSR, France, China, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the American Republics. The US Delegation had the unanimous and constant support of the delegations of the American Republics in all its efforts to obtain approval of the proposal. The USSR and Czechoslovakia were noncommittal. The Chinese expressed support of our proposal and the French, after consultation with Paris, indicated that they would support the proposal as fully as we desired. The Polish Delegation at all times favored the proposal but never took an active part in discussing it.

At Montreal discussions were held with other European delegations. It was found that the Greek Delegation was not opposed in principle to the proposal but was concerned that the furnishing to Italy of items in short supply might adversely affect the supply program for Greece. It was pointed out that the greater part of the items which UNRRA would send to Italy under the proposal were in long supply and that, therefore, no such adverse effect upon Greece would result. The Yugoslav delegate arrived at the conference with instructions to oppose the proposal but after its purpose and import was explained by the US Delegation he sought and obtained from his Government instructions to vote for the proposal although he made it clear that Yugoslavia considers itself still at war with Italy.

In the formal debate on the proposal, the adoption of the resolution was moved by the US member and seconded by the member from France. The member from Greece also seconded the proposal while expressing doubts on the question of short supplies. The Yugoslav, who at this time had not received new instructions from his Government, reserved his position but subsequently modified it at the closing session. The Belgian delegate supported the proposal in a perfunctory fashion. The representative of Norway indicated strong opposition to the proposal and asked for specific information from the Director [Page 349] General as to the effect which the supply program for Italy would have upon the ability to meet requirements of other European countries. This information was furnished to him on the following day when it was pointed out by the Director General that in general the items to be furnished to Italy by UNRRA were in long supply except for fats and sugar, as to which small quantities only would be furnished. The Norwegian delegate thereupon voted in favor of the proposal although with obvious reluctance. The Dutch, Polish, Czech and Soviet representatives at no point took part in the debate. The Dutch representatives, although voting in favor of the proposal, expressed serious concern in private conversations that UNRRA would be overextending itself by going into Italy, particularly from the point of view of personnel. This was similar to the line taken by the Soviet Delegation throughout the Session to the effect that UNRRA should concentrate on doing the jobs before it and should not extend itself into new fields.

Despite the lukewarm attitude of most of the European countries, the positive position taken by the French and Greeks at the very beginning, added to the desire of the Soviet Delegation not to oppose the US, broke up any possibility of a united European front against the proposal which was consequently unanimously adopted as introduced except for the addition on the motion of Norway of a provision to the effect that the operations in Italy shall not constitute a precedent for operations in other enemy or ex-enemy areas.

The following is a summary of the resolution as adopted:37

The operations of the Administration in Italy shall be confined to (a) the provision of medical and sanitary aid and supplies; (b) assistance in the care and return to their homes of displaced persons; and (c) care of, and welfare services for, children and nursing and expectant mothers. These operations in Italy are in addition to such operations as UNRRA may undertake under the authority given in another resolution adopted at the Second Session providing that UNRRA shall have authority to operate in any ex-enemy area in connection with the care and repatriation of displaced persons of United Nations nationality or other persons who have been obliged to leave their country or place of residence because of race, religion, or activities in favor of the United Nations, or for the control of epidemics.
All operations of UNRRA in Italy shall be agreed upon between the military command or the appropriate authority in Italy on the one hand and UNRRA on the other, and such operations shall be subject to such control as the military command or the appropriate authority may find necessary. The term “appropriate authority” was used to include either the Commission or the Italian Government in the event that the Commission should cease to exist.
The resolution provides in effect that UNRRA shall receive whatever local currency proceeds may result from the sale in Italy of supplies furnished by UNRRA and that UNRRA shall use such local currency for relief and rehabilitation work, including the care and movement of displaced persons, and for such other purposes as may be agreed upon with the appropriate authority in Italy. Furthermore, it is recommended that so far as possible all expenses of UNRRA in Italy shall be borne by the Italian Government and shall be paid in local currency made available by the Italian Government or derived from the proceeds of the sale of supplies.
UNRRA is specifically authorized to charge against its general resources the equivalent of fifty million dollars net in foreign exchange to meet this program.
The Council recommended that to the extent consistent with military considerations, the Director General shall be kept informed of all relief and rehabilitation requirements for Italy in order to discharge his responsibility of endeavoring to bring about an equitable distribution of available supplies as between the liberated areas. This provision was inserted by the US Delegation primarily to obviate the theoretical criticism that the Italian Government, not being a party to the UNRRA Agreement, might be in a better position to obtain short supplies than allied governments such as those of Western Europe which are obliged to submit their programs to UNRRA for review even though they will pay for their own supplies.

  1. Repeated on the same date to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant), the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman), and the Ambassador to the Yugoslav and the Greek Governments established in Egypt (MacVeagh), as telegrams 8118, 2359, and 125, respectively.
  2. Documentation on the Conference at Quebec is scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations.
  3. UNRRA Resolution No. 58 entitled “A Resolution Relating to Operations of the Administration in Italy”; for text, see A Compilation of the Resolutions on Policy, p. 78.