501.BD Refugees/5–2046

The British Minister ( Makins ) to Mr. C. Tyler Wood, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State ( Clayton )

Ref. 173/–/46

My Dear Ty: Would you refer to the Aide-Mémoire of May 13th about the proceedings of the Refugee Committee.

After the conversation which we had on this matter on May 12th, I informed the Foreign Office that the initial reaction of the State Department was (a) that the proposed tie-up with the United Nations on matters of policy would merely provide another opportunity for the “Slav group” to obstruct and block action, and (b) that the proposal for negotiation of an agreement within the Economic and Social Council was open to the same objection and that a direct negotiation among those willing to help would make for more rapid and effective action. I said you felt that we should not get co-operation of any kind from Eastern Europe on this issue, and that it would be more realistic to face this fact at once.
I have now had a considered reply, of which I enclose a copy for your confidential information. I have left in the expression “Slav group” as a matter of convenience, although it is not a term of art.
I very much hope that in all the circumstances you may find it possible to send instructions to Warren75 as proposed in the last paragraph of the enclosure to this letter.
Perhaps when you have had time to digest this document we could have a talk about it.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Makins

Text of Message From Foreign Office

While we appreciate the United States point of view, we fear we cannot agree as regards their point (a).

If the Slav group are so strongly represented as they apparently expect to be in the new organisation, they will have far more opportunity [Page 165] to obstruct and block action in that organisation if it is in the last resort wholly independent than if it is subject to some kind of ultimate political and financial United Nations control. Minister of State points out that, on refugee and displaced persons questions, we have always hitherto had overwhelming majorities against the Slav group in the Executive Committee, the Preparatory Commission and the Assembly of the United Nations, and also in the Economic and Social Council, except when we and the United States Government have disagreed; and no doubt we could always do the same in future. It is clear moreover that the only way of getting any power behind the work to be done by the new organisation is by means of assembly debates, but such debates will have little value if the United Nations is without any effective ultimate control. Moreover if such United Nations’ control could be provided for, and the United States Government would help to make it effective, so that it was clear that the authority of the United Nations Assembly was behind the new organisation, the chances of the work of the latter being a success would be far better even than in the case of the refugee work undertaken after the first world war by Dr. Nansen, when he had much less government backing and much less money, and was nevertheless able to get successful large-scale results.
The above arguments in favour of the proposed tie-up with the United Nations seem to us to apply equally as regard the negotiation of the agreement establishing the new body. The Slav group, who are anxious to restrict the scope of the new organisation, have strong views about the form this agreement should take and they are more likely to be able to make these views effective in independent negotiations between a group of powers such as those represented on the Refugee Committee than they would be if the Economic and Social Council sponsored the new agreement and gave its official blessing in advance to an agreed text which representatives of all the nations represented at the Assembly would adopt as a resolution of that body establishing the new organisation.
We fully understand and indeed have good reasons to appreciate the State Department’s view that we are unlikely to get effective cooperation of any kind from the Slav group on this issue and that it might be “more realistic to face this fact at once”. But we are not clear what conclusions they draw from this premise. Are they contemplating the creation of a new International Refugee Organisation in which the Slav Powers would not participate at all? If so how do they contemplate that the reversal of policy implied should be carried out? Would they suggest that we should work for a complete break with the Slav Powers on major issues of principle, and that we [Page 166] should then call a new and separate conference, without the Slav Powers, to draw up new proposals and a new constitution? It would be useful to have the State Department’s views on all these points.
The advantages of a separate organisation without the Slav Powers are obvious. The main sources of difference on issues of principle being removed, it would no doubt be much easier to reach agreement regarding the composition, constitution, mandate, etc., of the new body. The non-participation of the Slav Powers in the financial arrangements would theoretically throw a heavier burden on the participating powers but as it seems clear that the Slav Powers will in fact make no effective contribution or only do so to a limited extent and on conditions which would greatly add to the difficulty, complexity and duration of the new organisation’s work, this point is perhaps more one of form than of substance. From the financial point of view in fact they might be more of a liability than an asset.
The disadvantages seem to be the difficulty of reversing our policy on so major an issue as that of the participation of the Slav Powers in the new organisation, the complete loss of support which it might involve from the majority of countries of origin for any activities undertaken by the new organisation (which might prove particularly inconvenient in questions of repatriation, screening, etc.), and above all the open breach in the principle of United Nations cooperation, for the maintenance of which we have already made such heavy sacrifices.
If a new organisation without the Slav Powers were to be created, the objections of United States Government would have more weight and a strong case might be made for having no even ultimate-control by the United Nations. On the other hand lack of United Nations backing would inevitably reduce the power and authority of the new body, with consequent loss in efficiency. Moreover, other problems such as that of providing finance outside the United Nations budget would still remain.
Meanwhile we have been out-voted in the Refugee Committee on the major questions of the integration of the new organisation into the United Nations and of the creation as an alternative of a commission of the Economic and Social Council to control it. We have since been trying to ensure that the type of relationship with (including the degree of control by) the United Nations, should at least be left as open as possible. Warren has been strongly resisting this with the active support of the Slav group. It would be a great help if he could receive instructions at least to agree to leave this issue open.
  1. Mr. George Warren was United States representative on the Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons established in London by ECOSOC, April 8–June 1, 1946.