IO Files1

Position Paper 2 for the United States Delegation to the Eighth Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council 3



Basic Policies Governing Organizational and Financial Arrangements for Implementing an Expanded Program of Technical Assistance Through the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies

(Part of Agenda Relating to Economic Development)


1. Point Four of the President’s inaugural address calls among other things for an expanded program of technical assistance to other countries, to be implemented in important part through the United Nations and the specialized agencies. What policies should govern United States proposals as to the method and financing of enlarged technical assistance programs within the United Nations system?

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2. There are three occasions within the near future when United States representatives to international organizations will be required to take positions that will be looked upon as reflecting the attitude of the United States with respect to the implementation of the technical assistance aspects of “Point Four” through the United Nations and the specialized agencies. These are:

the discussion in the Economic and Social Council of the subject of economic development (agenda item 17), which will take place about February 21;4
the discussion in the Governning Body of the International Labor Organization, opening at Geneva on February 21, with regard to the budget of the ILO for 1950; and
the discussion in the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, also opening at Geneva on February 21, with regard to the WHO budget for 1950.

In the light of the policies developed under paragraph 1, what, in general, should be the position taken at these three meetings?


1. The United States should be prepared to cooperate in enlarging the technical assistance activities of the United Nations and the specialized agencies through:

Making provisions for increased expenditures for technical assistance through the UN. Although it may be possible to expand somewhat the regular budget for these activities, it appears most likely that it will be necessary to develop a procedure for the negotiation of a United Nations special project (or “operating”) budget or fund which would be used for technical assistance in aid of economic development and to which the United States would be prepared to contribute a share larger than its percentage share in the ordinary budget. The total amount of this budget, and the scale of contributions to it, would be agreed to by all the countries contributing to it; it would not be voted by the UN itself and no members would be required to contribute without its consent. This budget, as well as sums provided in the ordinary budget for technical assistance, could be used for direct expenditures by the UN and for reimbursing particular specialized agencies or the Organization of American States or its specialized agencies for technical assistance work undertaken by them specifically for economic development purposes.
The creation within the United Nations of such organizational machinery, for example a Commission on Economic Development, as may be necessary or desirable in connection with the special project budget described in (a), above.
An increase in the ordinary budget of the UN to take care of any enlarged administrative expenditures created by (a) and (b), above, without, however, increasing the present percentage contribution by the United States to the ordinary budget.
The transmission at once to the Congress through the Budget Bureau of recommended legislation for the elimination of the present absolute ceilings imposed by legislation on the contributions of the United States to certain specialized agencies (FAO, ILO and WHO).
The negotiation within appropriate specialized agencies of special projects budgets, and possibly increases in ordinary budgets, to be used for purposes of technical assistance more directly related to the central purposes of the agencies than to economic development as such. As in the case of the suggested operating budget for the United Nations these budgets would be negotiated, not voted. This would not be used as a device for cutting down the size of the ordinary budget.

2. The statements by the United States representatives to ECOSOC, the Governing Body of the ILO and the Executive Board of WHO should be along the following lines:

The United States representative to ECOSOC should indicate, in discussing item 17 of the agenda relating to economic development, that the United States is prepared to cooperate with the United Nations and the specialized agencies in bringing about an expansion of their activities in the field of technical assistance, particularly technical assistance in aid of economic development. He should propose that the Secretary-General, in consultation with representatives of the appropriate specialized agencies and the Organization of American States, should be asked to prepare, for consideration of the Council at its Ninth Session, a concrete program for enlarging the activities of the United Nations in the field of technical assistance. He should suggest that, in developing such a program, the Secretary-General consider the need for and feasibility of a “special projects” or “operating” budget for technical assistance; the organizational machinery which may be needed in the UN in connection with such a program; and the requirements or conditions (e.g. full publicity) which countries might be asked to agree to in receiving technical assistance. The United States representative to ECOSOC should also indicate in his statement to the Council that the Government of the United States will be prepared to consider additional expenditures for technical assistance programs through these agencies. In his statement before ECOSOC the U.S. representative should emphasize the need for assuring comprehensive and coordinated action by the various appropriate agencies concerned in carrying out technical assistance programs in this field.
The United States representative should state that the term “technical assistance” has been used by the UN and specialized agencies to designate the transfer of technical skills from one area to another, and that this term does not fully convey the reciprocal and mutually advantageous nature of the arrangements made through the UN machinery for promoting the flow of technical knowledge. Accordingly, the U.S. representative to the ECOSOC may wish to suggest that the Secretary-General, in preparing his concrete program, [Page 767]should consider the desirability of designating it by a more accurate term than “technical assistance”.
The United States representatives to the ILO and WHO meetings (while at the moment unable to indicate formal support by the United States Government of ordinary budgets which might involve a contribution by the United States in excess of the absolute ceilings imposed by legislation) should refer to the willingness of the United States to participate in an enlarged program of technical assistance within the UN system, as indicated by the United States representative to ECOSOC, and should refer to the possibility of developing special projects budgets for technical assistance programs in a manner consistent with the general UN program.
The US representatives to ECOSOC, ILO and WHO in making the above statements should, of course, avoid implying that the Congress is committed to legislation or appropriations in connection with the program.


1. Point four will require for its implementation a substantial increase in expenditures by the United Nations and the specialized agencies over and above their present outlays for technical assistance, which amount to about $7–10,000,000 annually. The United States contribution to the present budget of the UN is about 40%; its contributions to the budgets of the specialized agencies primarily concerned in a technical assistance program range from 18% (ILO) to 38% (WHO). It is the policy of the United States to maintain a reasonable percentage ceiling on the contributions of any one country to the ordinary budgets of international organizations, in the interest of the organization itself. Thus, an enlarged technical assistance program on the basis of present scales of contributions to ordinary budgets would have to be financed in major part by other countries. In view of the large number of small countries involved, which are beginning to feel the impact of the total financial burden of international organizations, and in view of the sensitivity of other middle-sized and larger countries to increased outlays in dollars or other hard currencies for organizational purposes, substantial resistance may be expected to the undertaking of a major program of expanded technical assistance through increasing ordinary budgets. The principal alternative is the development of special projects budgets to which the United States and other more favorably situated countries can contribute larger shares on a voluntary basis and possibly to some extent in soft currencies.

Some increase will be needed in ordinary budgets in order to provide for greater administrative expenses (secretariat) in connection with the management of the special projects budgets. Such increases would be prevented by the present legislative ceilings on the absolute amount which the United States can contribute to FAO, WHO and ILO. These absolute ceilings, which would keep budgets at present levels even though other countries were entirely willing to contribute their full [Page 768]shares to increased outlays, are inconsistent with outlays, are inconsistent with our international obligation to abide by budgets voted by the organizations concerned. They also weaken our negotiating position on substantive programs because they imply that the United States does not wholeheartedly support the activities of these organizations. Finally, the existence of the ceilings enables other countries to make the United States the scapegoat for preventing enlarged expenditures which they themselves do not support but do not wish publicly to oppose. The absolute ceilings should be eliminated for these reasons as well as to assist in furthering the technical assistance program.

The existence in the UN of a substantial fund which could be used to pay or reimburse the specialized agencies for their technical assistance work undertaken specifically for economic development purposes would exert a general coordinating influence and would promote joint action by the specialized agencies in furtherance of economic development programs for particular areas. This would not preclude enlarged technical assistance programs undertaken by the specialized agencies with their own funds. The net result aimed at is the strengthening of the center of the UN system while protecting against dictation of the operations of the specialized agencies by the UN proper.

2. In the absence of further detailed study, it would be premature to lay before ECOSOC or the specialized agencies a concrete plan. However, certain broad policies should be indicated by the United States representatives. Failure to take some action, particularly upon the principal occasion afforded by the ECOSOC discussion of economic development, would create serious uncertainty and doubt in the international community and may jeopardize the President’s program. The positions which it is recommended be taken in ECOSOC, ILO and WHO would enable the United States representatives to provide constructive leadership and to indicate the lines along which it appears inevitable an expanded program must develop without at the moment settling all the details.5

  1. Master Files of the Reference and Documents Section of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Department of State.
  2. Drafted in the Office of United Nations Affairs.
  3. The Eighth Session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met at New York, February 7–March 18, 1949.
  4. Specifically, the Council had to consider the matter of economic development at its eighth session, growing out of two resolutions, 198 (III) and 200 (III), approved by the General Assembly at Paris on Dec. 4, 1948. (The preamble to Resolution 200 (III) conveniently recites all previous General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions dealing with economic development and technical assistance, 1946–1948.)
  5. On February 25 at Lake Success, New York, Assistant Secretary Thorp, Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Eighth Session of ECOSOC, made a statement and submitted a draft resolution on expanded technical assistance that initiated ECOSOC discussion of the two General Assembly resolutions on economic development; this constituted a major policy statement by the U.S. Government on the subject of expanded technical assistance. For Mr. Thorp’s speech, see United Nations, Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, Eighth Session (February 7–March 18, 1949), pp. 304 ff. For text of ECOSOC Resolution 180 (VIII), March 4, 1949 (the U.S. draft as amended), “Technical Assistance for Economic Development”, see United Nations, Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, Eighth Session (February 7–March 18, 1949), Resolutions (Supplement No. 1), pp. 2 and 3. The fruit of this legislative activity was the notable (ninth session) ECOSOC resolution of August 14, 1949 (Res. 222 (IX)), subsequently approved by the General Assembly on November 16, 1949 at its fourth regular session (Res. 304 (IV)), providing for a United Nations expanded program of technical assistance (EPTA).