Position Paper1 for the United States Delegation to the Extraordinary Session2 of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council


Relations Between United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) and IA ECOSOC


The two organizations have terms of reference which virtually duplicate each other. They operate within about the same geographical region and their membership is very nearly the same. No satisfactory basis for the allocation of duties between the two organizations has been found and cooperation at the secretariat level has been unsatisfactory. The Secretariats of each organization are now planning to undertake programs of technical assistance and there is good reason to expect duplication in this field. The problem is how to remedy this unsatisfactory situation, and what policy the United States (and the [Page 674] Latin American governments) should adopt in 1951 when the continuation in existence of ECLA will automatically come up for reconsideration in the UN Economic and Social Council.


It is recommended that the U.S. Delegation to the Extraordinary Session of IA ECOSOC explore, in informal conversations with the delegates of the Latin American countries the possibilities of a program which:

ECLA would be abolished by UN ECOSOC in 1951;
IA ECOSOC would enter into an agreement of relationship with the UN ECOSOC under which the former might become the regional arm of the latter. Under this arrangement, IA ECOSOC might be called on to act in two capacities. Also under this arrangement, IA ECOSOC might be expected to accept recommendations from and report to the UN ECOSOC, within the entire field of the arrangement, in a manner similar to ECE and ECAFE. In return, UN might make available certain funds to IA ECOSOC.
The PAU might employ in appropriate positions some of the more effective members of the ECLA Secretariat.


Chile has been the initiator and chief supporter of ECLA, and its Secretariat is located in Santiago. However, representatives of Chile have intimated to Department representatives that Chile might be willing to agree to ECLA’s dissolution if the United States was not prepared to give the Commission its active support.

It is believed that the enthusiasm of other Latin American governments for ECLA may also have cooled. It is likely that if the IA ECOSOC were to hold occasional meetings in Latin America, this would have a further effect on Latin American opinion.

The reasons which can be advanced for the dissolution of ECLA in connection with a program such as is here suggested are:

There has been found no logical or theoretical basis for allocating work between IA ECOSOC and ECLA in advance. The only modus vivendi which has been found has been to allocate each job on an ad hoc basis. This has not worked particularly well.
There is strong evidence in the Department that the ECLA Secretariat, which has naturally sought, by taking an ambitious and aggressive attitude, to justify its existence, has not cooperated at all times with the PAU. Cooperation has not been enthusiastic on the part of the PAU either. For this reason efforts for coordination have not so far been attended by a large degree of success. Unnecessary duplication has, in fact, resulted—as for example, in the case of the economic questionnaire to governments in the fall of 1948.
As a commission made up of government representatives (as opposed to a Secretariat) ECLA has shown a tendency to adopt useless (although harmless) resolutions which are proposed in many [Page 675] cases for home consumption, but which have a tendency to cheapen the work of international organizations as a whole.
The preface of the Lleras Report3 to the OAS this fall shows that the OAS now recognizes the need to bring its economic and social activities into far closer coordination with the UN to avoid the duplication which is now beginning to take place on a serious scale.

  1. Unsigned.
  2. Held in Washington from March 20 to April 10, 1950.
  3. The animal report for fiscal 1949 of Alberto Lleras Camargo, Secretary General of the OAS, is dated November 16, 1949 and is printed in Annals of the Organization of American States, 1950, pp. 1–118.