United States Delegation Position Paper, Superseding Two Earlier Department of State Instructions on Refugee Problems1
Refugee Items Before the Third Committee
The problem is to determine the position which the Delegation should take in the Third Committee on the two refugee items on the agenda. Two principal questions arise: clarification of the Statute of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (see Annex A2) and the creation of a special fund for assistance to refugees in cases of urgent need.
- The Delegation should avoid taking the initiative in the debates and should, wherever appropriate, support postponement of decisions until the next session of the General Assembly.
- The Delegation should support a resolution by which the Assembly would note the Report of the High Commissioner for Refugees and commend him for the progress made in establishing his Office and initiating the work of protection for refugees.
- With regard to clarification of the Statute of the High
Commissioner, as a basis for further consideration of his budget
by the Fifth Committee, the Delegation should:
- a. Support the position that the administrative expenses of the High Commissioner’s branch offices are a proper charge on the United Nations budget, but that the activities of the branch offices should not extend beyond those permitted in the Statute.
- b. Support the position that “administrative expenses” of the High Commissioner’s Office, which according to paragraph 20 of the Statute shall be borne on the United Nations budget, should be limited to those expenses required to carry out the functions prescribed by the Statute.
- The Delegation should oppose any proposals which involve a step-up of program operation above the general lines contemplated in the observations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions.
- The Delegation should oppose any action by the General
Assembly looking toward the establishment of an international
fund for assistance to refugees. In the event that substantial
support for the establishment of an international fund for
assistance to refugees should develop, the Delegation should
endeavor to have action on the proposal referred to the Seventh
Session of the General Assembly for consideration. If it is
decided to take action at this session, the Delegation should
take the following positions:
- a. In the event that the High Commissioner proposes an amendment to paragraph 10 (3) of the Statute if the Office of High Commissioner for Refugees, which removes the requirement that the High Commissioner have prior approval by the General Assembly to appeal to governments or to make a general appeal for funds to be administered by his Office for the relief of refugees, the Delegation should oppose the adoption of such a proposal.
- b. In the event that the High Commissioner requests authorization under paragraph 10 (3) of the Statute to appeal to governments or to make a general appeal to both governments and non-governmental organizations for funds to be administered by his Office for the relief of refugees, the Delegation should oppose such authorization.
- c. If it is proposed that the General Assembly should authorize the High Commissioner to appeal to individuals and non-governmental organizations for funds, the Delegation should abstain or, if a preponderant majority appears to be in favor of the proposal, should vote affirmatively.
- The Delegation should make clear that the United States Government continues to be concerned in the plight of refugees and hopes that the temporary migration organization established by the Brussels Conference will assist in the resettlement of many of the refugees remaining after the termination of the International Refugees Organization. The Delegation should support any proposal expressing the view that refugees within the mandate of the High Commissioner’s Office should receive a fair share in any opportunities for migration which will be provided.
The Third Committee has agreed to consider simultaneously the two refugee items on its agenda:
Refugees and stateless persons:
- Report of the High Commissioner for Refugees
- Report of the Economic and Social Council Problems of assistance to refugees: reports of the International Refugee Organization and of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
The High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. J. G. von Heuven Goed-hart, had requested that the Third Committee consider these items in early December in order that its views might be available to the Fifth Committee when the latter reviewed the High Commissioner’s budget. The Third Committee decided, however, not to interrupt its general debate on the Human Rights Covenant and to take up the refugee items on January 2.
The present position paper consolidates the position papers previously prepared in the Department concerning the two agenda items (SD/A/C.3/147 and 148), together with new material on the clarification requested by the High Commissioner of the statute of his office.
There follow detailed comments on each of the foregoing six recommendations.
1. The first recommendation takes account of the rather negative character of the Delegation’s position and the tactical advantage of not attempting to meet head-on any general desire to increase the High Commissioner’s budget or to establish an international fund for assistance to refugees.
2. The High Commissioner submitted a report to the General Assembly through ECOSOC at its Thirteenth Session (E/2036 and E/2036/Add. 1) and supplemented his report with a lengthy oral statement. ECOSOC noted the report and commended the High Commissioner for the progress made in organizing his Office. In general, the United States position is to support the efforts of the High Commissioner to facilitate the assimilation of refugees lacking a legal status pending the acquisition of citizenship on their part. The organization of effective protection involves the patient development by the High Commissioner of services for refugees in countries in which refugees are concentrated in coordination with related services to be provided by governments. For various reasons the High Commissioner has not had time as yet to develop this program and as a result will need to spend the next year in further development of the specific contribution which his Office can make to the resolution of the problem of refugees. In this basic effort, the High Commissioner will have the full support of the United States Government in order that a sound program may eventually be developed. In consequence, the United States Delegate may appropriately support a resolution noting the High Commissioner’s Report and commending him for the progress made in organizing his office and initiating the work of protection for refugees.
3. The Secretary General had included in his original estimates a sum of $727,100 to cover the costs of the Headquarters Office of the High Commissioner in Geneva and the branch offices it was proposed to open during the course of 1951 and 1952.[Page 825]
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions recommended a reduction of $227,100, or a total of $500,000. Referring to the High Commissioner’s proposals concerning the establishment of branch offices, the Committee stated that it had “reached the conclusion that reasons of economy make it imperative, at any rate in the initial stages, that a far more conservative policy should be pursued and that both the number of such offices and their provisional establishment should be scaled down.” The Advisory Committee pointed out the need for a clear definition of the term “administrative expenses” which, under paragragh 20 of the Statute, are to be borne on the budget of the United Nations, as well as the need to ensure that the activities of branch offices do not extend beyond what is permitted in the Statute and thus become dissimilar in nature from those performed at the Headquarters Office in Geneva.
When the High Commissioner appeared before the Third Committee to request an early consideration of the refugee items, he said that before the Fifth Committee reviewed his budget it should have the Third Committee’s views on the following two questions: (1) Should the administrative expenses of branch offices be borne on the budget of the United Nations? (2) What is meant by the phrase “administrative expenses” in paragraph 20 of the Statute?
Just before the Christmas recess, the Fifth Committee, and later the Plenary, approved a provisional estimate of $500,000 for the High Commissioner’s Office, on the understanding that the budget estimates would be discussed in detail at a later stage in the light of any observations on the activities of the High Commissioner which the Third Committee might wish to make.
The third recommendation is designed to meet the apparent desire of the High Commissioner to obtain the support of the Third Committee for an increase in his budget over the $500,000 recommended by the Advisory Committee. It states that the administrative expenses of both the Geneva Headquarters and the field offices, to be borne on the United Nations budget, should be limited to those expenses required to carry out the functions prescribed by the Statute. By limiting itself to this position, the Delegation need not debate in the Third Committee the number or size of the branch offices required—a matter for the Fifth Committee to consider—but need merely state that it questions whether the functions prescribed by the Statute require at this time as many posts as the High Commissioner requested. Similarly, the Delegation can avoid becoming involved in a detailed discussion of what constitutes “administrative” and “operational” expenses by adhering to a general definition of “administrative expenses”—those required to carry out the functions of the Statute.
4. The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, as indicated earlier, has recommended that the $727,100 [Page 826] requested by the High Commissioner be reduced to $500,000. The Delegation has been instructed to support the Advisory Committee’s recommendations in the Fifth Committee “unless, on individual items, the Secretary General is able to supplement his statement of October 8 with overwhelming evidence of the need for restoration”. The High Commissioner may present arguments for the establishment of more liaison offices in countries where refugees reside than would be permitted by this budget. It has been the Department’s view, prior to hearing further budget justifications, that this budget will prove sufficient for the orderly development of the Office in its second year, because the specific services which the High Commissioner is to render in supplementation of services to be provided refugees by the governments of residence have not yet been clarified. The foregoing budget should provide the essential requirements of the headquarters office in Geneva and liaison offices in the important countries of refugee residence.
5. The General Council of the International Refugee Organization has submitted to the General Assembly a communication (A/1948), dated November 10, 1951, on the residual problems which will remain at the termination of the activities of the IRO. The communication refers to limited numbers of refugees—in Germany, Austria, Italy, Trieste, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, China, and the Philippines—who face “doubtful prospects of achieving assimilation or self-maintenance in the immediate future”. It states that 1,000 to 1,500 refugees are entering Germany, Austria, Turkey, Greece, Trieste, and Italy from Eastern European countries monthly. The communication concludes that the problems inherent in this situation “are so grave in terms of human suffering that they call for urgent consideration by the United Nations.” (For full text of conclusions, see Annex B).
The High Commissioner, in Part III of his report to the General Assembly (E/2036/Add. 2), refers to the urgent need for relief of the remaining refugees in the countries cited by the communication of the IRO General Council. He mentions 5,000 in Shanghai, 150 in Samar, and 900 in Trieste, but does not give precise figures concerning emergency cases elsewhere. In a private conversation, the High Commissioner indicated that he felt that approximately 12,000 persons would be in need of material assistance after the termination of the IRO. In his report to the Assembly he concludes that he should be authorized to raise voluntary contributions to establish a limited relief fund to deal with the emergency needs of these residual refugees and of new refugees. (For full text of his conclusions, see Annex C).
The fifth recommendation is based upon the assumption that the United States Government will not make any further contributions for assistance to refugees. The Congress has made clear its intention [Page 827] in this regard, and the Department has assured Congressional leaders that it will request no further appropriations for refugee work. It is considered furthermore, that an international fund for relief purposes is not necessary, for the reasons outlined below.
Western European governments which have since World War II been accustomed to having indigent refugees on their territories assisted from international funds are reluctant at present to resume the function of assisting such refugees unilaterally. The pressure from these sources to expand the fund and to use it for a growing range of problems, will tend to increase in succeeding years.
There remain the residual United Nations refugees following the termination of IRO. The numbers of these requiring assistance are relatively small, totalling less than 100,000 in all Europe and approximately 3,000 in South East Asia and the Far East. Arrangements for the continuing care of those refugees among them who require institutional care, including their dependent relatives will be substantially completed by IRO through an expenditure of $22,000,000 for this purpose. This latter group number approximately 34,000 of the 100,000. The total group is so distributed over many countries that the burden of relief for them on the economy of any one country is not such as to justify the establishment of an international fund for their assistance.
The argument for an assistance fund may also be based on the apparent lack of international provision for the 1,000 to 1,500 refugees who are escaping monthly from Eastern Europe. These refugees consist in part of younger persons able to withstand the rigors of escape through a closely protected border. Opportunities for their emigration from Europe may soon be provided through provisions for them under international arrangements now under active discussion for moving surplus migrants out of Europe.
Anticipating the termination of IRO, the United Nations has taken steps in further efforts to resolve the problems of refugees who lack legal status. The office of High Commissioner for Refugees has been established, and a Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees has been recommended to the governments for acceptance by a diplomatic conference convened by the Nations. These steps are not considered sufficient by some governments and by segments of the general public. However, this pressure for further action by the General Assembly has not resulted in the formulation to date of specific proposals other than that an international relief fund should be provided.
It is not anticipated that the proponents of an international assistance fund will be in a position to present convincing data justifying the establishment of such a fund or a budget of relief requirements, beyond those made available by the national relief administrations of the countries [Page 828] of residence of refugees. In the absence of a specific program it is the United States view that action by the General Assembly should be postponed until the Seventh Session pending the development of further facts relating to the problem. In the intervening period the results of a world survey of the refugee problem, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation to the extent of $100,000, will become available. Later reports of actual experience in individual countries will also indicate particular areas where relief needs, only vaguely assumed to exist at present, may actually arise in fact. Taking into account the limited resources and funds available to the United Nations, action of this character should only be taken on the basis of clearly demonstrated needs and a clearly defined program.
6. To offset any criticism of its opposition to an appeal to governments for contributions to an international fund, the Delegation may need to refer to the continuing concern of the United States Government in the plight of refugees, as evidenced by its large contributions to UNRRA and IRO. The Delegation can point out that emergency relief is no longer necessary and that the most important need today is for emigration of surplus populations, including refugees, from the overcrowded areas of Europe. It can refer to the establishment of a temporary migration organization by the Brussels Conference as a major effort in this direction. The Delegation may find it useful to endorse the principle set forth in the recommendation of the High Commissioner’s Advisory Committee on Refugees, to the effect that refugees within the mandate of his Office should receive a fair share in any opportunities which will be provided. (For full text, see Annex D).[Page 830]