IO Files

Minutes of Thirty-eighth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Paris, January 3, 1952


[Here follows list of persons (40) present. Mrs. Roosevelt was in the chair.]

1. Refugee Items before Committee Three [US/A/C.3/3411].

Mr. Green described the general situation in Committee Three by saying that there were really two related items being considered at once. The first was a more general one and concerned the report of the High Commissioner for Refugees, Dr. J. G. von Heuven Goedhart. The second involved a proposal for creating an international assistance fund for refugees to care for those remaining after IRO was terminated. Because of the obvious relationship between these two items the Third Committee was taking them up together.

The staff had combined the two earlier position papers on these items, together with new material on recent developments, into a single document which was before the Delegation as US/A/C.3/341. Mr. Goedhart had wished to take up his report earlier in the session in order to have had Committee Three action on it completed before Committee Three undertook the budgetary aspects of it. It had not been possible to accede to his request, so Committee Five had included an item for $500,000 in the budget without prejudice to future action they might take pending receipt of Committee Three’s report. $300,000 had been allocated to the Commissioner for 1951, and he was now asking for $727,000 for 1952. The Advisory Committee had reduced this amount to $500,000, and had questioned the number and size of the branch offices of the High Commissioner’s office. They felt these branches to be overstaffed and could not agree that over one half the Commissioner’s budget should go for these expenditures. Admittedly this involved an interpretation of paragraph 20 of the Statute of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Quoting paragraph 8, sub (c) and (d), the Advisory Committee had said that clarification was needed in regard to the legitimate administrative expenditures which could be made for branch offices, in order to assure that the activities of these offices conformed to those of the main office.

In his formal introduction on the previous day, Dr. Goedhart had avoided the administrative question. He had confined his presentation to a request for an endorsement in general terms by the Committee of the need for branch offices. He had referred in this connection to [Page 832] League of Nations experience, which indicated the necessity of having branch offices. Recommendation 3 of the position paper, US/A/C.3/341, had tried to anticipate these ideas of the Commissioner, with a view to keeping Committee 3 out of this particular wrangle. The recommendation was that the US support the position that branch offices are a proper charge upon the UN budget but that their activities should be limited to those allowed in the Statute of the Commissioner’s Office. Mr. Green felt that we might become involved in a debate on this question, but that it would be wisest to place the matter in the hands of Committee Five, to decide how much money would properly be required.

Mr. Green said that the second problem before the Committee was the more difficult one. This dealt with the question of assistance to refugees after IRO went out of existence early this year. The General Council of the IRO had been asked for an opinion on the remaining problems in the field of refugees after the end of IRO. These were set forth in a communication, the conclusions of which were annexed to the position paper. The IRO had settled over one million people, and had cared for 40,000 others, but still others would remain uncared for when IRO ceased to function. These were set forth in a list. The General Council concluded in paragraph 3 of the conclusions that this situation did not justify the retention of the IRO, but did call for immediate attention in some other way.

Dr. Goedhart had used this conclusion as a springboard in his presentation to ask for an international assistance fund to aid the remaining refugees—some 200 in the Philippines, 2,000 in Shanghai, 400 tuberculosis cases in Trieste, and others. He asked for $3,000,000 for 1952 to care for these people after considering IRO experience and in view of the continuing flow of escapees from behind the Iron Curtain. He proposed that the money be spent through private or public agencies other than his own office. To raise the necessary amount he suggested an appeal to governments. This could not be done consistent with the terms of paragraph 10 of the Statute of his office without the approval of the General Assembly. A resolution was now being drafted to this effect.

In paragraph 5 of the position paper before the Delegation Mr. Green indicated that the recommendation was to oppose the creation of an international fund for assistance to refugees. The idea behind this recommendation was that there was no real need for a special fund. The number of persons concerned was small and those people should be cared for by the states in whose territory they were to be found. Otherwise, the UN would be receiving annual and ever increasing appeals from the High Commissioner’s Office for items of that sort. This would have the effect of cutting into bigger UN relief programs such as Palestine, Korea, and UNICEF. In addition UN prestige [Page 833] might conceivably be decreased if the responses anticipated by Dr. Goedhart were not forthcoming. The US Congress had made its position quite clear that it would not again give funds for refugees. The Department was committed not to ask Congress for such funds. If the proposal were adopted by the Assembly, the Department would be placed in a delicate position in view of the moral force of a resolution adopted by the Assembly.

In paragraph 5 of the position paper a certain amount of flexibility was preserved. The recommendation was that if the appeal for money for the international assistance fund were limited to private organizations and individuals, the Delegation would abstain or, if a preponderant majority appeared to favor such a course, vote in favor. The staff had requested authorization from the Department on this position.

Mr. Green mentioned that the appeal by the High Commissioner had made a big impression on the other delegations in Committee 3, and indications were that many states—including the British Commonwealth and Western Europe—would support a resolution authorizing the Commissioner to make his appeal to both governments and private sources, while recognizing the fact that they were not committing their governments to making any contribution. $3,000,000 did not seem like too large a sum for the work proposed to be done. This was the same problem the Delegation had been faced with in regard to UNTCEF, when 51 states had voted in favor of the appeal, none had opposed, and only the US and Thailand had abstained. A similar situation could arise again.

In addition Mr. Green noted that there seemed to be no enthusiasm for limiting the appeal to non-governmental sources. Dr. Goedhart himself was not favorably inclined to such a limitation. He wanted to be able to approach governments with the moral authority of a General Assembly recommendation behind him.

Mr. Green noted that the first and last paragraphs of the position paper dealt with tactics. The US should avoid active leadership on this item and should try to give special emphasis to the new migration body created by the recent Brussels Conference. This organization would be able to assist in the general area. The paper suggested the tactic of having this appeal postponed to the following year, but he was not hopeful that this could be accomplished.

In summarizing this matter, Mr. Green stated that the recommendation with regard to the budgetary problem was that the US support the High Commissioner’s contention that branch offices were necessary, but that their expenditures should be limited to those allowed by the Statute of the Office of the High Commissioner. In regard to an international fund for assisting refugees, the most that could be hoped for would be to limit the appeal proposed by the Commissioner to nongovernmental sources, or vote in favor if the overwhelming support of [Page 834] all other delegations developed. He suggested that the Delegation consider the type of tactics that should be employed in this latter matter.

Mrs. Roosevelt thought it was unwise for the head of an organization to go around to governments asking for funds when there was no budget indicating exactly how they would be spent. At the same time she recognized that Dr. Goedhart’s appeal for $3,000,000 was not excessive. She mentioned that Dr. Goedhart had pointed a finger at the US. It was over our Voice of America radio that we were asking people to flee from behind the Iron Curtain, and then when they did escape, we put them in camps and tried to persuade them to join the Western armed forces. Otherwise they were not taken care of by us. She recalled that Radio Free Europe had been able to get a special fund from the Ford Foundation because of the fact that they had been able to persuade people to flee from Iron Curtain countries and then had no facilities for taking care of them. This whole question put the US in a highly delicate and embarrassing position. She doubted whether anything the Delegation or the Department could do would cause Congress to be generous in this regard. At the same time the US would be placing itself in a highly unpopular position vis-à-vis other delegations if it turned out that we were the only ones in opposition to this proposal. She felt certain that $3,000,000 could be raised from private sources very easily.

Mrs. Roosevelt mentioned that there had been considerable lack of confidence in many of the people Dr. Goedhart had gathered around him. She recommended telling him that the reason we and other government could not support him fully, was because of a lack of trust in his personnel. She honestly feared, however, that US opposition in this case would be entirely alone.

Mr. Sandifer thought that the Department’s position was basically sound. Although the facts cited by the Commissioner were highly appealing, the proportions were such that each individual state should take care of those cases within its borders. A loose, open-ended appeal of the type proposed by Dr. Goedhart was not sound. Only a limited amount of money and goodwill existed in the world. To dissipate it, so that places like Korea did not receive the necessary share, would be unwise. In addition, Mr. Sandifer pointed out that the Department had given a written assurance to Senators McCarran and McKellar that there would be no more appeals for funds for the IRO or a successor organization. The only apparent exception to this had to do with the Migration Group created by the Brussels Conference. In fact, this was a different case, and did not deal with refugees per se. He suggested that the Delegation consider stating specifically to the Department what the situation was and asking them for the authority to abstain if the parliamentary situation required it in view of the various political factors involved. Mrs. Roosevelt asked about the migration [Page 835] organization. Mr. Sandifer said that this group would not touch the refugee situation for which Dr. Goedhart wanted to make his appeal. Mrs. Roosevelt thought there might be some escapees from behind the Iron Curtain who could qualify for migration and thus could be helped by the new organization. Mr. Sandifer said there might be a few but the new group was not essentially connected with refugees. The trouble was, in his opinion, that Dr. Goedhart was too “good-hearted” and could not be relied upon to keep to the limitations prescribed for his office.

Mr. Lubin suggested telling Dr. Goedhart what the US position was vis-à-vis Congress, and that we would not publicly oppose his appeal if he would assure us that in the US he would only raise money through private sources. In return the Department could place at his disposal all the available services for raising money for foreign causes within the US. Mrs. Roosevelt said that she had told Dr. Goedhart not that he could not go to Congress himself, but only that he might be most successful in the US seeking funds from private organizations like the Ford Foundation. She did raise with him the question of why his Office’s branch office was established in Washington rather than in New York where all the large private fund raising organizations were located. She felt that he was very honest and would try to do his best with his administration, but she agreed with Mr. Sandifer that his heart was too easily and too often touched.

Ambassador Jessup suggested that the US could make a strong statement along the line that authorizing an appeal to be made was not agreeing to support that appeal with a contribution. He favored the middle course advocated by Mr. Sandifer. Senator Cooper recalled the original IRO resolution, and the questions that had then been raised. He thought that Mr. Goedhart should be allowed to make his appeal so long as he understood the attitude Congress took. He did not favor Mr. Lubin’s idea of making a deal with the High Commissioner. Mr. Cohen agreed fully with Senator Cooper.

In summarizing the views that had been thus far expressed, Mrs. Roosevelt understood Ambassador Jessup and Mr. Sandifer to favor an abstention if the Department would authorize it. She understood Senator Cooper and Mr. Cohen to favor voting for the appeal while clearly stating that it must be made to private sources. Ambassador Sayre endorsed the stand taken by Senator Cooper and Mr. Cohen. Ambassador Jessup said that if we argued that we were willing to let Dr. Goedhart try to raise the money, but that Congress cannot appropriate any money for this fund, we could state that we could not vote in favor of an appeal to governments but would abstain and, if the appeal were limited to private sources we would vote in favor. Mr. Sandifer wanted to be sure the Delegation received the proper instructions from the Department. Mrs. Roosevelt agreed with Ambassador [Page 836] Jessup’s suggestion. Mr. Cohen wondered as to what stand the Delegation would take if the resolution authorized an appeal both to private and governmental sources. He thought we would only favor for ourselves the private appeal but for others, if they were willing, a governmental appeal was all right. Mr. Sandifer and Mrs. Roosevelt both felt that we should abstain on such a combined appeal.

Mr. Ross strongly sympathized with the ideas expressed by Senator Cooper and Mr. Cohen, but felt it politically unwise for the US to vote in favor of an appeal which the US would not follow through on. He suggested not voting in favor of the resolution if an appeal to governments was at all involved. Mr. Sandifer made it clear that there was no change in his feeling that an appeal to governments was unsound, but for political reasons he would acquiesce in an abstention. He felt that getting an authorization for even this would be difficult. Mrs. Roosevelt agreed with Mr. Sandifer.

Dr. Tobias asked if the US would be all alone in opposition to the proposed appeal. Mrs. Roosevelt answered that only the Soviets and the US appeared to oppose it at the present time. She recalled that the pattern of US voting in the past had been not to vote in favor of any matter in which we were convinced that the US Government would not follow through. She thought it best to continue to follow this pattern. Hence she was inclined to favor asking the Department for authorization to abstain, but to be able to vote for a resolution which proposed an appeal limited to private sources. Since there were no further comments, it was so decided.

Charles D. Cook
  1. Dated January 2, p. 822.