150. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Wilcox) to the Director of the International Cooperation Administration (Hollister)1

Dear John : I have read with much interest a copy of your letter of May 222 to Secretary Humphrey on the subject of assistance programs administered by multilateral organizations. I am greatly concerned by the two criticisms you make.

We have not felt here in the Department—certainly I have not felt—that international organizations are “extraordinarily inefficient and have a very high rate of overhead” as you state. With respect to some phases of economic development, the multilateral organizations may be relatively quite efficient. While obviously there are numerous [Page 391] problems in connection with any operation employing a multilateral staff, there are also strengths in multilateral organizations which we feel make their support an integral part of U.S. foreign policy.

The administrative cost of the United Nations Expanded Program of Technical Assistance is about 7 per cent; that of the United Nations Children’s Fund is about 10 per cent. Total overhead costs, including program backstopping and central coordination, run about 16 per cent to 17 per cent for each program. This may seem high, but I believe it is not excessive when compared to comparable operations on a bilateral basis. Also, the proportion of overhead costs has been coming down.

My own experience with these programs—both at home and abroad—has convinced me that the bilateral and multilateral forms both have important contributions to make to our foreign policy. Moreover, a good many investigations made by objective individuals have led me to believe that United Nations’ efforts compare pretty favorably with our own bilateral efforts.

Take, for example, the recent Technical Assistance report of Senator Green.3 “The trip left the general impression,” he says, “that the UN technical assistance program produces more per dollar expended than does the bilateral program of the United States. The explanation may be that the UN has less money and selects both its projects and its personnel more carefully.”4

Or again take the report of Senator Mansfield’s special Senate Subcommittee on Technical Assistance.5“Compared to the United States’ bilateral activities,” says the Committee, “the UN program is small, but, in the subcommittee’s judgment, highly effective. The subcommittee found few instances of duplication between the two programs and many instances of cooperation. Each program has its place in United States foreign policy.”6

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With regard to your second point, it is of course always possible that unsuitable experts may be selected and that unsuitable projects may sometimes be started in either the multilateral or bilateral program. It is possible that countries may request projects from the United Nations agencies to which we in the United States would not assign equal priority. This is their prerogative as independent nations. I would however be very much interested if you have evidence which indicates that our money is “being spent to proselytize philosophies alien to our ideals”. This is a serious charge which goes to the heart of our participation in international organizations, and I am very much interested as to the basis for your view.

I assume that your letter of May 22 was intended to reflect your personal views to Secretary Humphrey rather than an agency position.7

With kind personal regards, I am, Cordially yours,

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, ICA Director’s Files: FRC 61 A 32, Box 308, Foreign Policy.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., Box 314, Executive Secretariat)
  3. On January 13, Senator Theodore F. Green (D–R.I.) submitted his report, “Technical Assistance in the Far East, South Asia, and Middle East,” to Senator Mansfield (D–Mont.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Technical Assistance Programs, Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Green, a member of the subcommittee, based his report on an investigation of technical assistance programs in 11 countries which he visited from September 15 to November 5, 1955.
  4. “Technical Assistance in the Far East, South Asia, and Middle East,” Technical Assistance, Final Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations, March 12, 1957, p. 537.
  5. S. Res. 214 of the 83d Congress, July 6, 1954, directed that a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “make a full and complete study of technical assistance and related programs.” The resulting Subcommittee on Technical Assistance, chaired by Senator Mansfield and aided by the findings of individual committee members, submitted its report, “Technical Assistance and Related Programs,” on May 7, 1956.
  6. “Technical Assistance and Related Programs,” Technical Assistance, Final Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations, March 12, 1957, p. 28.
  7. The source text bears the following notation: “JBH says no reply necessary, 7/9/56. JW.”