314. Report of the U.S. Delegation to the Fifth Session of the Executive Committee of the UN High Commissioner’s Program for Refugees1

[Here follow the first six sections of the report: 1. Background of the Conference, 2. Agenda as Adopted, 3. Participation, 4. United States Delegation, 5. Organization of the Conference, and 6. Work of the Committee.]

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7. Working of the Conference

A copy of the report (with appendices) of the Fifth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (A/AC.96/127) appears as enclosure 3.2

The Committee:

Noted the progress and financial reports and statements of the High Commissioner for Refugees dealing with the various programs under his jurisdiction, including the regular annual program and the former UNREF program as of December 31, 1960 (A/AC.96/110 and A/AC.96/111); the program for new Hungarian refugees (A/AC.96/112); the assistance program for refugees from Algeria in Morocco and Tunisia (A/AC.96/113 and Addendum 1); the Far Eastern program (A/AC.96/117); and the program of the World Refugee Year (A/AC.96/121);
Noted the provisional financial statements for the year 1960 (A/AC.96/114 and A/AC.96/118);
Recommended that the UNHCR continue his efforts to raise funds for assistance to refugees from both governmental and non-governmental sources (A/AC.96/115);
Noted the progress made and agreed with the recommendations put forward by the Mental Health Advisor with respect to assistance to refugees in the “special cases” category (A/AC.96/116 and Addendum 1);
Reviewed and endorsed the High Commissioner’s proposals for additions to and modifications in his regular programs for the balance of 1961, including the projects for legal assistance and the country clearance program for Italy (A/AC.96/110 and A/AC.96/120 and Addendum 1);
Approved provisional fund allocations by country for the regular program for 1962 (A/AC.96/124);
Noted a report on housing for refugees and agreed that the High Commissioner should continue to study this program (A/AC.96/128);
Noted and approved conclusions reached by the UNHCR regarding the financing of transport of refugees to the effect that, with full regard to the long standing division of financial responsibility between UNHCR and ICEM, his office would not hesitate to take immediate action to avoid a situation where refugees could not be resettled owing to lack of transport funds and would continue to support where needed the Director of ICEM in his requests for additional contributions from governmental and other sources (A/AC.96/126);
Discussed and agreed to consider further, at a later date, the related questions of the future responsibilities of the UNHCR and the assistance to be rendered to refugees in various areas under the United Nations Resolutions pertaining to the use of the High Commissioner’s good offices to deal with emergency problems. In this latter connection the Committee noted the developments to date with respect to the particular problems of Chinese refugees in Hong Kong and Macau and refugees in Cambodia.
Examined and agreed to a proposal by the UNHCR that, in the future, major questions would be considered at a main session of the Executive Committee to be held in the Spring. Consideration of a related proposal for the establishment of a preparatory sub-committee of the Executive Committee was deferred to a subsequent session.

The reports presented by the High Commissioner indicated that funds now available were sufficient to insure that the problem of “old” refugees in camps in Europe could be liquidated by the end of 1961 or early in 1962 without additional international support. In connection with the problem of non-settled out-of-camp refugees areas which appear to require continued international attention relate in the main to handicapped persons. It is the intention of the High Commissioner to press for international assistance also in connection with the completion of certain so-called “country clearance programs” where the economic circumstances of the host countries would make for undue delay in the alleviation of the refugee problems.

From a policy point of view, the major item under consideration was that of the future role of the High Commissioner in facing new refugee problems, particularly those of refugees who do not fall within his mandate. There was evidence of considerable divergence of opinion on this important subject. The representative of Canada, for instance, questioned whether the Executive Commitee, under the Economic and Social Council Resolution XXV, was competent to consider problems of assistance to refugees outside of the mandate of the UNHCR. No formal decisions were reached and this subject will be discussed further at future sessions of the Committee. However, it was clear from the debate that, in connection with problems of refugees not within the mandate, there is general agreement for the cautious exercise by the High Commissioner of his good offices in their behalf.

Several delegations also questioned the propriety of the use of the High Commissioner of his emergency fund for assistance in emergency problems of refugees outside his mandate. After considerable discussion during which the U.S. Representative favored liberal discretionary usage of the fund, the majority opinion seemed to support judicious use of the emergency funds by the High Commissioner for new refugee [Page 693] problems on a provisional basis even where the status of these new refugees might be doubtful in terms of his mandate.

It was the view of the High Commissioner that the Resolution of the 13th and subsequent General Assemblies expanding the scope of his interest in refugees did not carry with them the legal authority to expend funds in behalf of such refugees without prior authorization from the appropriate organ of the United Nations. Certainly, further searching consideration of all aspects of the future activities of the High Commissioner with respect to emergent problems can be anticipated in future sessions of the Executive Committee as opinion is far from solidified to date.

With respect to the future work of the Executive Committee, it was agreed that the major session would be held in the Spring and that the Fall session would be shorter in duration and essentially limited to a review of progress. In taking this decision, it was recognized that special problems might arise between the Spring and Fall sittings of the Executive Committee and in support of the U.S. Delegation’s contention, it was agreed that the projected arrangement should not prejudice the review of such problems by the Executive Committee at its Fall Sitting.

Other than brief mention by the High Commissioner within the context of an address on his good offices responsibility, the problem of the refugees from Angola in the Congo did not arise for discussion although it was the subject of numerous informal conversations between individual delegations and with the High Commissioner. Discussions were also held by the UNHCR with a representative of the Portuguese Red Cross who acted as Observer for Portugal to the Session, and it was the High Commissioner’s opinion, shared by many, that open discussion of the subject in the Session would create difficulties of a political nature without advancing the humanitarian cause of assistance to the refugees.

Some friction developed between the delegations of China and the U.K. over the question of a resolution the Chinese Delegation had intended to introduce at the Session. Relating to the future activities of the UNHCR, the draft resolution called upon the High Commissioner to take the initiative in discussing refugee problems with the authorities or governments concerned with a view to determining whether the problems in question were of a nature to warrant the exercise of the good offices or other responsibilities of the High Commissioner in their behalf. Considering that it was designed primarily to bring about greater international, and hence Chinese Government, participation in the alleviation of the Chinese refugee problem in Hong Kong, the U.K. Delegation was opposed to the resolution. After discussing the text of the draft resolution privately with several delegations, including the [Page 694] United States, the Chinese Delegation was persuaded by the UNHCR staff and by the U.K. Delegation to withhold the resolution with the apparent understanding on the part of the Chinese Delegate that he could submit the text of the resolution to the Committee in the form of a speech. When he attempted to do so the U.K. Delegate challenged this move as being “out of order” on the grounds that a delegation could not submit a resolution in such form. The chair ruled in favor of the point of order and a compromise was eventually reached whereby the Chinese Delegate alluded to the proposed resolution in his speech and the text of the draft resolution was circulated by the secretariat.

8. Future Meetings

The next meeting of the Executive Committee was provisionally scheduled for the second half of October 1961, with the proviso that it should not conflict with the Meeting of the Executive Board of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration.

9. Conclusions

The work of the Committee was expeditiously handled and no conclusions were reached that were not in accord with the instructions to the United States Representative. The U.S. Delegation was particularly gratified both with the manner in which Mr. Salvesen, the Chairman, performed his functions and with the work of the Secretariat.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1960–63, 324.8411/7–1461. No classification marking. The Executive Committee met in Geneva May 25–31. Richard R. Brown led the U.S. Delegation; Edward J. Rowell and Edward W. Lawrence prepared the report.
  2. Not printed.