108. Letter From the Permanent Representative to the Development Assistance Committee (Coffin) to the Chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Aid Programs (Perkins)1

Dear Jim:

At long last here is the note I promised you on the background, activities, and possibilities of the Development Assistance Committee.2 Even though quite long, it still seems to me to hit only the highlights, and the additional materials referred to in the first paragraph make valuable supplementary reading.3

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At this juncture, I am hopeful that the High Level meeting in July, to which Dave and the aid Ministers from the UK and Germany are coming, will be the most significant one yet. Certainly more preparatory work, through working parties and experts’ groups, has been done than ever before.

As for subjects which your Committee might usefully examine, there are three thoughts that come to mind. The first is to look into the question of the likely reasonable and realistic volume of aid needs which the industrialized free world will encounter in the fairly near future, drawing on AID and other studies, in order to be able to express an authoritative and respected voice on the issue. If, as I suspect, we and others will—in our own interest—be well advised to break away from the plateau which we have been treading for several years, the Committee might well be able to play a significant role in the development of thinking and gaining general acceptance.

A second issue is that about which there has been considerable discussion on the Hill and in some of the recent literature—the right balance, for the U.S., between bilateral and multilateral aid. The discussion often seems to assume things that should be tested and proven. It occasionally indulges in mythology. Key questions need looking into. How much should IBRD-IDA be expected to do? At what point would they themselves become subject to distorting political pressures? To what extent is it true that effective performance is better achieved through multilateral aid? To what extent does U.S. interests require bilateral aid? To what extent, if at all, should the U.S. be willing to contribute to international institutions, beyond the matching contributions of others? There are many other questions, but the whole issue is exceedingly important. And a reasoned, balanced examination by your Committee might be very significant.

The final area may well lie beyond your frame of reference but it is important for all countries, as well as ours—the question of public understanding and support. We lack, internationally, an umbrella or forum which would lend support to the activities of individual countries and the common effort in general. In State and AID a number of ideas have, from time to time, been discussed. But they have not, so far as I know, resulted in a course of action. Perhaps the Committee could look into this problem—which has a bearing on our willingness and ability to mount a continuing substantial aid program.

To conclude, let me wish you and the Committee all success in your efforts. Certainly there are few fields where it is as important both to act as effectively as possible and to gain the confidence needed for sustained [Page 315] effectiveness. Needless to say, we in Paris would again welcome you or any of the Committee who may be travelling this way.

With kind regards,


Frank M. Coffin
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 286, Advisory Committee on Foreign Aid: FRC 74 A 58, GAC Memoranda to Dec. 1965. No classification marking.
  2. The attached “note,” a 16-page paper with four tables, prepared for the President’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Assistance Programs, is not printed. For documentation on this Committee, under the chairmanship of James A. Perkins, see Document 32 ff.
  3. This paragraph refers to the following documents: Chairman’s Report for 1963 (published in September 1964), which has not been found; CEDTO A–293, Document 92; and a memorandum prepared for German officials by Administrator Bell in February 1965, which may be the paper attached to Document 105.