93. Airgram From the Department of State to All Posts 1



  • 25th UN General Assembly—Agenda Items in the Economic, Social, and Human Rights Fields
[Page 158]


  • CA–4583, August 29, 19702

This airgram, sent to the field for informational purposes only, identifies each economic, social and human rights item which appeared on the agenda of the 25th session of the UN General Assembly (A/8000, July 17, 1970) and briefly describes what action was taken either in Committee II (economic and financial); Committee III (social, humanitarian and cultural); or at the Plenary session of the General Assembly.

UN Volunteers (Item 12)

With only the Sovbloc, Mali and Madagascar (the latter because it thought the issue not sufficiently clear) abstaining, the GA adopted 91(US)–0–12 the resolution establishing the United Nations Volunteers. The new organization becomes effective January 1, 1971.

The first year holds several major problems for the UNV, among them the recruiting, training and utilization of volunteers from around the world.

Financially the organization’s non-administrative costs must be met by voluntary contributions. The US will probably make a modest contribution. Current plans call for less than 200 volunteers by the end of 1971. UNV’s will be used in conjunction with UNDP development projects around the world with the approval of the host countries involved. The US Peace Corps hopes to direct qualified American volunteers into this newest UN organization.


Fifteen Members Elected to Industrial Development Board of UNIDO (Item 18)

The 25th General Assembly elected 15 members to the IDB, the principal organ of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, for a three year term beginning January 1, 1971. In accordance with GA Resolution 2152 (XXI) which established UNIDO, candidate-countries were elected from the four geographic groups. The following countries were elected to serve on the 45-member Board:

  • Group A—Africa and Asia: Algeria, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and UAR
  • Group B—Developed Countries: Austria, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland
  • Group C—Latin America: Argentina and Costa Rica
  • Group D—Eastern Europe: Bulgaria and USSR.


UNIDO Pledging Conference

Sixty governments pledged the equivalent of $1.8 million, largely in non-convertible currencies, to UNIDO at its third annual pledging conference during the 25th General Assembly. This represents an increase of ten in the number of countries pledging and an increase of approximately $300,000 in the amount pledged over 1969 participation and pledges. As in previous years, a U.S. representative attended the Conference in order to demonstrate our support for UNIDO, but we did not pledge. Our representative made a statement noting that the U.S. pledge for industrial sector development as well as other sectors of economic development is through the UNDP. Funds pledged at this Conference are used to finance a part of UNIDO’s program activities while administrative costs are part of the regular UN assessed budget.

Report of the Trade and Development Board (Item 38)

The report of the Trade and Development Board on the third part of its Ninth Session and the first part of its Tenth Session led to consideration of three draft resolutions. The first approved UNCTAD’s work in the establishment of a system of preferences and called for the continuation of the group responsible for the system. This resolution was never tabled but the U.S. and some other developed countries would have opposed the establishment of permanent institutional machinery in the UNCTAD for this purpose. In our view the Committee on Manufactures should be responsible for further work on preferences.

Another resolution set April–May 1972 as the date for the Third Session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development but left open the site. The same resolution called for a consideration by the Conference of a structural reform of UNCTAD which would make the organization a more effective means of pressure on the developing countries. The United States and some other major donors voted against these provisions of the resolution and abstained on the resolution as a whole.

A third resolution took note of the establishment by the Tenth Session of the Trade and Development Board of an inter-governmental group on the transfer of technology. The last paragraph of this resolution is ambiguous but could be interpreted as an endorsement of an increase in the UNCTAD budget to support this group. Because the United States believes that the additional costs of this group should be met by reducing expenditures of a low priority, we abstained on the paragraph, as did the UK and Japan among others, but voted for the resolution as a whole.

Report of the Industrial Development Board of UNIDO (Item 39(a))

The GA noted the report of the fourth session of the Industrial Development Board (IDB), the policy formulating body of UNIDO. The [Page 160]main issue was the question of convening a special meeting of all members of UNIDO in 1971 as requested by the IDB. The General Assembly decided without extensive debate to convene a “Special International Conference of UNIDO at the highest possible level of governmental representation, to be held in Vienna … from June 1–8, 1971 …” Although the U.S. has reservations as to the necessity of such a Conference, we voted in favor of it. The Conference will provide the first opportunity in UNIDO’s four year existence for its entire membership to meet. (All members of the UN, specialized agencies and the IAEA are members of UNIDO.) The Conference’s provisional agenda is as follows:

Long-range strategy and orientation of UNIDO’s activities,
The organizational structure of UNIDO,
Questions of UNIDO’s financing.

In the general debate on the report of the IDB most developing countries continued their urgings that UNIDO be granted greater autonomy and increased financial resources. In general, the U.S. opposes greater autonomy, such as specialized agency status for UNIDO, and we question the need for greater financial and manpower resources until such time as the Organization consolidates its program after a period of rapid growth during the past three years.

Confirmation of the Appointment of the Executive Director of UNIDO (Item 39(b))

The UN Secretary General reappointed Mr. Abdel-Rahman (UAR) as Executive Director of UNIDO for a term of two years ending December 31, 1972. The normal term of office for this position is four years and in shortening this term the Secretary General noted that he “had in mind the consideration that his own term is due to expire December 31, 1971,” and he did not wish to commit his successor for a long period of time. Abdel-Rahman’s appointment was confirmed by the General Assembly, with the U.S. voting in favor.

Operational Activities for Development (Item 40)

Upon the recommendation of the Second Committee, the General Assembly approved without objection two resolutions concerning the United Nations Development Program. The first, a resolution recommended by the Economic and Social Council, provides for implementation, commencing January 1, 1971, of the provisions of the consensus statement drawn up by the UNDP Governing Council at its 10th Session in June 1970. In the second resolution the Assembly noted with appreciation the reports of the Governing Council on its 9th and 10th sessions.

Also under Item 40, the Secretary-General announced extension for one year, beginning January 1, 1971, of the term of office of the UNDP Administrator, Paul G. Hoffman.

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The consensus statement comprises UNDP reforms which include: the adoption of a United Nations Development Cooperation Cycle, a process which features country programming in order to fully coordinate UNDP assistance with the recipient countries’ own development plans; a new financial system designed to provide improved financial control and budget planning as well as fuller utilization of resources; reorganization of the UNDP at both headquarters and field levels, with greater delegation of authority to the UNDP Administrator and to the Resident Representatives in order to expedite the decision-making process; assignment to the Administrator of responsibility for all aspects of the implementation of UNDP-funded projects; and recognition of the central coordinating role of the Resident Representatives with respect to all other development assistance programs undertaken by agencies in the UN system.

Although the consensus statement is a far from perfect document, we consider it a workable basis on which to reorganize and revitalise the UNDP. We are pleased, therefore, that in the General Assembly there were no objections or amendments which might have unraveled the fragile agreement reached by the Governing Council. At its 11th session in January, the Governing Council will consider the recommendations of the Administrator for implementation of the consensus statement.

UN Capital Development Fund (Item 42)

The General Assembly created the Capital Development Fund (CDF) in 1966 to make grants and soft loans to developing countries. The US Government opposed its establishment because we believe that the World Bank Group and the regional development banks suffice to provide development finance. Consistent with our opposition to the CDF, we have not participated in the Fund’s pledging conferences.

The 25th GA adopted by a large majority a resolution on the CDF opposed by the United States and almost all other developed countries. Principally, it (1) requests the Governing Council of the UNDP to consider “all possibilities for reaching the objectives of the UN Capital Development Fund, including the desirability and feasibility of providing CDF follow-up investment projects in country programmes” and (2) requests the Secretary General to invite member states to “contribute separately, but at the same pledging conference, to the UNDP and CDF.”

The US strongly opposes the use of UNDP funds for capital development projects. We consider that funds contributed to UNDP should be used exclusively for technical assistance and pre-investment projects designed to open the way for capital investment. These projects could lead to investment by the private sector or by public sector organizations such as the World Bank Group or the regional development banks [Page 162]whose specific mandate it is to provide these funds. It is our position that a clear separation should be maintained between all aspects of the UNDP and the CDF. During the debate on this issue in the Second Committee of the UN the US Representative noted that a joint UNDP/CDF pledging conference would not improve the acceptability of the CDF, but would tend to jeopardize the support of the developed countries for the UNDP.

At its fourth pledging conference on 29 October 1970, 26 nations pledged the equivalent of $954,612, largely in non-convertible currency, to the Fund. This amount was less than the $1.3 million pledged at each of the first two pledging conferences, but approximately $180,000 greater than the amount pledged by 26 countries in 1969. As in the past, the U.S. and most other major donors did not attend this conference.

UN DD–II (Item 43)

The most significant act of the General Assembly in the economic and social field was the adoption by the General Assembly on October 24, the 25th anniversary of the United Nations, of the strategy for the Second UN Development Decade (the 1970’s). The strategy sets an overall goal of at least 6% annual average rate of growth for the Decade, outlines policy measures to achieve this goal that cover virtually all economic and social matters, and establishes a mechanism to review progress and suggests the necessary adjustments in policies and goals. The details, background and major issues involved in the strategy are explained in Current Economic Developments, issue number 6, dated December 15, 1970, page 12.

UN Conference on Problems of the Human Environment (Item 44)

Further progress was made toward defining the goals of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment scheduled to take place in Stockholm in June of that year. The GA approved a resolution calling upon the Secretary General to hold two sessions of the Preparatory Committee in 1971; one in February in Geneva and the other in September in New York. The resolution also asked the Preparatory Committee in preparing for the Conference that it consider the economic development aspects of preserving and restoring the environment particularly as it concerns developing countries.

Maurice F. Strong, former President of the Canadian International Development Agency, was designated Secretary General for the Stockholm Conference.

UN University (Item 45)

Without debate or amendment the UNGA adopted the resolution Committee II had approved on the “Question of the Establishment of an International University” by vote of 94(US)–0–11 (UK, Uganda, [Page 163]Sovbloc). The resolution calls for UNESCO to study the feasibility of a United Nations University and for the SYG to establish “in due course” … “a panel of experts” to assist him in “his further consultations” on this subject. The SYG is directed to submit his report on this subject at the 26th UNGA.

Our prime concern during the debate of this item was that the “panel of experts” and the UNESCO study not take place simultaneously and thus be duplicative in both substance and effort. We hope that the “panel of experts” will therefore be appointed after the UNESCO study is completed.

We have directed USUN to indicate to the UN that the USG will not participate as a member of the “panel of experts” in order to maintain maximum flexibility on this subject.

Creation of the Post of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Item 47)

The United States attached high importance to a full discussion of this item so that a substantive decision could be reached at the 25th GA. We, together with other supporters, worked actively in Committee and behind the scenes to assure that adequate time would be allotted to the subject. The leading opponents of the item, the USSR and its supporters, worked actively throughout the entire session to frustrate discussion of the item. An unusually large amount of time was spent on other items on the Third Committee’s agenda. When the Committee finally reached the High Commissioner item a number of procedural delaying maneuvers were carried out with the active connivance of the Committee chairman, who was from Romania. These procedural tactics together with the obvious filibustering of the opponents made possible only a token discussion of the substance of the matter. Because the time was exhausted and because many delegations did not desire to push such a farreaching proposal to its conclusion without full consideration there developed majority sentiment to put off the final decision until the next session. A motion advanced by Ceylon to adjourn the debate on the item was adopted by a vote of 54–38(US)–15. Because of the depth of feeling on the part of the opponents and taking account as well of the widespread hesitations expressed by many other delegations who were willing to explore the idea we feel that our own position must be carefully reviewed. We intend to consider not only the tactics to pursue at the next General Assembly but also possible substantive modifications of the proposal which should make it more widely attractive.

Respect for Human Rights in Armed Conflicts (Item 48)

The focal point for this item was intended to be a final report issued by the Secretary-General dealing with possible means for [Page 164]improving application of existing humanitarian conventions relating to armed conflicts or proposals for the development of new ones. In fact the very long debate which took place focused upon a number of separate resolutions highlighting various aspects of the general subject of human rights in armed conflicts. The United States together with 11 other co-sponsors proposed a resolution calling for better application of the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention and endorsing the continuing efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross to secure effective application of the Convention. Our draft resolution was strenuously opposed by the Soviet Union and its supporters who attempted to characterize our initiative as a political move designed to gain support for one side in the Vietnam conflict. A gratifyingly large majority, however, supported our initiative as one of promoting the observance of the basic human rights of prisoners of war in any conflict anywhere.

The United States sponsored resolution was adopted in the Third Committee by a vote of 60(US)–16–34. The resolution was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 67(US)–30–20. Other resolutions adopted under the same item were (a) one initiated by the Government of France dealing with protection of journalists engaged on dangerous missions in areas of armed conflict, (b) a resolution proposed by Norway setting forth basic principles for the protection of civilian populations in armed conflicts, (c) a procedural resolution initiated by the Delegation of the United Kingdom transmitting the Secretary-General’s reports to the Special Expert Conference to be convened by the ICRC in May 1971 and deciding to consider the question further at the next GA session. A final resolution was proposed by India, Sudan and the USSR condemning the actions of countries which engage in aggressive wars. The United States voted for all of the resolutions except the last. We abstained on this one because of certain paragraphs contained therein which asserted misleading interpretations of certain existing conventions dealing with the humanitarian law of armed conflicts.

Housing, Building and Planning (Item 49)

This was the fourth year that the housing item was on the GA agenda. The Third Committee reached it at the very end of the session and alloted only time enough to consider a 26-power resolution, sponsored mostly by developing countries. The US could support its substantive content which covered all aspects of housing, building and planning, including human settlements and the environment, but could not accept the invitation to developed countries … to provide increased technical and financial assistance to developing countries during the 1970’s and the strengthening of the Center for Housing, Building and Planning as a matter of high priority. The US co-sponsored an amendment with Australia, Japan and the UK to make this language [Page 165]more acceptable but it failed on all four votes by a large margin. The resolution was passed 79–0–9(US).

Question of the Elderly and the Aged (Item 53)

This item was not reached on the Third Committee agenda. It was decided to defer it to the 26th GA, at which time it would be given high priority and appropriate consideration.

Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (Item 55)

Debate under this item focused principally upon two aspects, namely the forthcoming International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination which has been proclaimed for 1971, and measures for effectively combating racial discrimination and the policies of apartheid and segregation in Southern Africa. The debate followed traditional lines with universal support being expressed for the need to pursue with special diligence measures to combat racism and racial discrimination during the International Year. There was a renewal of discussion which has taken place at previous sessions of the GA upon the policies of apartheid being pursued by the Government of South Africa, and upon conditions in Rhodesia and the Portuguese territories, with widespread displeasure being expressed on the part of most African delegations at the slow pace of progress in improving conditions in Southern Africa. Dissatisfaction was also expressed with the allegedly insufficient amount of support being given on the part of Western countries to measures designed to bring about improvements. The Third Committee adopted three resolutions under this item. A 26 power Afro-Asian resolution encompassing the major African frustrations with the pace of progress in combating apartheid and racial discrimination in Southern Africa and containing fourteen operative paragraphs of condemnations, urgings and requests was proposed. Principally because of its extravagant criticism of the policies of the United Kingdom and its calls for complete termination of all relations with the Government of South Africa, the United States voted against this resolution. The resolution was adopted in Third Committee by a vote of 75–12(US)–22. It was subsequently adopted by the Assembly by a vote of 71–10(US)–11. The US supported the other two resolutions under this item. One, proposed by the Delegation of Finland, welcomed the establishment of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which began functioning in 1969 pursuant to the United Nations Racial Discrimination Convention. The resolution, which urged full support for the new Committee, was adopted unanimously. A third resolution presented by Brazil, Canada, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay contained a number of operative paragraphs condemning racial discrimination and encouraging efforts through the United Nations and the Specialized [Page 166]Agencies to combat the evil. This latter resolution was adopted in the Third Committee by a vote of 49(US)–47–16. In plenary the vote was 49(US)–33–10. The large negative vote against this resolution reflected the dissatisfaction on the part of many members with the comparatively calm reasonableness of its operative paragraphs.

Other Items

Having devoted an unusually large amount of time to the first four items on its agenda the Third Committee reached the last week of the session with little time left to deal with several remaining important items. The items on Freedom of Information and on Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance were, among a number of others, deferred to be taken up at the next session.

Youth (Item 57)

Following deliberations lasting 2½ weeks Committee III adopted a resolution titled “Youth, Its Education in the Respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Its Problems and Needs, and Its Participation in National Development” 98(US)–0–4. The Item proved to be highly political.

The resolution calls for SYG to “consult with governments and specialized agencies concerned on the possibility of convening, in future, world youth assemblies.” This paragraph and its implications were carefully considered by the USG, because of the problems inherent in holding a World Youth Assembly, before we voted in favor of its adoption.

Paragraphs which we opposed included operative paragraph nine calling for youth to support “in every way possible” liberation movements of certain people. Also objectionable was preambular paragraph three, introduced by Mongolia, speaking of current “armed conflicts” and “acts of aggression” which were injurious “particularly (to) young people.”

We feel it undesirable that this resolution, and its wholesale incorporation of tendentious political doctrines and propaganda, should be presented to the youth of the world as the result of the UNGA’s discussion of the topic of youth. Certainly it is hoped that Western acquiescence will not be taken as encouragement to the production of similar propagandist and irrelevant resolutions in the future.

Narcotics (Item 60)

The UNGA passed two resolutions dealing with technical assistance in the field of narcotics. It endorsed (106(US)–0–8(EEs)) an ECOSOC resolution creating a UN Fund for Drug Abuse as part of an action program of multilateral activity against illicit narcotics. (President Nixon strongly endorsed the Fund in his speech before the UNGA and we have announced an initial contribution of $2 million, subject [Page 167]to congressional approval.) A second resolution, unanimously approved, noted the dangers resulting from the growth of narcotics addiction and called upon governments to enact adequate legislation providing severe penalties against those engaged in illicit trade and trafficking of narcotics.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 GA. Limited Official Use. Drafted by the IO/OES Staff and approved by Joel M. Fisher. Also sent to USUN, Montreal for ICAO, Paris for UNESCO and OECD, Rome for FODAG, Vienna for IAEA and UNIDO, and Geneva.
  2. This airgram identified for the posts the most significant economic, social, and human rights items on the provisional agenda of the 25th General Assembly. (Ibid.)