95. Airgram From the Department of State to Certain Posts 1



  • UN: Appraisal of Second Committee (Economic and Financial) at 25th General Assembly


  • CA–6431, December 30, 19702

Introduction: This airgram appraises the actions of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the 25th General Assembly. It is based on the impressions and reports of the U.S. Delegation and officers in the Department who followed events daily.

The Second Committee is a committee of the whole which meets concurrently with the General Assembly from September to December, is responsible for economic and financial items on the agenda of the General Assembly, and which negotiates and adopts resolutions on those items and transmits them, for final action, to the plenary of the General Assembly. Usually, the final vote in the GA follows the pattern set by Committee II.

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The schedule of Committee II varied this year from the normal because the first month of the session—mid-September to mid-October— was entirely devoted to the International Development Strategy for the Second Development Decade. This important document was adopted by the Committee on October 16 and by the twenty-fifth commemorative session of the General Assembly on October 24 (see Current Economic Developments, Issue No. 6, December 15, 1970).

Summary of Accomplishments: In drawing up a balance sheet of successes and failures for U.S. policy objectives in the Second Committee during the 25th General Assembly, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. Unquestionably, the greatest achievement was the adoption of the International Development Strategy for the Second Development Decade. Although the strategy did not fully satisfy anyone, the compromise and degree of consensus achieved was far greater than could have been expected before the final negotiations during the General Assembly. A major factor explaining this successful outcome was the willingness of the moderate LDC’s, such as India, to take the leadership in conducting the negotiations on behalf of all the LDC’s.

Next in importance was the approval by the GA of the resolution containing a consensus statement on the capacity of the UN Development Program which had been carefully negotiated at the June 1970 meeting of the UNDP Governing Council. The passage of this consensus without significant amendment was in keeping with the U.S. objective of ensuring that the ground gained toward the reorganization of the UNDP along the lines recommended in the Jackson Capacity Study not be lost.

The adoption without amendment of the resolution recommended by the 49th ECOSOC establishing the United Nations Volunteers was another significant success.

Other items which we consider culminated in negotiated texts of resolutions consistent with our aims were those on UNITAR, UNIDO, the International University, multilateral food aid, edible proteins, review and appraisal of the Strategy for the Second Development Decade, unified approach to economic and social planning for development, and the World Population Year.

The two UNCTAD resolutions—on transfer of technology and on UNCTAD III—can be considered as a draw between the DC’s and the LDC’s. The improvement of the two texts from the original drafts due to intensive informal negotiations was gratifying to us, when one considers the distance between the objectives of the LDC cosponsors and our own. The Romanian resolution on the role of modern science and technology in the development of nations, while leaving much to be desired as to substance, was in the end acceptable to us.

The clearly negative resolutions were those on the Capital Development Fund, the Economic and Social Consequences of Disarmament, [Page 174]and the Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources. We voted against these or abstained.

Principal Features of Session: The session was marked by the following significant features:


Increasing Confrontation between DC’s and LDC’s.

To a greater extent than in previous sessions of the Committee, debate and negotiation of issues were influenced by DC–LDC confrontations. There are a number of reasons for this, none of them sufficient in themselves, but each contributing to the overall effect.

There were many issues on which LDC’s and DC’s would normally have opposing interests. The most important of these, and the one that set the tone of the whole session, was the long opening debate on the Strategy.
Some of the most important issues before the Committee had originally been exhaustively debated in UNCTAD, where the group system tends to institutionalize LDC–DC differences. The most important of these were the trade and financial sections of the Strategy, the transfer of technology in UNCTAD, and UNCTAD III.
Some of the most important of the LDC’s were represented by delegations with long experience in Geneva and of UNCTAD. They tended to be able, well informed and among the leaders of the LDC’s. Among the most significant were Chile (Cubillos), Philippines (Brillantes), Brazil (Frazao and Barthel-Rosa).

The positions of the major DC’s on many significant economic items may have encouraged the LDC’s to take a hard line. In particular the hard, sometimes negative line the US was obliged to follow on many items made us a target and stiffened the attitude of the LDC’s.

In contrast, the more supple and less principled positions of some Western Europeans, France and Italy in particular, enabled them to create a better image while maintaining the substance of their positions. They were, however, undoubtedly helped by the generally conservative positions of the US.

The growing trend among delegations, both DC and LDC, to develop experts in various aspects of developmental matters and to send them around the world to UN and related conferences became more apparent during the 25th GA. This factor is particularly true in the case of the Soviets, the French, and the more active LDC’s, such as the Indians, Brazilians, Chileans. Having the same delegates debate the same issue as it runs through UNCTAD, the Regional Commissions, ECOSOC and the General Assembly, gives these delegations an extra advantage on technical issues, which the majority do not enjoy.


Decline of Western Caucus.

The Western European and Others (WEO) group lost by the end of the Session a great deal of the cohesion and unity it had previously, [Page 175]such as when Soviet opposition to FRG membership on the Preparatory Committee for the Second UN Development Decade rallied this group in 1968.

In 1970 there was an evident lack of will and of leadership among the WEO’s. The absence also of a strong US position perhaps contributed. The WEO Caucus did function, albeit not too effectively, during the early part of the Session during the DD-II negotiations.


Polarization of Approach to Neutral Issues.

The increasing intransigence of the LDC’s, ably led by a few outspoken members, and the weakness of the WEO’s, contributed to a polarized approach to some items in which many DC’s and LDC’s usually find themselves on the same side. The most significant of these were in the fields of population and environment. Even the debates and negotiations of resolutions of such non-controversial subjects as edible proteins, multilateral food aid, and the international university became polarized along DC/LDC lines.

In the case of the UN Conference on the Human Environment, the trend is particularly disturbing. What had been up to now a feeling of apathy on the part of most LDC’s toward the Conference and toward the subject of environment in general, is clearly evolving into hardened opposition to UN involvement in the environment, based on the premise that it is a diversion, on the part of the DC’s, from what the LDC’s consider the only valid activity of the UN in the economic and social field, namely, development assistance to the LDC’s. This line, which up to a few months ago, was limited primarily to Brazil and Chile, is rapidly gaining support. This can best be illustrated by the last-minute introduction of an amendment sponsored by Brazil and Chile to interject a controversial note in a resolution already unbalanced to reflect the concerns of the LDC’s. The ability of a few LDC’s to marshal solid support from other LDC’s on a question such as the environment on the grounds that any steps taken in the international arena to foster concern about our environment will per se result in a slowing down of the economic development of the third world is a disturbing trend, to say the least.



A somewhat surprising exception to the trend toward hardening of the opposition by LDC’s concerns UN population control activities. A complex mix of factors explains the LDC positions on this issue. The ECOSOC resolution declaring 1974 World Population Year was, it is true, watered down in successive versions in response to statements by Latin American and a sizeable number of African states. The LDC’s were vocal in their opposition and did account for a large share of the 31 abstentions accorded this resolution in Plenary.

However, the voting strength of the majority favoring UN involvement in population programs has been increasing since 1962, [Page 176]when UN assistance for population programs was first discussed. Among Asian LDC’s, notable converts include Iran, post-Sukarno Indonesia, and the Philippines; in South America—Jamaica and possibly Panama. The Latin American and African countries, which voted against technical assistance in 1962, abstained in 1970.

Among these LDC’s, changes in attitudes have been mainly due to the clearer perception of their individual demographic difficulties and some acquiescence to the mainstream of LDC opinion.

Such special factors as the influence of the Vatican were probably more important than the trend toward polarization in explaining LDC opposition to this resolution. The Roman Catholic Church, particularly with leftist support in individual countries, appears to be in position to influence some governments in Latin America on the birth control issue; especially when government’s assessment of the need and value of population control finds no overriding urgency in the present situation.

However, as the Brazilian delegate told us, one objective of the LDC’s in watering down the ECOSOC resolution was to show that actions of the ECOSOC endorsing decisions of technical bodies (i.e., Population Council) could be distorted by the combined power of the LDC’s in the General Assembly.


Effect of Reorganizations in the UN.

Part of the explanation for the harder line of the LDC’s may be owing to some substantial changes in the organization of the economic side of the UN that are clearly in the offing, although their outlines are not yet distinct. The three most likely changes to take place are:

The establishment of a mechanism to review and appraise worldwide progress under the Strategy for the Second Development Decade (which started January 1, 1971), and to make recommendations as to adjustments in policy measures or goals or both. The outline provided in the Strategy is sketchy, and leaves open the question of specific roles for each part of the UN system. While the principal responsibility is given to ECOSOC, in which DC’s have a relatively strong voice, the more militant LDC’s clearly wish UNCTAD to play the decisive role.
Closely linked with this were proposals to reform ECOSOC either through expansion of some of its committees or the establishment of stronger committees in order to make it a more effective instrument in its role as the principal coordinator and director of the economic and social side of the UN.
Changes in the UNDP designed to increase the capacity of the UN system effectively to provide more assistance to the LDC’s.

These impending changes may appear to some LDC’s as opportunities to increase the influence of organizations in which they are dominant, and to demonstrate the desirability of clearly defining the problems with which these organizations deal in a way that makes the LDC interest clear. At the twenty-fifth GA the LDC’s may have been [Page 177]motivated, in part, by the desire to create a basis for influencing the future of these changes.

Outlook for the Future: It seems likely that the trends outlined above will continue to be important in future sessions of Committee II. It is also true that the US, as the principal economic power in the world with responsibilities that touch on every facet of international relations, will not make substantial changes in its fundamental policies solely in order to improve its image in the UN. We might however be able to improve the way in which US policies are presented, and to rally more support for some of them by:

Paying closer attention to the effect of all US policies in the UN.
Strengthening the US Delegation, in part, by seconding officers from Washington either for the whole session or for specific items.
Seeking to strengthen the WEO group and get it to play a more responsible role.
Carefully preparing ahead of time joint DC/LDC positions on some items of mutual interest in order to break the appearance of uniform DC/LDC divisions.
Seeking ways to support and work with the least developed and in particular by supporting their demands for assistance from the other LDC’s.
Making more use of bilateral diplomatic channels to explain our views on items in the UN well in advance of consideration of the item in question, and explore the views of LDC’s.

We would welcome comments or suggestions by addressees.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 GA. Limited Official Use. Drafted by P. T. Dunn, Thomas W. M. Smith, and J. Koehring; cleared by John W. McDonald; and approved by Ward P. Allen. Sent to USUN, Geneva, Paris for OECD, Montreal for ICAO, Rome for FODAG, Vienna for IAEA, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, London, and Santiago.
  2. Document 93.