R Malinowski, 'Centralisation and Decentralisation in the United Nations Economic and Social Activities ', International Organisation,

In document The United Nations' Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) and India : a study in the politics of economic co-operation and initiative in Asia (Page 104-111)

such activities or redefine its terms of reference but this is largely a power on paper for reasons just mentioned above. In all these ways ECAFE's autonomy (in practice) vis-a-vis ECOSOC and the General

Assembly is far greater than its terms of reference suggest.

ECAFE's actual scope of activities became the subject of a lively debate the moment it was born. As the long term problem of economic development was not formally included in the Commission's terms of reference, these were, by no means, finally satisfactory to the Asian members and from the veiy outset this caused regional versus non-regional tension in the Commission. The Asian and the Western members differed fundamentally on their conceptions of the problem of post-war

reconstruction in Asia and the role which ECAFE should play in this respect. During the very first meeting of the Committee of the Whole, following the Commission's inaugural session in Shanghai, the Indian representative declared: 'We who belong to Asia are not looking for palliatives and short term remedies... Our own conception of the

reconstruction problem is that it is an integral part of the long-term problem of national development'.1 China and the Philippines also wholeheartedly endorsed the views expressed by India.

1

U.N. DOC.E/CN.11/AC.1/5, 10 July 1947> Summaiy Records of the ECAFE's Committee of the Whole, p.3« The difference between a meeting of the Committee of the Whole and the regular session of the Commission has not been specifically defined. The former is not a regular body and is, of course, devoid of the pomp and show of the latter. When at the annual session all the items on the agenda can not be covered for want of time, some of the work is assigned to a Committee of the Whole indicating thereby its business value.

As a matter of fact, the Asian countries had put high hopes on ECAFE in view of the phrase * in order to give effective aid to countries

devastated by war1 of the General Assembly's resolution recommending

ECOSOC to establish regional commissions. The announcement of the

Marshall offer for Europe in June 1947 spurred the move to make ECAFE an organisation capable of arranging an Asian recovery programme

similar to that of the Marshall Plan. Both India and China urged the

United States, the prospective donor, to be concerned more with what

was happening in Asia than in the Western Europe. At the ECAFE*s

Baguio session, in November 1947» both the leading Asian countries expressed the view that although ECAFE was not in a position to

undertake all the tasks expected of it by the peoples of the region, it could certainly present the requirements of the Asian countries before ECOSOC and other United Nations' organisations as well as to the United

States and the European members so that prior consideration could be assured and action (presumably by the United Nations) would follow.*'

Of all the non-regional members, the Soviet Union alone, for reasons of its own, supported the aspirations of the Asian countries

although no concrete offer of assistance was made. Declaring that the

peoples of Asia would no longer be content with a situation in which their economic policies were subordinated to the interests of the

metropolitan powers, the Soviet representative stressed that ' the main

1

U.N. DOC.E/CN.11/SR.24» ECAFE, SR., 2nd session, November 1947» P.5» Ibid., S.R.27, p.B.

task of ECAFE was the granting of assistance to peoples of this region in the rehabilitation or reconstruction of their economies in the directions of an independent industrial development which answered the basic interests of the people of these territories'. ^

In a definitely disappointing tone the Western Powers, on the other hand, warned the Asian members that the scope of international action regarding Asia's economic problems was limited and that they should proceed carefully. Having an entirely different conception of ECAFE in mind, the United Kingdom pointed out that if the Commission were to work along the lines suggested by some of the Asian delegates there was a danger that it might usurp functions of other international

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bodies. The final disappointment for India and other Asian countries with regard to ECAFE's role as an aid-channelling organisation was yet to come. The United States rebuked them for giving undue prominence to the question of external financial assistance. In her view ECAFE

should confine itself to a study of the reconstruction needs of the Asian countries. She advised regional members to lay stress on the national endeavours for augumented production and expanding foreign trade. As regards the need for foreign capital, the United States

advised them to make private foreign investment attractive by guarantees of freedom from discrimination and prospects of reasonable return.^

1

Ibid., SR.25, p.7. 2 Ibid., p.9. Ibid., SR.27, pp.4-6.

3

Thus w ith in a few months o f th e e s ta b lis h m e n t o f ECAFE th e new Asian s t a t e s l e a r n t an im p o rta n t le s s o n i n th e f i e l d o f p o l i t i c a l e n lig h te n m e n t i n t h a t th e y d is c o v e re d t h a t th e f a c t s of i n t e r n a t i o n a l

l i f e were n o t a s th e y th o u g h t th^y sh o u ld b e . They r e a l i z e d t h a t

ECAFE was n o t l i k e l y to assume an im p o rta n t r o l e i n th e procurem ent o f e x te r n a l a s s i s t a n c e as th e p r o s p e c tiv e donors would p r e f e r b i l a t e r a l

a rra n g e m e n ts. T h is le d to a more s e a rc h in g e x am in atio n o f th e

p o t e n t i a l i t i e s o f th e Commission as a body, which c o u ld s e r v e as a forum f o r d is c u s s io n o f th e r e g i o n 's economic problem s and a s a means o f p o o lin g t h e i r own e x p e r ie n c e s and deducing g u id an ce p a r t i c u l a r l y i n th e f i e l d o f i n d u s t r i a l developm ent.

T h is a ls o r e v iv e d th e o r i g i n a l d e b a te w hether ECAFE sh o u ld co n ce rn i t s e l f w ith th e long term economic developm ent o f th e r e g io n a l c o u n t r i e s , o r sh o u ld m erely c o n fin e i t s work to i n v e s t i g a t i o n s o f r e c o n s t r u c t io n

problem s and n e e d s. The A sian c o u n t r i e s i n s i s t e d t h a t th e Commission

must u n d e rta k e some c o n c r e te a c t i o n f o r t h e i r i n d u s t r i a l i s a t i o n (which

to them meant n o th in g b u t th e developm ent of heavy i n d u s t r y ) . At th e

C om m ission's f o u r t h s e s s i o n , i n November 1948, th e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of I n d ia s u p p o rte d by China and th e P h i l i p p i n e s i n s i s t e d t h a t i t was h ig h tim e f o r th e Commission to s t a r t som ething c o n c r e te t o meet th e

i n d u s t r i a l i s a t i o n problem s i n A sia . P o in tin g t o th e p h rase 'm easures

f o r f a c i l i t a t i n g c o n c e rte d a c t i o n 1 , i n th e C om m ission's te rm s of

r e f e r e n c e , he argued t h a t i f th e com m ission c o n tin u e d m erely to u n d e rta k e s t u d i e s and i n v e s t i g a t i o n s , a sen se o f f r u s t r a t i o n m ight a r i s e th ro u g h la c k o f a c tio n .* '

U.N. DOC.E/CN.1l/S R .48-9> ECAFE, SR, 4 th s e s s i o n , November 1948.

But d i s i l l u s i o n m e n t was bound to s e t i n . The W estern Pow ers d id n o t lo o k w ith f a v o u r a t t h e e n th u s ia s m f o r heavy i n d u s t r i e s among A sia n c o u n t r i e s . They view ed t h i s a s a t h r e a t t o t h e i r own econom ic i n t e r e s t s and p r e f e r r e d A sia t o re m a in an a g r i c u l t u r a l economy. V /hile t h e U n ite d Kingdom d is h e a r t e n e d A sian members i n a somewhat vague la n g u a g e , i . e . ,

’ th e sco p e f o r i n t e r n a t i o n a l a c t i o n f o r i n d u s t r i a l i s a t i o n was s t r i c t l y l i m i t e d ’ , t h e U n ite d S t a t e s made i t c l e a r t h a t ’ i t w ould be

i n a p p r o p r i a t e and beyond i t s te rm s of r e f e r e n c e i f t h e Com m ission t r i e d to assum e o p e r a t i o n a l f u n c t i o n s i n r e g a r d t o i n d u s t r i a l r e c o n s t r u c t i o n and e x p a n s io n i n i n d i v i d u a l c o u n t r i e s ’ . F u r th e r m o re , c i t i n g th e

exam ple of New Z e a la n d , w hich had l i t t l e r e le v a n c e t o A sian c o n d i t i o n s , th e A m erican r e p r e s e n t a t i v e a sk e d th e A sian members to b e a r i n mind t h a t heavy i n d u s tr y was n o t e s s e n t i a l to im prove s ta n d a r d s o f l i v i n g .

-I

Almost a l l W estern Fow ers a d v is e d them to d e v e lo p s m a ll i n d u s t r i e s . Once a g a in , th e S o v ie t U nion a lo n e o f a l l non—re g i o n a l members, i n a

1

The n e g a t iv e a t t i t u d e o f th e W estern Pow ers i n ECAFE was so i r r i t a t i n g t h a t t h e P h i l i p p i n e s , f o r m a lly p ro p o s e d , two s e s s i o n s l a t e r i n May 1950, t h a t th e Comm ission ’ ta k e a d e f i n i t e s ta n d i n f a v o u r o f s e l e c t e d

i n d u s t r i a l i s a t i o n a s a means o f i n c r e a s i n g th e low l e v e l o f employment and incom e e x i s t i n g i n th e r e g i o n '. The P h i l i p p i n e s d e l e g a t e e x p la in e d t h a t he had o b se rv e d th r o u g h o u t s e v e r a l s e s s i o n s o f ECAFE t h a t when i t came to a f u l l s ta te m e n t o f i t s s ta n d on i n d u s t r i a l i s a t i o n t h e r e had alw ays b e e n some h e s i t a t i o n . The W este rn Pow ers w ere p u z z le d and th e y s u g g e s te d t h a t i t sh o u ld be d i s c u s s e d a s t h e l a s t ite m . I n an a tte m p t to a v o id e m b a rra s s in g th e W estern Pov/ers some o f t h e A sian c o u n t r i e s , p a r t i c u l a r l y P a k i s t a n , o b s e rv e d t h a t su ch a r e s o l u t i o n was u n n e c e s s a r y a s t h e Comm ission was n o t a g a i n s t i n d u s t r i a l i s a t i o n . The P h i l i p p i n e r e s o l u t i o n was n e v e r d is c u s s e d a g a in i n view o f su ch f e e l i n g s .

somewhat propaganda m anner, em phasized th e need f o r heavy in d u s tr y so t h a t A sian c o u n t r i e s would n o t rem ain m erely so u rc e s of raw m a te r ia ls

In document The United Nations' Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) and India : a study in the politics of economic co-operation and initiative in Asia (Page 104-111)