STREETGTHENINQ THE COMMISSION AND ITS FORKING METHODS

U. N Economic Survey for Asia and the Far East (1961), Chapter 1

political issue in Indian politics and demanded that the whole relevant portion of the Survey be withdrawn. During the Commission’s eighteenth session, however, the Indian representative, much to the relief of the Executive Secretary, let if off more easily than expected and explained that the remarks in the Survey were not quite true and that the government did not discriminate against the private sector.'*' The Soviet

representative likewise found the Survey 'unjustified' in extolling

private enterprise and minimising the role of the public sector. Indonesia found the Survey 'misleading and obscure' as it attributed difficulties of Indonesian economy to domestic and not external factors. Pakistan rebuked the Secretariat for excluding her from case-studies of economic

2

growth and thereby dismissing her planning experiences almost cursorily. ECAFE, she also charged , was pleading the cause of a particular country

(presumably India) by commenting in the Survey that certain countries were

3

more favoured by Pakistan in the matter of foreign trade than others. Such criticisms voiced at the Commission's Tokyo session did not go

unheeded and the published version of the Survey for 1961 was appropriately toned down.

Working under such limiting conditions the Secretariat research work has passed through three stages - each reflecting the work of a more

T

U.N. Doc. E / C N . H /594, ECAFE, SR. 18th session, 1962, p.70.

2

Ibid., p p.84 and 54* The rest of Pakistan's remarks have not been included in the summary records of the Commission.

mature and more confident secretariat, as also the greater latitude given to it, somewhat reluctantly, hy the regional members extremely

sensitive to adverse comments in the Secretariat’s publications. In

the first stage (

1947

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54

) it confined its attempts at collecting and

presenting, in a systematic way, data and other information on economic

conditions in Asian countries. In the second stage (1955-8)» when most

of the regional countries had undertaken economic development work, the Secretariat turned its emphasis to problems of economic development looking at problems from a regional viewpoint (even if most of the regional countries were little concerned with the economy of the region

as a whole). Beginning in 1959» ECAFE research work has entered the

third stage of dealing intensively with specific topics and arriving at more policy-oriented analysis of subjects such as programming techniques and statistics, special studies on population growth, community

development, administrative aspects of planning^long-term projections of regional economy and the studies suggesting ways and means of promoting

intra-regional economic co-operation in trade and industry. To what

extent Asian countries utilize ECAFE's policy-oriented researches and recommendations is difficult to know (one would suspect that even the Secretariat does not know) as member countries are not obliged to report on these matters to the Commission.

Implementation of Commission Recommendations:

Recommendations and draft conventions are the most well-known

for making their effect felt on the member governments. The first,

though easier, is less effective than the second. ECAFE has been content with, or rather it has to be content with^recommendations. India was never happy that the Commission had to depend on the goodwill and understanding of the member governments for carrying out its purposes. At the Commission’s fifth session, in keeping with its policy of making ECAFE as effective as possible, she formally moved a resolution whereby the Secretariat would enquire to what extent the member and associate member governments have implemented Commission recommendations, outline reasons (in case of nor>-implementation) given by governments as to why they failed to do so and to suggest measures to secure implementation of Commission recommendations. Fully aware of the fact that this was a very delicate matter the representative of India explained that the suggestion was not of a new character. The General Assembly and ECOSOC looked

into implementation of their resolutions. There was no question of

forcing the resolutions on the government but only to find out bottlenecks and difficulties faced by them.^

The Soviet Union, in keeping with its extreme concern least her sovereignty be infringed - an attitude exhibited initially in most international organisations - strongly opposed the resolution which appeared to her to give the ECAFE Secretariat a measure of pressure over the governments in this matter. What right the Commission had, she asked,

T

to allow the Secretariat to suggest measures to secure implementation of recommendations? Of all the regional members only Thailand opposed the resolution on the ground that it would put ’great power of

evaluation’ of the work of governments in the hands of the Executive

Secretary.'12'

To meet their objections the Indian representative deleted a clause, i.e., asking the Secretariat to suggest measures to secure implementation, and accepted a Burmese suggestion for rewording a phrase (which asked

’why’ they failed to implement) as it might arouse sensitivity among the member governments. He further reinforced his plea for an effective

action by the Commission by pointing out that they have to show to ECOSOC, when it would consider continuance of the Commission in 1951, in a more practical way the results of its work* Most of the other members agreed to his view that no power of control was to be given to the Secretariat

2

and the resolution was adopted by seven votes to three.

Although the member governments had agreed to the enquiries regarding implementation of recommendations, they had done so only in order not to give the impression that they were indifferent to the work of the Commission. Very few liked to explain the reasons for not being able

to do what the Commission wished them to do. At the following annual meeting,

1

Ibid. , SR.70, Oct. 1949, pp.9-10.

2

Ibid., p.12. The Soviet Union asked that its objections be put on

therefore, all of them agreed to an United Kingdom suggestion that it was desirable to limit the Commission’s study to those resolutions on which inquiries addressed to governments might be expected to yield

specific and useful information. An ad hoc Sub-Committee consisting of

the United Kingdom (chairman), India, Burma and the Philippines was assigned the task of suggesting the type of resolutions suitable for enquiries regarding implementation,^

The ad hoc Sub-Committee on implementation of ECAFE recommendations classified the resolutions in three categories: (l) resolutions on which information was required from the Secretariat as to action taken;

(2) resolutions where enquiry should be made into the question of

implementation, and (3) resolutions which did not warrant further enquiry. It is significant that most of the important resolutions involving

governmental commitments were placed in the third category and relatively unimportant (or unobjectionable) recommendations were sorted out for

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enquiry. At its Lahore session the Commission ’expressed the hope’ that

Ibid., SR.75-6, May 1950.

2

The classification of the ECAFE recommendations was as follows:

Category (l) Exchange of visits of officials between governments, statistical and economic documentation, technical training and use of expert assistance, appeal to producing countries, FAO and other specialised agencies, for

bringing down prices of all essential commodities etc.

Category (2) Nomination of liaison officers by governments, interregional trade, agricultural requisites, travel facilities, measures to promote trade, statistics etc.

Category (3) Industrial development, financing of capital goods and materials for economic development, trade between ECAFE countries and Japan etc.

(Do c.E/CN.11/aC. I4/I, 19 May 1950, Report of the Ad hoc sub-committee on

governments would give continuous attention to implementation of its recommendations and unanimously decided, at the initiative of India and the United States, to request the Executive Secretary to submit a report

on this matter at the intervals of three years.'1'

In view of the confidential nature of such enquiries it is difficult to know to what extent member governments co-operated with the Secretariat in its task of evaluating implementation of the Commission recommendations. But it is clear from the public record that the experience of the

Secretariat in this matter was one of disappointment. During the Kandy

session, i.e., v/hen the first review was due, the Executive Secretary proposed that the Commission might wish to review its resolution on this subject in view of the fact that the benefits derived by the countries of the region were sometimes ’intangible’, and not related to specific

recommendations, and that a 'mere recital' of their implementation did not give a complete picture of the impact of the Commission on the region. The Commission accepted his suggestion to appoint an ad hoc Committee after an interval of four or five years to visit the regional countries to undertake a periodic broad assessment of the impact of its work and

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activities on the policies and actions of the governments.

The proposed ad hoc Committee never came into being. Three years later the experience of the Secretariat in this respect led it to propose

T

ECOSOC, OR., 13th session, Suplt. 7» ECAFE Report - March 1951» p.40.

U.N. Doc.E/Cn.II/

389

, ECAFE, SR. 10th session, 1954» p.229*

•to the Commission's thirteenth session to discontinue the practice of periodic report on implementation of its recommendations on the ground that in view of the Commission's ever increasing recommendations it was difficult for the regional governments to shoulder the 'burden' of

replying to a 'Comprehensive Questionnaire'. This was agreed to and the

Commission requested its subsidiary bodies - the Committees, sub-committees and working parties - to review how far and in what manner member governments gave effect to its recommendations.^ In fact, no systematic assessment

of the effectiveness of the Commission's recommendations is ever made

either by its subsidiary bodies or the Secretariat. The latter simply

infers, for its own satisfaction, either from the speeches of the delegates, or through personal contacts with national officials, the implementation of ECAFE recommendations*

Conscious of such limitations, ECAFE has been trying out several methods to make itself more effective. As the member governments either have inadequate resources or have not been very keen to carry out ECAFE recommendations, the Commission feels satisfied with resolutions or recommendations which carry broad exhortations to its members to strive towards broad objectives* The technique of draft convention was tried

only once. It seems to have been given up for ever. In 1953 the Commission

instructed the Secretariat to prepare a draft convention to establish uniform methods for the measurement and registration of inland watercraft. The Secretariat prepared a draft convention and it was signed in 1956

1

by Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, South Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand. The signatories, however, have failed to ratify the convention because the governments concerned do not want to give up their right to control internal water traffic whenever political circumstances demand it.1

Of late, ECAFE has evolved some intermediate-type methods of giving effect to its recommendations. In January 19^1, for instance, the Committee on Trade accepted a suggestion by the Secretariat and the Working Party on Customs Administration to put its recommendations in the form of an 'ECAFE Code of Recommended Customs Procedures' for the adoption by national customs administrations. The Code is a list of procedures which have been agreed to by a majority of countries of the ECAFE region to be procedures which are desirable in the interest of sound customs administration, with particular reference to the need for facilitating the flow of international trade. It was thought that by putting its recommendations in the form of a code on customs procedures it would give them a more permanent character and a somewhat more formal position than would be the case in a report of the Working Party. The

regional member governments were asked to notify the Secretariat within six months of the recommendations not accepted and the reasons therefor. This was stipulated to give the Working Party a better basis for a

periodical review of progress, through a study of exceptions required

rather than of implementation effected. In order to meet the sensitivities

of some countries of the region the Secretariat and the Working Party took pains to emphasize that the Code was neither mandatory, nor meant to replace any of the existing customs laws (although the code might necessitate amendments in some laws).^

A significant technique employed by ECAFE for promoting regional co-operation is the convening of exclusive intra-regional conferences. As mentioned earlier, most of the non-regional members did not like ECAFE to assume functions beyond those of research and dissemination of

information. Above all, they utilized, in the early stages, their

superior voting strength to thwart proposals sponsored by some countries

of the region. From the very beginning, therefore, leading Asian

members, particularly India, and the Executive Secretary Lokanathan were

keen on devising ways and means to minimise their influence. They finally

decided in 1950 to do something in this connection. ECOSOC was to review the v/ork of the regional Commissions in 1951 and take a decision on

their continuation. Assuming that ECAFE would be made a permanent

Commission, they felt that ECOSOC be requested to put restrictions on

2

the role of the non-regional members in the Commission.

U.N. Doc. E/CN.ll/Trade/L.40, 30 Nov. i

960

, Report of the Working Party

on Customs Administration (2nd session), to the Committee on Trade (Fourth

session), pp.

7

-

14

«

2

Several people have several stories to tell about the immediate cause of this decision which is known as the Lahore Convention. A very senior former ECAFE official, still in Bangkok in an other capacity, informed the author that the decision was precipitated by the activities of the British delegate who pressed for recognition of Communist China. This seems

hardly convincing in view of the fact that the initiative for the Lahore

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 191-200)