4. ASSUMING THE PRESIDENCY OF ECOSOC
One of the important highlights of my second assignment in New York as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador was assuming the Presidency of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1970. I had been elected Vice-President soon after assuming my duties with the Indonesian Mission to UN. Despite my absence of four years many members were already familiar with my activities during my first assignment (1960-1965). During that period I had been elected as Chairman of several important UN conferences and bodies. It came therefore as no surprise that the following year I was elected as President of ECOSOC in 1970 for the 48th and 49th sessions of ECOSOC. This marked a historic year for the United Nations because 1970 coincided with the 25th anniversary of the signing of Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco.
The UN is charged with promoting in the economic and social field:
Higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development; solutions on international economic, social, health and related problems; nternational cultural and educational co-operation; universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex language or religion.
Responsibilities for discharging these functions are vested in the General Assembly, and under its authority, in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
By 1970 membership of ECOSOC, originally 18 members was increased to 27 and further enlarged to 54 members. At the time the pattern of the geographical distribution of seats were as follows: 15 member from African states, 12 from Asian states, 11 from Latin America and Caribbean states 5 from Eastern Europe, 10 from Western European and other states.
Eighteen members from ECOSOC were elected each year. Members serve for three years, usually beginning on 1 January and ending on 31 December.
The year-round work of the Council was carried out by its subsidiary bodies consisting of various commissions and committees which met at regular intervals and reported back to the Council.
These included six functional commissions, five regional commissions including ESCAP, six standing committees and a number of expert bodies.
In my opening statement as president, I noted that the theme of the 25th jubilee was “Peace, Justice and Progress” and that this theme should be reflected in the deliberations and actions of the Council. I further stated that the United Nations should provide leadership in devising more effective approaches to the problems of development and in making development a genuine international effort. I concluded by saying that the connection between global development and international peace was evident to all. What was now needed was a broader vision capable of reviving the flagging will of the rich countries to make the necessary adjustment in their policies, particularly on trade and aid.
United Nations development decade
I made specific references to these themes since the main subject to be deliberated and agreed upon by ECSOC during my first session as president was the strategy for the second United Nations development decade. In the 1960s both the General Assembly and ECOSOC increasingly stressed the need for an unified approach to economic and social planning in order to promote balanced and sound development.
The emphasis on unified development was reflected in the Declaration
On social progress and development, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1969. The world community had been preparing to designate the 1970s as the second United Nations development decade.
The preparatory work for this, undertaken by various UN specialized agencies had been much more elaborate than for the first UN development decade and included instituting specific measures and establishing targets to chart the progress and implementation.
The very limited accomplishment of the member states and the United Nations and its family of sister agencies had let some observers to label the decade as a decade of disappointment and even a decade of frustration. But although there is some validity in this assessment, we should not lose sight of the fact that we have learned many lessons from the experience of the first UN development decade. It is also worth remembering that in launching the first development decade, the United Nations has given some sort of inspirational concept and focussed the attention of the world community on the need for economic and social development, since no national security can be achieved without international progress and development.
The divergent views on international strategy for the next 10 years reflected different approaches to economic management, planning and development. On the one hand there were delegates from centrally planned economies of USSR and Eastern Europe who insisted on the need to first put international relations on a “normal” footing and whose concern leaned more towards achieving more political support in such areas as universal disarmament and freedom from colonial rule.
They declared their willingness to expand co-operation with developing countries on the basis of practical and sound economic proposals. On the other hand were representatives of industrialized countries of North America and Western Europe who embraced the free market concept. They emphasized that economic progress ultimately rested with the developing countries themselves and called for a wide-range of budgetary, institutional and social reforms to suit the requirements for an accelerated development. New skills and attitudes would have to be incalculated in the people to enable development plans to be deployed as effective instruments for economic and social development. Caught in the middle were the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America with their varying degrees of economic development. Those delegates wanted to include specific numerical targets as part of development strategy. They perceived that the issues involved was the transfer of net financial resources from the developed countries equivalent to 1% of their gross national product for the promotion of economic and social progress in the developing world. They pressed a target of official aid amounting to .75% of the gross national product. They also called for urgent action to redress their debt problem, and greater access to the markets of the developed world with the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers within a specified period on imports of developing countries.
It was not an easy task to forge a consensus. On several occasions I had to intervene personally and even called for several informal meetings to calm the situation. I impressed upon the delegates the historical significance of this silver jubilee session and that the world community is anxiously waiting for its result. One could not expect the world problems to be solved during this session. One must have patience and perseverance and that one could only progress gradually.
Ultimately under my guidance ECOSOC adopted a resolution consisting of two parts: One focusing on the completion of an international development strategy for the 1970s and the second on procedures for evaluating the progress in implementing the strategy.
The first part of the resolution contained a number of substantive of policy matters to be to worked out by the second committee. These included, among others, setting target dates for the transfer of resources from the developed to the developing countries and for the terms and conditions of assistance, achieving a timetable to expand international trade; instituting adjustment of assistance measures. The Council also stressed the significance of specific time dimension in the implementation of policy measures to achieve the goals and objectives of the development decade.
In the second part of the resolution the Council expressed its readiness to assist the General Assembly in conducting an over-all review and appraisal of progress in implementing the strategy. After lengthy debate the Second Committee agreed with the text of the proposed policy measures and the General Assembly subsequently adopted the strategy and the Second United Nations Development Decade from 1971 to 1981 that was officially launched.
The Council had to discuss also the reports from the functional commissions, the regional commissions and from the ad hoc committees.
Among other notable action taken by the counsel during my Presidency were the decisions urging the Commission on Narcotic drugs to consider short and long term policy measures for integrated international action against drug abuse, and
recommendation establishing a natural disaster emergency fund to respond to obvious and immediate needs. The Council also recommended to the General Assembly to establish the United Nations Volunteer Program as of January 1971 setting in motion a new venture in international brotherhood. The Council further decided to transform itself into a more effective and viable instrument for policy formulation in the economic and social field. Coincidently during the discussion on the regional commission reports, it was decided that Bangkok should become the permanent seat of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Bangkok had served as ECAFE’s temporary headquarters since 1949 when it was moved from Shanghai after the victory of communist forces in China. Little did I know then that one day I would move into ECAFE headquarters myself.
In the introduction to my final report as President of ECOSOC to the 25th General Assembly in 1970, I concluded with the following observations
“The progress of the world as a single, unified community requires an enlarged perspective for action, broader than the narrow ideologies pursued. A exclusive national interest should make place for a broader view and a new awareness of the interdependency of the world community. The time has come to re-examine, not only the role of the ECOSOC but also the administrative machinery of the United Nations on which the whole system is founded. We must spark a new enthusiasm that will bring about a true conception of a new world order, in which each individual must become aware of his place and each nation realize its responsibility. This is an ambitious task, but there is no difficulty that political will cannot overcome”.
I consider it a great honour to have presided over one of the United Nations important bodies. My stewardship of ECOSOC will therefore remain a significant achievement in my diplomatic career.