The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Wednesday —I learned again yesterday that being convinced that one's own position is a sensible and wise one does not at all mean that one can persuade other people to agree!

In the United Nations, as in so many other fields, if you make an appeal that seems to be humanitarian, people cease to think. They just feel. So it was yesterday in the case of a resolution on refugees and stateless persons. The question was: What should happen when the International Refugee Organization comes to an end in 1951.

Committee Three decided to turn down the Byelo-Russian resolution which concerned only repatriation and which said that the IRO has not accomplished this task. That indicated that the majority of the committee understood that this resolution was really aimed at pushing repatriation and paid as little attention as possible to those refugees who might not desire repatriation.

On the point, however, of what refugees should be placed in the care of a high commissioner, the French wording, which would seem to us of the United States delegation, rather vague, was accepted in preference to more precise wording.

It was decided to have the General Assembly elect the high commissioner rather than to have him appointed by the Secretary-General. This sets a precedent. Up to now no executive officer has been elected by the General Assembly, except for the fact that it has been decided just recently to elect a High Commissioner for Libya, which is really on a different footing than the administrative job of a high commissioner for refugees. The latter's work would have to be closely integrated with that of the Secretary-General.

Lastly, the committee decided to state now that the high commissioner could receive funds and engage in material relief activities as well as undertaking the purely protective activities that were envisioned by the United States as the only essential service to be rendered to most of the refugees after IRO comes to an end.

If we engage in material relief, it will be practically impossible to make a budget. No nation will know what they may perhaps be called upon to contribute. The United States felt under such a loosely drawn document which made heavy responsibilities possible without defining them, they could not accept responsibility and for that reason they voted against the resolution as a whole. We were outvoted and it is evident that the majority of the Committee desires to give relief as well as protection. Therefore those who voted for this we feel sure will be prepared to assume the actual responsibility.

There was a roll call on the question of material relief, so the record of those who wish to assume this responsibility is clear. It interested me because in the past I remember the speeches of various delegates on the inadvisability of accepting a pig in a poke and it seems to me that this is really what the committee has done! It is true that one may agree that the Committee has only made it possible for the High Commissioner to do certain things, that he is not obligated to do them, but it would seem to me better to say definitely what is meant and not to leave it so vague. I can, however, only express the point of view of the United States and since we were outvoted on every point we can but accept the vote of the majority, making clear that we do not accept these responsibilities.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 17, 1949

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.