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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 5. 1965.

Ecafe Harmony

Ecafe Harmony

While the United Nations General Assembly is almost paralysed over the fees and membership issue, one of its regional bodies has just completed a highly successful conference in New Zealand.

Last month the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East held its 21st session in Wellington.

The Ecafe session was primarily an economic conference, largely devoid of political squabbling. It was in fact a prime example of Asian regional co-operation.

The majority of member countries are at loggerheads with each other over some issue or another —their differences ranging from territorial fishing rights to the disputed ownership of an isolated Buddhist temple.

Yet within the confines of ECAFE all political squabbles seemed to be forgotten. The delegates were working together at the Wellington session in state of near-perfect harmony.

John Harlow, Salient correspondent to the ECAFE conference reports:

At the close of the session Executive Secretary, U Nyun, told a Press conference that "Asia has wasted enough time already bickering about national boundaries, water rights and so forth." He believed all political trouble would be washed away eventually. "More projects, such as the Mekong project, will get these countries into the habit of working together" he told reporters. When asked about the absence of Indonesia from the session he replied, "Because one club member does not come to a meeting for one or two days it does not make it necessary for me to write to him and ask him if he's left the club."

Speaking on the harmony between delegates at the session, U Nyun said, "We are proud of the fact that all our votes are unanimous." The session had gained a concensus of agreement of all participants including the USA and the USSR."

The main purpose of the ECAFE conference, sometimes referred to as the Economic Parliament of Asia, was to aid the Commission's work during the coming year. As well as continuing with work already initiated, ECAFE will have to concern itself with several new commitments that emerged from the latest session.

Possibly the most important of these is the Asian Development Bank. It is hoped that when the Bank is established it will have a capital of 1000 million dollars. In the commission's view this would result in mobilising new and additional capital for projects not adequately financed by existing institutions. The main emphasis of the bank, as the name implies, will be on economic development, not just borrowing and lending money.

The Ecafe session also provided statesmen and economists their first opportunity to exchange views on an Asian international forum about the effects of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Last year's ECAFE session in Tehran was held almost immediately before the Trade Conference. It provided a preview of the problems that were to come up in Geneva and helped to clarify, and to a large extent unite, Asian thinking on the outstanding issues at stake. Now, nine months later, Asian delegates attending the Wellington session of ECAFE had a hard look at the outcome of the Geneva conference and compared it with the economic situation in Asia today.

They followed up their work in Geneva by pursuading the session to adopt a resolution embodying the main Unctad proposals. This resolution "strongly" urged the developed countries to take speedy action on such major problems as:

Providing access to their markets for primary commodities at remunerative prices.

Aiding the expansion of exports of manufactured and semimanufactured goods.

International financial cooperation on an adequate scale and on more favourable terms.

And solving international transport problems particularly in shipping and transit trade of land-locked countries.