My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

LONDON—General de Gaulle's resignation perhaps came as a surprise to many people, but I'm quite sure there must be a number of other statesmen, struggling with difficulties in their own countries, who must wish that they could follow his example.

Of course, it is extremely difficult for men trained in the military tradition to lead a country under a democratic form of government during a period of stress, strain and change. Everyone will have sympathy for De Gaulle's feelings if they understand his problems. But they will also, I think, have sympathy with whoever now has to take hold, and with the people of France, who must have a great feeling of uncertainty about their future.

For those who lead nations, the period after a war is very hard. The incentive to sacrifice is over, and yet many of the problems are as difficult, and sometimes more difficult than if the war were still on. When you consider the problems that have arisen in Britain and the United States, and realize how much these are multiplied in every country in Europe, it makes you very sympathetic towards those who have to carry the burdens of state at the present time. Patience is certainly going to be a virtue in the war-torn countries for years to come.

* * *

Monday morning, I attended the meeting of the Assembly's Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. I think it should be clearly understood that this committee received from the Preparatory Commission a very carefully prepared group of recommendations. We are not meeting to take up what shall actually be done, but to recommend to the Economic and Social Council that they appoint certain commissions to study given subjects.

There was on the agenda a recommendation that the Economic and Social Council should establish a commission on human rights. This seems to me very important, since the Preparatory Commission suggests that it shall formulate an international Bill of Rights—make recommendations for an international declaration or convention on such matters as civil liberties, the status of women, freedom of information, protection of minorities, and prevention of discrimination on grounds of race, sex, language or religion. A few other matters come under this heading, but these alone will show you that such a commission is almost a necessity if we are to build peace.

The second recommendation was for the establishment of a temporary social commission. The Preparatory Commission's report stresses the fact that it seems premature to recommend a permanent commission in this field, since the word "social" embraces such a wide variety of topics. A temporary commission is essential, however, because there must be a general review of international organizations in the social field and there must be particular consideration of the activities of the League of Nations in this field.

Pending the establishment of permanent machinery, the Economic and Social Council should authorize a temporary commission to take over, on an interim basis, the work of the League of Nations on social questions and to deal with other social problems requiring immediate attention.

The third point on the agenda was the establishment of a commission on narcotic drugs—a recommendation which was supported by China and with which, of course, we also concurred.

The fourth point dealt with the establishment of a demographic commission.

In its report, the Preparatory Commission had put the first three in a group of "must" commissions, and the fourth in a group of commissions which either should be established immediately or in the near future. There was some discussion on this, as a delegate from Canada pointed out that population studies and the question of the migration of peoples are of first importance in dealing with the causes of war. Nevertheless, I think the Preparatory Commission realized that the Economic and Social Council should be left some latitude as to when a demographic commission should be set up, since to do such work well would require trained people who might not be available immediately.

That ended our work for the morning. The chairman of the committee, Peter Fraser of New Zealand, is an extremely good chairman. He gave everyone an opportunity to be heard, and yet, in spite of translations which take time, the work of the committee moved forward smoothly.

A number of people thought they should say something in this committee about the ultimate things which they hoped would be studied by the various commissions, if set up. I hope, however, that no one is going to feel that, having said their say, they will not have to repeat their position before the commissions, which will make recommendations to the Economic and Social Council. It is most important that every member register before those commissions the position of his nation as represented by the deliberations of his whole delegation on various subjects.