APRIL 8, 1949
NEW YORK, Thursday—Yesterday was the second day of the spring session of the General Assembly of the United Nations and instead of having a plenary meeting in Flushing, we were told to go out to Lake Success and begin our work on the committees. I was in my place in Conference Room No. 3 at 3 o'clock.
How familiar it all is! One difference, however, is that there are a number of new faces around the table. But even among the new faces there are people who are familiar with at least some of the items that are coming up for discussion and who have worked on them previously.
For instance, the delegate from The Netherlands was chairman of the Sub-commission on Freedom of Information, and the three conventions on Freedom of Information are going to be the first subjects taken up by the committee. In Paris we decided that these items would be the first business on our agenda at this session. However, the secretariat, in printing the journal for yesterday, listed the subjects according to an old schedule. Thereupon, the USSR, which always likes to follow the written word and the authoritative documents, felt that we should proceed as the secretariat had printed the journal. The rest of the committee, though, soon decided that a mistake need not become a reality in procedure, and we immediately began work on the first of the three covenants which the Economic and Social Council referred to us.
Because the Economic and Social Council had considered only one of these, the Soviet delegate thought we should refer them back to the Council for further study before taking them up. Again the vote of the committee decided that since the Council requested us to take them up, we were obligated to do so.
Then the United Kingdom delegation moved to dispense with formal, general statements on the whole question of Freedom of Information, and get down to brass tacks at once, discussing conventions, article by article. Again the Russian representatives remarked that they could not see why we should change the usual procedure in a matter as important as this and not discuss it with care. The committee evidently is conscious of the fact that our time is short and has decided to waste as little time as possible and so they voted again to start in on Article No. 1 at once.
Our delegation has an amendment for this article, but since there has been no time to have it circulated it was decided to give us a day of grace. All amendments to the three covenants must be in by midnight Saturday.
If this schedule is followed, we might be able to finish by the end of next week not only the three covenants but the resolutions referred to us on this subject by the Economic and Social Council. This would be a really remarkable achievement and one that most of us would welcome.
The first covenant deals with the transmission of news, censorship, and the acceptance of correspondents and the rules under which they work. Of course, there will be great differences of opinion, but on the whole it seems to me it should not be impossible for the majority of the member nations to come to an agreement on these subjects.