My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Wednesday—The sins of the past are rising up to make life difficult for us today in many ways! In the Human Rights Commission last Monday one of the most evident examples came to light. The delegate from Chile presented an article to be attached to an article already passed in general terms on the right of self-determination. This article stated that the right of people to self-determination included the economic right to control all of their natural resources and not to be deprived of their use or their means of existence by the action of any outside power.

The article was loosely drawn and could be intepreted in many ways. Therefore, as it was for inclusion in a legal document, the United States was opposed to it. I recognized at once, however, the reason why this article received such immediate consideration from all the underdeveloped countries sitting around the table. All those who have to borrow capital were in favor of it.

The reason came out in private conversations. One after the other told me how contracts had been made and natural resources granted for development, and then either they were left undeveloped or developed for a short time and closed down to meet some world situation and keep the price of some article at the desired level.

People would be thrown out of work under these circumstances; royalties would not be paid to the government, which would result in higher taxes for the people.

I pointed out that all these abuses could be remedied by better contracts; that the difficulty they had labored under was unfair and unsafe contracts, but that an article phrased in the way they were proposing would result in no capital being available for development. No nation is going to risk its taxpayers' money outside its own country if there is no regard for contractural agreements, and no group of private individuals is going to feel that they can risk their money or their clients' money without proper safeguards.

One recognizes the evils that underdeveloped nations were trying to correct, but one also fears that they are cutting off their sources of future supply for development.

For those of us who take a serious view of the obligations imposed by a covenant drawn in treaty form, such articles as this create great obstacles. It may be possible to make reservations, but what amounts practically to confiscation of property of foreigners without compensation being legalized by a treaty is going to be extremely difficult for a great many nations to accept.

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Monday I attended a tea at Pakistan House to greet the new Ambassador, His Excellency, Mr. Mohammed Ali, and Begum Mohammed Ali. They are very charming people and it was a very delightful party.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL