Photo : © WHIB / P.Virot
Views of ECAFE headquarters, Sala Santitham (Peace Hall) in Bangkok, in 1966 and 1954.
“The Economic Commission for Asia and the
Far East [ECAFE, now ESCAP] was born to
another world. In 1947, there was hardly an
Asian region of independent sovereign nations.
Countries in Asia looked more toward
the West than the East.”
“At the first session of ECAFE, held in Shanghai in June 1947, there were only ten member countries – four Asian (China, India, the Philippines and Thailand) and six non-Asian countries (Australia, France, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States). It was therefore obvious that ECAFE was an organization for the region but not of the region”.
“Complementing its political instability in the 1940s was the stark poverty which could be observed throughout the region. Japan had a per-capita income of only US $100 in the late 1940s. Other countries were even poorer. Agriculture was the major occupation of the vast majority of people, and food security was the primary concern of most governments.”
“Between 1945 and 1960, most Asian states achieved their independence. But during this period, China ceased to be actively engaged in the UN system; controversy surrounded China’s seat in the United Nations. The Korean War also increased tensions considerably in Northeast Asia. During the period up to about 1960, colonialism and the influence of the former colonial powers were felt strongly within ECAFE, while Japan’s role was highly restricted.”
“From the mid-1970s .... countries in the region began to assert themselves on regional issues. Three great regional powers – China, India and Japan – were emerging, and by the 1990s they had even become global powers. The role of Japan within regional institutions, including ESCAP, was increasing.”
“ECAFE used to be referred to as the ‘Parliament of Asia’, a favourite phrase of executive secretary U Nyun. ESCAP has also stressed its role as a regional development forum”.
Leelananda de Silva, from UN Intellectual History Project Series, “Unity and Diversity in Development Ideas: Perspectives from the UN regional commissions”, Indiana University Press, 2004.