Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) and the Legal Adviser (Phleger) to the Secretary of State1
- United States Policy Concerning Proposed Covenants on Human Rights
In accordance with our conversations concerning United States policy for the next session of the UN” Commission on Human Rights which opens in Geneva on April 7, it is proposed that Mrs. Oswald B. Lord point out in the Commission that in the present stage of international relations it is the opinion of the United States that there are more effective ways to promote the human rights objectives of the UN Charter than through the drafting of the proposed Covenants on Human Rights; that a greater degree of general acceptance of goals in this field must be achieved before it will be useful to draft treaties of the scope of the proposed Covenants; and that the Commission on Human Rights should accordingly give attention and emphasis to means other than the Covenants for making progress toward the human rights goals of the UN Charter. (Tab A)
Mrs. Lord is asked to point out to the Commission on Human Rights that the United States attaches great importance to the achievement of the human rights goals of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and accordingly is prepared to support at this session of the Commission the following means for the achievement of these goals:
- The institution of world-wide surveys by the Commission on Human Rights on various aspects of human rights, through the assistance of a rapporteur appointed by the Commission. The first two subjects suggested are freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial. The rapporteur would consult non-governmental organizations as well as governments and the Specialized Agencies for relevant data for submission [Page 1557] to the Commission. The report of the rapporteur would be considered in the Commission on Human Rights and general recommendations are anticipated relating to the particular subject discussed. The procedure proposed here is similar to that already undertaken by the UN Economic and Social Council in the field of freedom of information.
- Annual reports on developments in the field of human rights from each Member Government of the United Nations, prepared in each instance with the assistance of a national advisory committee, such reports to be considered in the Commission at the time the survey reports of the proposed rapporteur are submitted. The proposed national advisory committee on human rights would be appointed by the Secretary of State and would be available on a consultative basis to assist in the preparation of the annual reports to be prepared under the general supervision of the Department of State.
- The establishment of advisory services on specific aspects of human rights defined by the UN Economic and Social Council, such services to be in the form of experts going to countries requesting the services, scholarships and fellowships being provided for training abroad and arrangements for seminars. These services would be along the lines of other advisory services now being provided in the United Nations in the economic, social and public administration fields. (Tab B)
It is recommended that you approve the proposals in this memorandum. Mrs. Lord will be given instructions along the lines set forth in this memorandum for the next session of the Commission. Mrs. Lord has reviewed the proposals in this memorandum and considers them satisfactory.[Page 1559]
- Drafted by the Officer in Charge, UN Cultural and Human Rights Affairs (Simsarian). This memorandum was cleared with the geographic bureaus, a normal procedure with many questions affecting U.S. policy at the United Nations (each bureau had an UN adviser who acted in a liaison capacity between each bureau and the Bureau of UN Affairs). In this particular instance the clearance of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs was rather ambiguously qualified, the clearance being conditioned upon views expressed in a memorandum of Mar. 20, 1953 by the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs (Cabot) to the Director of the Office of UN Economic and Social Affairs (Kotschnig), regarding specific items on the agenda of the Human Rights Commission. Assistant Secretary Cabot seems to have been concerned that the Latin American states might be criticized for violations of human rights if certain procedures were adopted. Cabot wrote: “We should avoid, as far as possible, procedures which are likely to result in a situation where countries which are basically anxious to cooperate with the UN would receive a substantial share of the criticism, while the countries which are the major violators of human rights would be able to avoid much, if any, criticism.” (340.1 AG/3–2053)↩
- There is no sub-paragraph c in the source text.↩