315. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • 1964 Human Rights Commission—Race Convention and Religion Declaration

The Human Rights Commission wound up a four week session on March 18. Marietta Tree2 has been in the U.S. Chair. Since the Commission’s priority assignment was preparation of a convention against racial discrimination, following up on the race declaration adopted last fall, you may be interested in the following summary:3

1. Race vs. Religion

The U.S. has not opposed work on a race convention, but has taken a strong position that a draft declaration against religious intolerance, originally requested by the General Assembly for the same time as the race declaration, be ready for action by the General Assembly not later than 1964. The Human Rights Commission has succeeded in producing drafts for both instruments which ECOSOC can transmit to the General Assembly. Even though neither of these drafts is complete, they are adequate as working documents.

2. Free Speech vs. Race Hatred

The issue that plagued us on the race declaration—i.e.—demand for suppression of hate organizations—arose immediately in the race convention. Thanks to Morris Abram’s good work on a preliminary draft in the Subcommission on Discrimination and Minorities last January, and support gathered by our Delegation for a further adjustment in the Commission, we were able to vote for the draft provision as adopted on this point. Key wording—States agree to prohibit organizations, [Page 556] or the activities of organizations, as appropriate, which promote and incite racial discrimination. Article 1 defines “racial discrimination” as discrimination “in public life.”

3. Anti-Semitism

Mrs. Tree took the initiative in proposing an additional article in the race convention condemning anti-Semitism. This was possible because the convention covers discrimination on ethnic as well as racial grounds. The USSR tried to add a reference to “nazism, genocide and neo-nazism” to this, but stated publicly that it would support an article on anti-Semitism. Reactions from Jewish organizations and others have been highly favorable. The Commission did not have time to complete action on this article, and has passed it on with the USSR amendment.

4. Race Convention—Can we support? What next?

The U.S. voted for the preamble and articles as adopted in the Commission. Thus far we have not had to state an over-all position because the draft is not complete. We hope ECOSOC may have time to complete the substantive section (only anti-Semitism is outstanding) but even so, extensive proposals on implementation and the formal articles will have to be dealt with de novo in the General Assembly. The decision is therefore some time ahead.

The language adopted thus far has not presented insuperable obstacles, and if Congress adopts the Public Accommodations Title of the Civil Rights Bill, these problems will be less. We were in about this same position on the race declaration draft when it came out of the Human Rights Commission last year, but amendments in the General Assembly created great difficulties. We anticipate a similar development.

5. Religion Declaration

This draft is not so far along as the race convention since it was considered only in a working party. We hope ECOSOC can deal with proposed alternatives so that it can transmit a clean text to the General Assembly. It may require some pressure from the United States to accomplish this, but we had good support in the Commission from both the Europeans and the Latin Americans, also Lebanon. The USSR has filibustered against the declaration from the start, and will undoubtedly continue.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SOC 14 UN. No classification marking. Drafted by Rachel C. Nason (IO/OES).
  2. U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Commission.
  3. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted by the General Assembly as Resolution 1904 (XVIII) on November 20, 1963; for text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 152–155. The draft resolution referred to is a draft of UN General Assembly Resolutions 2106 A and B (XX), December 21, 1965, which adopted and opened for signature the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; for text, see ibid., 1965, pp. 160–169. The United States signed the Convention on September 28, 1966.