318. Airgram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1



  • International Year for Human Rights


  • USUN 1510, 1548. Dept’s A–89, A–96; Deptel 12142

In highly charged atmosphere of closed Working Group Human Rights Year Committee, recommendations were made over strong United States opposition that (1) the General Assembly be asked to “convene a United Nations Conference on Human Rights” for various purposes,3 (2) the General Assembly decide the composition of the Preparatory Committee and the question of finances.

Prior to the meeting, the United States, after hard and long negotiations, convinced members of the Sub-Group dealing with the Conference (Costa Rica and Turkey) that the recommendations, such as above, were completely unacceptable to the United States if United States support for the conference was desired. Volio (Costa Rica) agreed and accepted the idea that the conference must be kept within the confines of the General Assembly, and financial implications, if any, must be kept minimal and within the resources of the advisory services program for human rights should ECOSOC desire to re-allocate funds for the conference. The Resolution, with specifications drafted and accepted by Costa Rica and Turkey and presented to the Working Group, has been pouched to the Department.

At the beginning of the meeting, it became apparent that the Committee Chairman, Richardson (Jamaica), disliked the Sub-Group report and the contents of the Resolution. Whereupon, he proceeded to launch [Page 562] a vicious campaign to persuade the weak delegates that the Resolution was, in effect, designed to kill the idea of a conference. In the course of his remarks regarding this point, he called the United Nations Secretary-General “overlord of the Human Rights Commission who doesn’t think much of it anyway.” He called the Human Rights Commission incompetent, ineffective, and said that it was killing United Nations initiatives in Human Rights, that it was unrepresentative of the United Nations, and that the best way to make sure that any conference on human rights was ruined was to let the Human Rights Commission participate in its organization. Furthermore, he stated that the present members on the Human Rights Commission had no interest in human rights.

He refused to permit the delegates to ask questions of the Secretariat, and when questions were asked he refused to permit the Secretariat to answer if the answers might be contrary to the Richardson position. As on previous occasions, he insulted the USSR and refused to permit the USSR, under heavy fire by the United States, to withdraw the suggestion that the General Assembly be asked to decide the composition of any Preparatory Committee for the Conference.

This incredible performance overpowered the weaker delegates, who folded completely, including Costa Rica and Turkey. The Mission Officer believes Costa Rican capitulation was due solely to Volio’s unfortunate absence from the Committee Room. His alternate Redondo was not adequately briefed on the nature of the situation and did not know that the agreement was to stick to the carefully negotiated text. The Turkish Delegate (Tarlan), young and inexperienced in the United Nations, even said that his government would support the conference after the twenty-third General Assembly ended. The United Kingdom Delegate (Taylor) confessed that he had no idea what the matter was all about. Initially the Philippines supported the United States, but folded when other LDC’s did.

At USUN initiative today, Costa Rica and Turkey were contacted regarding the Friday fiasco. Redondo’s ignorance of the agreed text was confirmed. Tarlan is reconsidering and will discuss the matter. The Philippines is also being contacted. The United States Representative is hopeful that the original text will prevail in the Committee despite Richardson tactics.

The United States put forward, in no uncertain terms, its position outlined in Deptel 1214 and stated further its unalterable opposition to such procedures, tactics and recommendations now being accepted by the Working Group. It stated flatly that it could not support any attempt to hold another UNCTAD-style conference. Note: Ambassador Tree told the Mission Officer that Richardson told her the evening of November 19 that he is determined to hold the conference outside the [Page 563] General Assembly, and that the United States would now support the idea, although France and the Bloc would be against this.

Richardson told Williams the evening of November 20 that “your boys” giving him hard time and that he (Richardson) wanted a specialized agency for human rights and the conference independent of the General Assembly, as this was the only way to get the SA. Richardson also told Williams that some Big Power had to support the idea, and he hoped the United States would. But since the United States did not, perhaps Lord Caradon (U.K.) would support the idea when he returned. This determination is now evident and Richardson seemingly will settle for nothing less.

During a heated exchange between the United States and Richardson over the financial implications, Richardson gave figures of past conference. When the United States inquired of the Secretariat for further information, Richardson refused to permit the Secretariat to answer. Note: Figures quoted by Richardson had been shown to the Mission Officer earlier by Volio who admitted that they represented only what the United Nations paid and omitted the sums contributed by the host governments.

Due to the United States’ bitter opposition and the unavailability of the text in Russian, the Working Group must meet again to reconsider the Sub-Group report. Richardson is certain to offer bitter opposition to further discussion of the Resolution since it is highly satisfactory to him as now drafted. (Text being pouched.)

During the meeting, Costa Rica announced that it would extend an invitation for a regional seminar in connection with the Human Rights Year. The Secretariat (Lawson) announced that the Secretariat is now negotiating with Hungary to host the 1966 seminar for the Protection of Human Rights in Local Administration, and with Poland to host the Seminar 1967 on the Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SOC 14. Confidential. Drafted by J.E. Means, and cleared in draft by Marietta Tree and C. Blau.
  2. Telegram 1510 from USUN, November 5; ibid., SOC 14. Telegram 1548 from USUN, November 6; ibid. Airgram A–89 to USUN transmitted Document 316. Airgram A–96 to USUN, October 19; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SOC 14. Telegram 1214 to USUN, November 17; ibid., UN 6.
  3. Although the U.S. delegation had been authorized to support a special governmental meeting during 1968 and to call it a “conference,” the United States only supported such a meeting if it took place in New York as a special session during the 23d General Assembly. The Department warned the delegation: “You should take all necessary steps to head off Committee decisions which would preclude arrangements along above lines.” (Telegram 1214 to USUN, November 18; ibid.)
  4. On December 20, 1965, the UN General Assembly adopted unanimously Resolution 2081 (XX) and its annex, entitled “International Year for Human Rights: interim programme recommended by the Commission on Human Rights.” (UN Doc. A/6014, pp. 44–45) With this resolution, the General Assembly decided to convene an international conference on human rights in 1968. The UN General Assembly had previously designated 1968 as International Year of Human Rights by Resolution 1961 (XVIII) of December 12, 1963 (UN Doc. A/5515). See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1965, p. 160, footnote 11.