26. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • United States Position in the United Nations on Aid Targets

Recommendation:

That you approve a United States statement in the United Nations, along the lines below, reaffirming the international aid target of 1% of GNP.2

[Page 61]

Discussion:

In my memorandum to you of April 17, 1970,3 I recommended that the United States reaffirm the 1% of GNP target for public plus private resource flows to LDCs which we have consistently supported since 1965. The course of United Nations work on a Second Development Decade Declaration,4 in which the aid target question has become a major issue, makes it desirable that you act on this now since silence is not an available option.

Given the symbolic importance of the target for LDCs, its acceptance by all other non-communist aid donors and its usefulness to them in dealing with their parliaments, and long-standing United States support for it, a reversal of our position now, however put, would be taken as a retreat from our concern with development. Failure to reaffirm the existing target could thus poison the atmosphere this fall at the 25th Anniversary General Assembly where the focus will be on development. This would be particularly unfortunate if you should decide to appear there personally.

At the same time we must be forthright about the prospects of our meeting the 1% objective. (Our aid and investment flows to LDCs last year were only 0.5% of GNP, placing us sixteenth among the sixteen members of the Development Assistance Committee.)

To meet these competing requirements I propose a statement in the United Nations as follows.5 The United States faces staggering domestic needs which have given rise to a national debate, still unresolved, on how to apply limited public and private resources to seemingly limitless requirements. The combination of these internal requirements and of the enormous burdens carried by us externally, plus the frustrations, [Page 62]as well as the successes, of nation-building in the developing world have brought a profound reexamination of aid policy in the United States and the best means for conducting it in the future. We are thus unable now to say when the United States may meet the 1% aid objective, or even whether our efforts towards this objective will be successful. At the same time it is important to bear in mind that while the flow of official resources requires Congressional action in our country, the flow of private resources is expandable without such action and is, of course, likely to be responsive to mutually beneficial investment policies in the developing countries. We are prepared to make our best efforts to increase both official and private flows and we hope we can be successful in moving closer to the aid objective. It is in this spirit that we are willing to join in international reaffirmation of the aid target.

Such a position will be short of that other donors are ready to take. Most others, including France,6 Germany, and Japan, are willing to accept a specific deadline (1972 for some, 1975 for others) for their meeting the 1% target. Germany and several others will also accept a sub-target of 0.7% of GNP for public aid. I think we must make it clear in the United Nations at a stage earlier than the coming General Assembly, which you may address, that we cannot go beyond reaffirmation of the existing target, but that we will not back away from it either. The best opportunity would be the meeting of the Economic and Social Council in July.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 195, AID 10/7/70-12/31/70. No classification marking.
  2. There is no indication of the President’s approval or disapproval of the recommendation.
  3. Document 133.
  4. In telegram 1028 from USUN, May 25, regarding the Second Development Decade, Ambassador Yost stressed “the crucial importance of a clear reaffirmation of the one per cent aid target” and noted that the timing of meeting that target was of less importance than the commitment to meeting the target in principle. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Agency Files, Box 193, AID, Volume II 1/70-8/10/70) In a May 28 memorandum, Bergsten brought Yost’s telegram to Kissinger’s attention, reminded him the President had already rejected committing to setting unattainable targets, and noted the Peterson report only recommended a commitment to a reversal in the downward trend of U.S. assistance. He concluded that there was no need to bring Yost’s telegram to the President’s attention. (Ibid.) Yost also discussed the one percent target in an April 3 letter to Richardson. (Washington National Records Center, Agency for International Development, AID Administrator Files: FRC 286 73 A 518, OCM (Peterson Task Force) FY 70 April 1970)
  5. On October 13 Jeanne Davis at the NSC Secretariat sent a memorandum to Executive Secretary of the Department of State Eliot informing him the President had approved Rogers’ proposed statement. Davis repeated Rogers’ text in her October 13 memorandum. (National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 73 D 288, Box 839, NSC/Misc.)
  6. Telegram 8079 from USOECD, June 19 (repeated to USUN), reported that at the July 2-3 DAC meeting France would propose a target for official assistance of 0.6 to 0.7 percent of GNP by 1973, and reaffirmation of the one percent target for total flows. The OECD Mission speculated that the French objective was to sidetrack attention in the DAC from U.S. initiatives on untying and indebtedness, which France opposed, and attempt to focus the DAC on the volume target instead. (Ibid., Central Files 1970-73, AID 1)