236. Minutes of the Acting Secretary’s Functional Staff Meeting1 2


  • MR. LORD
  • MR. VEST
[Page 2]

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Human Rights policy.]

Bill—Human Rights. That’s a nice broad topic. We’re for it.

MR. BUFFUM: Well, there are people who think we are not. And that is precisely the problem. Joe. The only reason I suggested it for the agenda is to flag [Page 3] for everybody’s attention the fact that human rights are getting a lot more attention, and we are under increasing criticism on the Hill, I find, for not taking enough of a lead and not taking a forthcoming enough approach.

MR. SISCO: Where is the criticism coming from?

MR. BUFFUM: It is led Don Fraser, his Subcommittee on International Organizations. But it is broader than that. And I think —

MR. SISCO: How about John Buchanan and the others?

MR. JENKINS: They are with Don Fraser now pretty much. He is not a lone Indian on this by any means.

MR. SISCO: He was originally.

MR. JENKINS: That is right. He has worked very hard. He has been very even-handed. He has not gone just after organizations but—

MR. SISCO: Greece, Chile, the Soviet Union.

MR. JENKINS: This has a substantive meaning, in the sense that we are likely to get language in the aid bill prohibiting us from providing any military assistance to Chile almost completely because of the human rights situation. If that happens, we can look at it in Korea, it will impact on our maintaining troops in Korea. And [Page 4] you can go down the line to about fifteen places.

MR. LORD: We have launched a global study on this, to look at this comprehensively, what we can or cannot do about it.

MR. BROWN: We really have two studies going now. We have your study, which is should we be changing our policy basically— isn’t it. And then we have a second study going on, which is are we organized in the State Department to handle human rights—we probably should reorganize and strengthen our techniques of handling them; at least have a focal point somewhere in this building.

MR. SISCO: Bill.

MR. BUFFUM: We really are not adequately organized yet to cope with this whole new range of problems. For example, I don’t know if it is widely known, but this year for the first time the Human Rights Commission began to consider gross violations of human rights in individual countries based on private communications.

MR. SISCO: It is a reversal of thirty years of approach in the Human Rights Commission.

MR. BUFFUM: Yes. And this is based not on government complaint, where we have to complain, but when they receive enough private communications which show [Page 5] a consistent pattern of gross violations, the Commission is now authorized to take this up. And they have eight cases. They are moving slowly. However, what it does mean is that we are going to be increasingly exposed in years ahead and have to take a public stand on these things in a way we have not up to now. Even on an interim basis we are getting more and more human rights questions in all the specialized agencies. Chile is up in the ILO now, for example—the traditional one of the Israeli violation of human rights in the occupied territories, coming up across the board.

So I think we need a more systematic approach. I would very much welcome it if all of the regional bureaus would appoint one person to assume some supervisory responsibility for the human rights questions, at least on an interim basis, until we get the basic organizational questions.

MR. BROWN: I think we will be out with this in a few days. I would just as soon hold off and not do it piecemeal.

MR. JENKINS: I think if we could do a little more on the organizational side, we will preserve a lot more of our substantive position. An awful lot of this is imagery—a lot of the problem is imagery. We could do better in [Page 6] terms of the personality that we have representing us at the UN on this question, whose name the Secretary didn’t know when he testified, and whose name very few of us know today. Philip Hoffman is his name. He is not a big name in the field, or any field, really. And compared to Rita Hauser we are not —I guess he is an accomplished lawyer.

MR. VEST: You could have gone around this table and I would bet—

MR. JENKINS: The other side is in our own staffing here. We do have two guys now, one in L and one in IO designated as the Human Rights guys. But they have got no staff. They cannot handle their mail. And I think—

MR. SISCO: What are you coming up with, Dean?

MR. BROWN: The trouble is that we are in a bureaucratic fight right now, and we are going to have to come up with a series of options.

MR. SISCO: You are being terribly diplomatic.

MR. BROWN: I am—because they are all right here in the room. (Laughter)

MR. SISCO: I opened a can of worms without knowing it.

MR. BROWN: I figure it better be done by fiat rather than compromise.

SISCO: Okay.

[Page 7]

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Human Rights policy.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P870037–0331. Secret. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s Conference Room. Sisco was the Acting Secretary.
  2. Principal officers of the Department of State discussed various aspects of human rights policy and potential departmental reorganization to more effectively address human rights issues.