108. Briefing Memorandum From the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant for Population Matters (Claxton) to Secretary of State Kissinger, Washington, October 5, 1973.1 2

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October 5, 1973

To: The Secretary
From: S/PM - Philander P. Claxton, Jr.

Opportunities and Problems - Population Matters

If indeed, as called for in your address to the UNGA, we “responsibly confront the problems of population growth” during the next year, it will be a period of maximum opportunity for progress in population matters.

This memorandum states:

- An early need for your guidance on population matters,

- three major opportunities to exploit actions we have already initiated,

- six related problems or needs for which your attention may be helpful,

- the fundamental problem of whether population growth control is to be continued as a matter of priority in the Department or treated routinely,

- one new initiative.

Your views on population matters are the subject of widespread interest. There is an early need for a statement of them and instructions to the Department, other agencies, and the field. We have been acting under the policies stated in the President’s Message on Population of July 1969 and instructions issued jointly by Secretary Rogers, Dr. Hannah, and Mr. Shakespeare later in 1969. (Tab A) I would like to brief you on what we have been doing, are trying to do, and need to do, and submit a proposal for your own instructions.


1. The World Population Year was initiated by us to make possible a world-wide campaign of information and education on population matters and to provide a special opportunity to persuade leaders of LDCs to undertake or strengthen national population growth control programs. The General Assembly and SYG Waldheim have called on all nations to observe theYear by appropriate information and action programs. ECOSOC assigned leadership for the Year to Rafael Salas, the Executive Director of the UN Fund for Population Activities. As you will recall, President Nixon in his 1973 Report to the Congress on Foreign Policy declared that the US will cooperate fully in observing the Year.

S/PM has responsibility within the Department for promoting and coordinating US participation in Year activities. The Department and HEW are jointly responsible for observance of the Year in the US.

Secretaries Rogers and Weinberger sent the President a joint memorandum on June 19, 1973, asking him to appoint a Commission for the Observance of World Population Year, needed as a public body to stimulate and lead activities of non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the media in support of the Year. (Tab B) The proposal has been approved by the NSC staff and the substantive office of OMB. It is expected to reach the President soon.

Actions Needed:

a. The Commission is already long delayed and urgently needed. A supporting message from you to the President would help get it established and at work. I will send you a draft memorandum when the proposal reaches the White House.

b. USIA should include population information among its major themes, but does not. I will try to change the situation, but your support may be needed.

2. The World Population Conference, also inspired by us, scheduled for Bucharest in August 1974, will be the first world conference of governments on population. It will be roughly comparable in size, public interest, and difficulties to the Stockholm Conference. The focus of the Conference will be on the framing and adoption of a World Population plan of Action to be drafted and presented by the UN SYG. Antonio Carrillo Flores, former Foreign Minister of Mexico, is Secretary-General of the Conference.

Secretary Rogers established an Interagency Committee (with S/PM as chairman) to prepare substantive positions for the Conference. We have made progress in agreeing on what a Plan of Action should contain and are negotiating in the UN for the adoption of positions we want. We have held informal consultations with interested American non-governmental organizations and invited their views and suggestions for the Conference.

The urgency of generating effective efforts by LDCs to slow population growth makes the success of this Conference critical. We want it to be a serious meeting of political leaders prepared to adopt targets or goals for reduced birth or population growth rates. I believe this can be achieved if the period before the Conference is used for planned, quiet negotiations to obtain agreement from enough governments on the basic elements of the Plan of Action. We are promoting such negotiations by Carrillo Flores and will undertake some directly.

Actions Needed:

a. It is important to give the Conference an aura of critical significance. An announcement by you that you intend to head the US delegation would immediately enliven the interest of government leaders around the world. I recommend that you plan to go for one or two days and that you announce your intention early in 1974. I will send you a detailed proposal in January.

b. The attitudes to be taken by the Soviets and Chinese at the Conference are especially important. We should consult with them at a high political level early next year. Your support then would be invaluable. I will send you a request at the proper time.

3. Increased influence on national policy-makers and expanded program action in the year ahead. US efforts to stimulate and assist national population programs are now in their seventh year. Much of the initial tedious, frustrating task of building institutions and persuading governments to take action has been accomplished. Following a strategy adopted in 1966 and reviewed and approved by President Nixon in 1969, we have

- institutionalized population policy and action in State and AID;

- seen Congressional funding raised to $125,000,000 a year;

- stimulated agreements for bilateral aid on population matters with 36 developing countries;

- pressed for and achieved the necessary resolutions for population action by all relevant UN agencies;

- obtained functioning, if still far from perfect, organizational arrangements and programs for population action programs in most UN agencies;

- helped create and enlarge the UN Fund for Population Activities to a program level of about $40,000,000 this year, providing assistance to over 60 countries an many multinational programs.

Some 29 countries with 75% of the world’s population now have at least limited population growth control programs, and 16 others have some sort of government family planning service programs. Three-fourths of these were started after US aid became available.

The work of the past seven years plus the steadily mounting pressures of population growth and the current world food situation have generated a receptivity and potential in many countries for substantial expansion of programs.

In order to exploit these opportunities for program expansion, we have two needs.

Actions Needed:

a. Advocacy of constructive population policies and programs by the President and you in appropriate meetings with national leaders. I will recommend specifics for each meeting.

b. The expansion of population programs in many countries which we can reasonably hope to achieve in 1974-75 will require an increase in the Congressional earmarking of population funds from the $125,000,000 for FY 1974 to $150,000,000 for FY 1975. This problem may reach you in the FY 1975 AID budget.


The current proposal to merge S/PM into the potential new bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science raises the issue of whether population activities are to be pursued as a matter of major importance to the United States or treated as a routine matter. If the former, I recommend against the change for three reasons.

1. The subject matter of S/PM is different from the activities proposed for the new bureau. This was recognized in the legislation (and Conference Committee report) establishing the new bureau, which specified the activities to be included and did not include population matters.

2. It would be impossible to carry out S/PM’s assigned responsibility as the focal point for coordination and policy on population matters.

3. It would be much more difficult to carry out S/PM’s responsibilities for the World Population Year and Conference.

Action Needed:

This is a relatively urgent matter. I will send you a separate memorandum on it.


As a practical matter, there is no likelihood of substantial birth control programs in most African and some Latin American countries, except as part of a national health service reaching the rural areas. These do not exist. In order to have a vehicle for family planning services-- and as a matter of simple humanity--I believe a new initiative should be undertaken in collaboration with the World Bank, UN agencies, and other donors to help developing countries establish basic, para-medical health services, including family planning, to reach their rural peoples. I am testing this idea with the World Bank, UN agencies, and some donors and may have a recommendation for you in several weeks. If such a proposal could be offered for inclusion in the World Population Plan of Action, it would help to carry a much stronger Plan than would otherwise be obtainable.


Tab A - Airgram CA-5859, 10/28/69, United States Policy Regarding Population Matters

Tab B - Joint Memorandum to the President, 6/19/73

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73 SOC 13. Confidential. Drafted by Claxton on October 5. Tab A is not attached. Tab B is published as Document 106. Kissinger’s September 24 address to the U.N. General Assembly is published in Department of State Bulletin, October 15, 1973, pp. 469–473. Nixon’s July 18, 1969 Special Message to Congress on Problems of Population Growth is published in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 521–530.
  2. Claxton reviewed U.S. population policy since 1966 and identified current issues that required Kissinger’s attention.