20. Action Memorandum From the Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs-Designate (Derian), the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs (Katz), and the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (Bennet) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1

Proposed Reply to Congressman Reuss on Human Rights

Issue for Decision

Congressman Reuss, in a letter dated February 15, 1977 (Tab 2),2 forwarded to the Secretary a copy of legislation he proposes to introduce governing the U.S. vote in international financial institutions regarding loans to countries in violation of human rights.

We need to respond promptly as Congressman Reuss has stated he intends to introduce the legislation not later than March 1.

Our proposed reply (Tab 1)3 asks Reuss to hold off further action.


The Harkin Amendment to legislation of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the African Development Fund (AFDF) now requires us to vote against loans to a country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country.

The Reuss bill would:

—Introduce Harkin-like restrictions in the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (in addition to the IDB and the AFDF).

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—Delete the exemption which, under the Harkin Amendment, authorizes us to support aid programs for needy people, and

—Require the Secretary to prepare and transmit to Congress a list of countries engaged in gross violations of human rights.

Bureau Views

We oppose the Reuss proposal. We are taking steps to develop a comprehensive, broad-based policy on human rights. Our initiatives vis-à-vis the international financial institutions must flow from this overall strategy. In this connection we plan to contact key governments and the management of development banks and ascertain how best to relate our overall human rights objectives to the lending policies of these multilateral institutions. We have cited this initiative in the proposed reply to Congressman Reuss. The thrust of the letter is to convince Reuss that we are taking strong steps to support human rights, we need time to develop a comprehensive strategy which has an appropriate role for the multilateral institutions and, therefore, we want him to hold off further action on his bill.


That you sign the letter (Tab 1) to Congressman Reuss and personally call him to underscore the rationale for our reply.4

Talking points you may wish to use when calling Congressman Reuss are at Tab 3.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770036–0118. Unclassified. Drafted on February 25 by Thomas; cleared by Stahnke, Spear, Preeg, Vogelgesang, and Runyon and in substance by Lake. Thomas initialed for the clearing officials, with the exception of Vogelgesang, and for Bennet. The memorandum was drafted on February 25. A handwritten notation by Ortiz at the top of the first page reads: “2–28 FO.” Another copy is in the National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 8, WC—Official Chrons—Jan/Dec 1977.
  2. Not attached. Reuss’ transmittal letter is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770024–1395. Regarding the bill he introduced in March, see footnote 35, Document 29.
  3. Not attached. A handwritten notation on a signed copy of the February 26 letter from Christopher to Reuss indicates that Thomas hand-delivered the original. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770036–0116)
  4. According to a stamped date, Christopher initialed his approval of this recommendation on February 26. He bracketed the phrase “and personally call him to underscore the rationale for our reply” and added a notation in the margin: “Could Doug Bennet call, saying that I went to Brazil after signing letter.” Reuss responded to Christopher in a February 28 letter, proposing that he and Christopher meet with Harkin, Fraser, and Gonzalez to discuss human rights matters. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770038–2341) Jenkins provided Christopher with a copy of Reuss’ letter under a March 3 action memorandum, which included a recommendation that Christopher agree to the meeting. Christopher approved the recommendation on March 4 and added the following handwritten comment: “Should Cooper also be present? Derian?” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P77038–2337)
  5. Attached but not printed.