21. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Health Issues (Bourne) to Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff1


  • Human Rights Proposal

I like the Human Rights Proposal2 and agree very much with your rationale. I think the concept of balancing a call for human rights with a discussion of his concern about human needs is very valid. As far as specifically addressing the health issue I see pros and cons. I like the idea of having health talked about in that forum because the potential attention and high visibility that it might get. My reservations are that, (1) We are losing an opportunity to have the President get attention twice on a significant global issue by lumping them both together in one speech, (2) the health issue may just get lost in the speech because of the overriding interest in the human rights issue. Kissinger gave a similar speech to the U.N. on human rights and threw in the health issue announcing a new U.S. initiative to deal with Schistosomiasis that affects 200 million people in the world.3 The health issue was totally lost when the speech was reported.

I recommend the following; that we include a statement on health but use the speech as an opportunity to announce a future major unveiling of a new role for the U.S. in the international health field, and have him say that he has directed a reassessment of our foreign assistance policies with regard to international health and that in several weeks he would be ready to announce the details of such a major new initiative. In that way we could balance the human rights issue with concern for human needs especially health in the U.N. speech, and at the same time avoid getting the issue lost by combining it with more headline grabbing statements.

As far as the speech as a whole is concerned it might be a good idea for him to emphasize what he will do as President to strengthen human rights in the U.S. This might include the formation of a citizens advisory panel to make recommendations to the President. There is I think [Page 60] considerable risk if we seem to be preaching to the rest of the world when our domestic human rights situation is not that great.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security, Huntington, Box 37, Human Rights: 2–3/77. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 16.
  3. Reference is to Kissinger’s September 23, 1974, address to the UN General Assembly entitled “An Age of Interdependence: Common Disaster or Community.” For the complete text, see Department of State Bulletin, October 14, 1974, pp. 498–504.