214. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Secretary of Agriculture Bergland 1


  • Your Manila WFC Meeting in the Context of Our Emerging Foreign Policy

Your presence at the World Food Council in June presents an excellent opportunity to press forward with some major Administration foreign policy themes as they relate to outstanding issues between developed and developing countries.2 In particular, the forum seems highly suited to expand upon the “basic human needs” theme which the President has sounded in his United Nations and Notre Dame [Page 676]speeches,3 and which the Secretary of State has elaborated recently at the CIEC Ministerial in Paris and will be discussing further at the OECD Ministerial.4

Many elements of the Administration’s approach to the “absolute poverty” problem—the basic human needs problem—are intimately related to the agenda of the World Food Conference. Since three-quarters of the world’s “absolute poverty” population lives in rural areas, and since the “life chances” of the vast majority of them are tied to increased agricultural production and programs of reform of rural health and education facilities and agricultural infrastructure, the Manila Conference is well suited to a further iteration of U.S. goals in the “basic human needs” area.

I suggest therefore that you might wish to make the following general observations in your own language.

1) While the world undoubtedly needs some form of grain reserve system, what the developing countries need most of all is to develop greater capacity for domestic food production.

2) Breakthroughs in developing country agricultural production are intimately linked to a “basic human needs” approach in two crucial ways:

a) More food will be available to increase nutrition levels for the poorest strata of developing country populations, and

b) More productive employment opportunities will be created for this same population group—three-quarters of whom live in rural areas.

3) The United States is aware that programs to meet the needs of the poorest do not always work the way they are supposed to; e.g., few new jobs are created if capital-intensive technologies are used.

4) Therefore, the United States hopes to persuade its OECD associates at the late June Ministerial to begin to fashion a comprehensive approach to a “basic human needs” strategy, and to present this idea for global discussion in appropriate venues within the coming year.

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5) A crucial element in this approach will be the enhanced role of the LDC’s in global food production, in ways which strengthen the basic human needs program with the support of an appropriate grain reserve program which can serve as “insurance” for those countries willing to undertake the reforms which a basic human needs approach will require.

While many of these ideas may already form part of your own thinking, I offer them simply to encourage you to use the Manila forum to demonstrate the consistency of U.S. thinking with regard to the problems of the developing countries and the global system into which we are seeking to build.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 92, Food: 1977. No classification marking. Bergland served as head of the U.S. delegation to the third session of the World Food Council in Manila, Philippines, June 20–24. For additional information concerning the WFC meeting, see Document 221.
  2. Under cover of a May 27 memorandum, Hansen sent Brzezinski and Aaron a copy of telegram 117059 to multiple diplomatic posts, May 20, which requested that posts deliver to the host country’s WFC delegate a copy of a letter from Bergland discussing the outcome of the May 9–14 WFC Prepcom meeting and proposing an agenda for the upcoming WFC session. Hansen noted how “swiftly” Bergland had moved “in the Basic Human Needs direction” in advance of the Manila meeting. As the administration wanted to use the upcoming OECD Ministerial to secure the BHN strategy as a major component of the OECD’s North-South program, Hansen suggested that Brzezinski stress the connection between hunger and BHN, concluding: “What a memo from you to Bergland would do is to give his effort a proper place in a far broader and more comprehensive foreign policy initiative.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 92, Food: 1977)
  3. The President addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York on March 17 and delivered the commencement address at Notre Dame University on May 22. He used both occasions to explain how “basic human needs,” including food assistance, fit within a larger foreign policy strategy. See Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 444–451 and 954–962. Both addresses are scheduled to be printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy.
  4. Vance attended the CIEC Ministerial in Paris May 30–June 2 and headed the U.S. delegation to the OECD Ministerial, also in Paris, June 23–24. Vance’s May 30 address to CIEC delegates is printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 20, 1977, pp. 645–648. His remarks at the OECD Ministerial are ibid., July 25, 1977, pp. 105–109 and 113–117. Additional information concerning the CIEC is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy.