217. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Some Thoughts and Suggestions for the World Hunger Meeting

This Administration has not yet developed an integrated policy on world food and nutrition. This is a difficult subject both because it is so intertwined with highly political domestic issues, and because on the foreign side it involves so many different agencies and kinds of issues. While there are no short term deadlines to force adequate attention to be paid to it, in the medium and long term there is probably no other single issue that will more affect global peace and security than the availability and distribution of food.

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Bourne has written a memorandum for today’s meeting (Tab A) 2 proposing a “World Hunger Initiative”. Please read the section entitled Suggested Optional Approaches beginning on page 4. You will see that it is merely a public relations strategy—almost no substance. Scenario 3 suggests a bizarre version of an interagency process—minus the interactions. He would have each agency submit its own tunnel vision view of the problems and programs, and then have a separate Executive Office group try to mold these into a coherent policy. To my mind that is a ridiculous approach, destined to produce only a rehash of what we already know. The other two scenarios propose an outreach to the dozens of outside interest groups before a policy is developed. That makes no sense.

I have been looking at this issue for several weeks, and am convinced that a serious fairly long lead-time PRM is needed. This issue is worthy of the most serious consideration at a level which will command the best talents the agencies have to offer. Though pieces of this issue are being treated by many agencies, the threads have yet to be pulled together into a coherent policy. However I do not think that any new institutional arrangement should be set up (as Bourne suggests) until after such a comprehensive review is completed. The PRM should be done in close collaboration with OSTP, OMB and the Domestic Council. I do not think however that Bourne should be too heavily involved—certainly not in a lead position. His forays into the health field have created unprecedented bureaucratic chaos.

Regarding substance, my feeling is that Chip’s role should focus on helping to build domestic support for the concept that certain basic human needs are an integral part of human rights. Certainly nothing could be more basic than the right not to starve. As a member of the President’s family, Chip is perfectly suited to this role, and it would be a contribution not only to this issue, but to the whole spectrum of human needs concerns, as well as to the entire human rights policy. Obviously, if successful, a major effort at increasing public awareness on this issue, would help enormously in generating the Congressional support the [Page 685]President will need if he is to fulfill the promise he has made to double foreign aid by 1982.3

One additional suggestion: The Soviets have traditionally been very difficult on this issue—refusing to participate in international conferences, etc. As you know, they have proposed three CSCE initiatives for international conferences on energy, environment and transportation. Perhaps we could respond with an American proposal at the fall CSCE meeting for a food and nutrition conference—pegged on the connection between human needs and human rights.4 This would: (1) constitute an American initiative at CSCE which the President wants, and (2) be visible evidence of the fact that the US is not backing off on human rights, without being provocative to the Soviets (at least in a way they can acknowledge). Hormats is very dubious about this idea. He feels that the LDCs would resent it as an attempt to insert a North-South issue into the East-West conflict. Perhaps some more work would define some useful variant of it.


1. That you make clear at the meeting that you view this as a major foreign policy issue, on which the NSC is preparing to begin an interagency study—in which all concerned Executive Office departments will be appropriately involved.

2. That you do not think that we should start any public relations programs, such as Bourne proposes, until we have our policy pretty well worked out. Public conferences before that time would only serve to advertise and increase our present lack of direction.

3. That you suggest that Chip’s role be focused on the relationship of human needs to the global human rights agenda, and that a substantive role for him be developed on that basis. It should be emphasized that creating domestic support for this idea would be of very real value to the President.

4. That you approve further work on the proposal to suggest some kind of food and nutrition conference as an American initiative of the CSCE Review Conference.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 92, Food: 1977. No classification marking. Sent for action. A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: “OBE.” Attached but not printed are a copy of Bourne’s June 11 memorandum (See Document 213) and an NSC Correspondence Profile indicating that Brzezinski received the memorandum on June 28 and that copies were sent to Hormats.
  2. See Document 213. No record of a meeting was found; the Cabinet meeting minutes of June 27 indicate that an “informal meeting on world hunger” was scheduled to take place some time that week. (Carter Library, Vertical File, Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 6/6/77–8/16/77) According to the June 29 Evening Report prepared by the NSC Global Issues Cluster, Tuchman convened the first meeting of the “food drafting group” that day, attended by Press and staffers from Eizenstat’s and Bourne’s offices. According to Tuchman: “We are pretty well in agreement on how to proceed (procedurally not substantively) with the glaring exception of Bourne’s people who seem determined to immediately launch a major public relations initiative—before we develop a policy. Denend and Tuchman will draft a paper and the group will meet again to work it over next week. We should meet Brzezinski’s deadline to report to him by the end of the week.” Brzezinski underlined the last sentence and wrote “yes” in the margin. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Oplinger/Bloomfield Subject File, Box 36, Evening Reports: 5–7/77)
  3. Carter made the pledge to double foreign aid by 1982 at the London Economic Summit in early May, and Vance discussed it with Congressmen on May 25. Information is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy.
  4. The CSCE Review Conference opened on October 6 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
  5. There is no indication whether Brzezinski approved or disapproved any of the recommendations. According to an NSC Correspondence Profile attached to another copy of the memorandum, the memorandum was returned to Tuchman on June 29 with instructions that it was to be held. Another copy was sent to Brzezinski on July 14 for decision. The last entry in the Correspondence Profile, October 11, indicates the memorandum was OBE. (Carter Library, White House Central Files, Box HE–6, Subject Files—Executive, 1/20/77–9/29/77)