220. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to the Secretary of the Cabinet (Watson)1

SUBJECT

  • Bergland Memorandum on Proposed Human Rights Conference on Food

At the direction of the President, Frank Press, Peter Bourne, Stu Eizenstat and myself have been involved in an effort to define a sound [Page 701]approach to the problem of world hunger.2 We have been concerned both with developing the substance of a coherent Administration policy and with the related need to build public support for it. Our efforts include the definition of a role for Chip who has a strong interest in this area. At this point, our work indicates the need for an intensive interagency review before major public initiatives are undertaken. However, I should add that these proposals have not yet been submitted to the President for his approval.

I would suggest that Secretary Bergland’s memorandum be held by you for further action pending the President’s decisions on the memorandum which I will be forwarding to him shortly. Based on his decisions we can then decide how best to proceed with it. I will keep you fully informed.

Attachment

Memorandum From Secretary of Agriculture Bergland to President Carter 3

RE

  • Proposed Human Rights Conference on Food

The availability of food and access to an adequate diet are major problems which affect nearly all the world’s people. For most of the world, the lack of enough food is translated into hunger; and for them, food is a human right yet to be realized. In the United States, hunger is still a visible problem, but it is more complex. As a nation, we do not lack enough food; more than enough is available. For some low income persons, the problem is access to adequate food, and their lack of access can translate into hunger and malnutrition. For millions of others in our population, the means to purchase sufficient food is present, but the lack of information about nutrition and health leads to increased incidence of disease and spiraling health care costs.

[Page 702]

These thoughts have been very much on my mind since the World Food Conference in Manila,4 and have been sharpened as the likelihood of a bountiful harvest this year becomes clearer.

The time is right for a White House Human Rights Conference on Food. We possess an abundance of food, and, with your leadership, we are focusing again on human rights and our responsibilities as citizens to sustain them.

I am attaching a proposed conference agenda, and a suggested approach to organizing it.5 I will be happy to develop the agenda in more detail if you wish, and I would welcome any suggestions you may want to make.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 94, Human Rights: 1977. No classification marking. A handwritten notation on the memorandum indicates that it was dispatched on July 12 at 12:20 p.m. Sent to Brzezinski under cover of a July 12 memorandum, from Tuchman, in which she noted that Watson had requested comments “on immediate turn around” concerning Bergland’s proposed human rights conference on food (attached below). She added, “This brings up again the same question we have been debating with Peter Bourne of whether it makes sense to begin generating public support before policy is defined.” According to a notation on the covering memorandum, Brzezinski signed the memorandum to Watson on July 12. A July 7 memorandum to Vance, Brzezinski, and Schultze from Watson and Jane Frank requesting that they forward comments on Bergland’s proposal is ibid. In a July 11 memorandum to Watson, Schultze recommended that the proposed conference’s objectives “need to be brought into sharper focus, however, before it is approved.” (Carter Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Box HE–6, Executive, 1/20/77–9/29/77) Tarnoff, in a July 9 memorandum to Watson, indicated that the Department of State supported such a conference but noted that the conference agenda needed to be strengthened. (Ibid.)
  2. See footnote 1, Document 212.
  3. No classification marking.
  4. See Documents 214 and 221.
  5. Attached but not printed.