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227. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Health Issues (Bourne) to President Carter 1


  • World Hunger Initiative

This memorandum was prepared by an Ad Hoc Executive Office Working Group on World Hunger, chaired by my office, with participation of the National Security Council, Domestic Council, White House Intergovernmental Relations Office, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Council of Economic Advisers, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs, and Council on Environmental Quality.

I. Purpose

To respond to your request for ideas and policy options on world hunger and to seek your guidance on how to develop policy initiatives.

II. Background

Interest in the world hunger issue is extensive within Government agencies and throughout the private sector.

Executive Office. Interest in and a desire to be part of the development of any world hunger initiative has already been expressed by the agencies which make up the Ad Hoc Executive Office World Hunger Working Group.

Congress. A letter to you signed by 33 members of Congress in June encouraged a Presidential world hunger initiative.2 Recent legisla[Page 725]tive changes designed to make development assistance and food aid policies more human needs oriented reflect Congressional interest on which a Presidential initiative might build. A substantial number of members in both Houses plan to introduce on September 27 a resolution calling on you to establish a Presidential Commission on World Hunger.3 Their efforts are in principle supportive of your interest in a hunger initiative.

International Organizations. The world hunger issue has received priority attention in recent years in organizations such as the World Food Council, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Bank; these and other organizations could be important vehicles for helping to implement a Presidential initiative.

Private Sector. Interest includes both experts and organizations wishing to participate in the development of policies and to organize public support for appropriate Presidential actions once announced.

In addition, several foreign policy and food studies have been conducted or are in progress. These studies include departmental reviews, such as USDA’s International Food and Agriculture Assessment (recently submitted to you)4 and OMB’s Food and Nutrition Reorganization Study5 as well as inter-departmental and private sector reviews such as the National Academy of Science’s World Food and Nutrition Study,6 the Development Coordinating Committee Study on Foreign Aid,7 the National Security Council PRM–8,8 the Vance-Blumenthal Study on Foreign Aid as it relates to multilateral assistance,9 the Brookings Institution study of foreign aid,10 and the International Health Assessment (currently being conducted by my office).11

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To make maximum use of this broad interest in the hunger issue, a mechanism is needed which reports directly to you and is coordinated with Stu Eizenstat’s proposed Cabinet-level Group on Food and Agricultural Policy. This would assure that preliminary planning for a Presidential world hunger initiative adequately involves the Executive Office, the line Agencies, the Congress, international organizations, and the private sector. Since Stu received your views on his proposed ongoing mechanism, we have reached an agreement with him.12 In order to ensure coordination, I should be a member of the Full Committee as well as continue to serve as White House Coordinator on World Hunger.

III. Assumptions

In developing the process for shaping such an initiative, we are making the following assumptions:

1. That you wish to demonstrate publicly in the near future your commitment to do something about world hunger—perhaps within the next 2 months. We sense that you do not want another study but prefer a series of actions.

2. That you view world hunger as a global issue, including concern for malnutrition at home as well as abroad.

3. That you intend your interest in world hunger to be understood as part of your overall concern for basic human needs, not an isolated issue. Your initiative would thus be one major further step in demonstrating concretely your commitment to improve the quality of life throughout the world.

IV. Strategy

If you agree with the above assumptions, we propose the following actions:

1. Development of a Policy Statement on World Hunger

There is broad agreement among experts in the field that one of the most important Presidential actions would be to make a crisp, concise statement of United States policy with regard to world hunger. Your involvement is critical to mobilizing national and international efforts to alleviate global hunger. Recent food-related legislation, ample current grain supplies, and the constructive developing country attitudes manifested at the June meeting of the World Food Council offer you an opportunity to play a timely leadership role.

A statement based on policy options developed by the Departments and the Executive Office of the President could specify actions such as:

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—To help developing countries accelerate their efforts to achieve food self-reliance.

—To assure adequate food aid levels on a multiyear basis for humanitarian and developmental purposes and to increase the effectiveness of such aid.

—To work with other nations to develop international food reserves for food security, emergency relief, and price stability.

—To increase access to food through special trade arrangements and other measures.

—To strengthen the capacity of multilateral food-related institutions such as the World Food Council and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.

—To accelerate relevant food and nutrition research activities.

Other specific policy areas could be included based on further agency inputs during the planning process.

The basic goal of these policy measures would be to help improve the nutritional well-being of the world’s hungry people. The hunger statement would also serve as a basic point of reference in the Administration’s overall human needs initiative.

The policy statement should be specific enough to define your commitment yet should avoid closing off ideas and options which might grow out of the various studies now underway. While the statement would allude to domestic food and nutrition problems and programs, its primary focus would be international. Policy options underlying a statement on hunger could be prepared by the World Hunger Working Group in 8 to 10 weeks. After choosing your preferred options, you could deliver a message describing U.S. policy actions to the United Nations, to the Congress, or in another forum of your choosing.




2. Expansion of World Hunger Working Group

The Ad Hoc Executive Office Working Group (which has prepared this memorandum and previous comments on material sent to you by [Page 728]Secretary Bergland and Stu Eizenstat) should be expanded to include direct representation from the relevant Departments and Agencies. The resulting World Hunger Working Group (WG) chaired by me would be in effect a subunit of Stu’s proposed Cabinet-level Interagency Group on Food and Agricultural Policy of which I would also be a member. The WG (subcommittee) would as rapidly as possible develop policy options and subsequently a Presidential statement on world hunger. The expanded membership of the WG may increase the difficulties of coordination; however, we believe that the participation in the process by the Agencies that would implement the initiative is indispensable.

A small task force of private consultants representing a variety of interests and expertise as well as personnel temporarily detailed from the Agencies will serve with my staff to support the Working Group.




3. Preparation of Cabinet Memorandum (attached)

The World Hunger Working Group would prepare a memorandum for you to issue to Cabinet Departments and Agencies. The memorandum would announce the establishment of the Working Group and would direct Cabinet Secretaries and Agency heads to provide it with their views and recommendations.


Approve (send attached memo)14


4. Involvement of the Private Sector

Private sector representatives—from agriculture, business, labor, universities, foundations, and the religious community—should be included in the above process. Informally this could be done through contacts by the Working Group with private sector individuals and organizations. On a more formal basis, private sector input could be assured by the establishment of a small but prestigious private sector Consultative Group to serve as the visible public advisory body in the development of the Administration’s world hunger initiative.

Informal consultation with the private sector could lay the basis for eventual public support, avoiding the risks of public discussion [Page 729]prior to the announcement of the policy. Use of a more formal mechanism would make for more visible public involvement in the process but might delay it and produce recommendations with which you might have to disagree publicly.


Involve private sector informally

Establish Private Consultative Group (prepare names for my review)

5. Presidential Communication with Selected Members of Congress

Building on increased Congressional concern for world hunger, you should communicate your interest to members of Congress, including those advocating a Presidential Commission on World Hunger. The purpose would be to state your intention to launch an Administration program on world hunger and solicit their views on food policy issues. We believe that by discussing these matters with the House and Senate leadership you will engender support for the initiative and demonstrate your resolve to act. This also may develop additional support for overall foreign aid policies.


Arrange meeting with selected members of Senate and House by early October to discuss broad issues of international food policy

Prepare draft letter to selected members of Congress on my plans in this area

Defer contacts with Congress on hunger issues

Summary of Comments on Who Should Chair the WG

The respective positions are as follows:

NSC proposes that the World Hunger Working Group be co-chaired by my office and the NSC staff in order (1) to increase coordination necessary among members of the Working Group, and (2) to ensure that the Working Group’s work is fully related to all aspects of U.S. development assistance and foreign economic policies.15

OMB supports NSC’s recommendation that the Working Group be jointly chaired by my office and the NSC staff. OMB contends that continuing involvement of my office is obviously needed if the Working Group is to maintain the momentum already developed by my efforts these past months; however, they contend that if NSC co-chairs the Working Group, it will ensure that the world hunger ini[Page 730]tiative will reinforce, and in turn be reinforced by other U.S. efforts abroad.16

—My position is that I should chair the Working Group and NSC should continue to participate fully as a key member as it has up to now. This ensures coordination with ongoing foreign policy reviews. Moreover, if NSC were made co-chairman, in the eyes of the public and Congress this would not separate hunger from NSC’s major policy responsibilities such as weapons sales, nuclear proliferation, and relations with the Soviets and Chinese.17

Finally, I was designated the lead person in the White House on this issue by you in an August Cabinet meeting.18 Changing this position may create confusion in the private sector and Congress as to your intention to crystallize public support for basic human needs using world hunger as the rallying point.


World Hunger Working Group chaired by Peter Bourne (as stated in attached proposed presidential memorandum to heads of departments and agencies)

World Hunger Working Group co-chaired by Peter Bourne and NSC (NSC, State, and OMB support)19

  1. Source: Carter Library, Staff Office Files, Domestic Policy Staff, Eizenstat Files, Box 324, World Hunger [1]. No classification marking. The President wrote in the top right-hand corner of the first page: “Peter—Conform to memos—J.C.” Attached as Tab C to Document 229. In a September 15 memorandum to Brzezinski, Erb noted that another version of Bourne’s memorandum, also dated September 14, had been sent to the President without Erb’s concurrence: “It accurately reflects the NSC view on the point at issue, co-chairmanship of the Hunger Working Group, but it presents a very self-serving version of Bourne’s position.” Erb did recommend that Brzezinski send the memorandum to the President. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 92, Food: 1977) Daft sent this version of the memorandum to Eizenstat under a September 16 covering memorandum, noting: “Unless you feel otherwise, I propose that we indicate ‘no comment’ on the attached. As you can see from pp. 6 and 7, the turf battle rages on. And, as you requested, I’ve tried to stay out of it.” (Carter Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Box HE–6, Executive, 1/20/77–9/29/77) There is no indication as to when the version of the memorandum printed here was sent to the President.
  2. Not found.
  3. Leahy introduced Senate Resolution 271, co-sponsored by 55 Senators, on September 27. The resolution called on the President to establish a commission on domestic and international hunger and malnutrition and directed the resultant commission to establish the causes of domestic and international malnutrition, identify and critique Federal programs related to hunger, and develop for the President and Congress initiatives designed to reduce hunger and malnutrition. (Letter from Bennet to Zablocki, October 26; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770175–0151) Nolan introduced a companion resolution in the House (H. Res. 784) that same day, cosponsored by 24 Representatives. The Senate approved S. Res. 271 by voice vote on October 27, and the House approved H. Res. 784 on November 1.
  4. Attached to Document 223.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 223.
  6. See Document 212 and footnote 2 thereto.
  7. See footnote 8, Document 216.
  8. See footnote 7, Document 219.
  9. Not further identified.
  10. See footnote 9, Document 216.
  11. See Document 293.
  12. See Document 224.
  13. There is no indication that the President approved or disapproved any of the actions proposed in the memorandum.
  14. Attached but not printed. The original text “(Prepare a memo to Cabinet)” is struck-through and “(send attached memo)” is typed below.
  15. See Document 226.
  16. Erb sent Brzezinski a memorandum on September 13 indicating that OMB also agreed that the NSC should co-chair the Working Group. According to an attached September 15 note from Gates to Erb, Aaron had spoken to Bourne that morning concerning the chairmanship; Gates noted that the chairmanship question had not been settled. (Carter Library, White House Central Files, Subject Files, Box HE–6, Executive, 1/20/77–9/29/77) In his September 15 memorandum to Brzezinski (see footnote 1 above), Erb reiterated the position that the NSC should chair the group.
  17. A concluding typewritten sentence, “Stu Eizenstat concurs on this position” is struck-through.
  18. Presumable reference to the August 1 Cabinet meeting during which the President noted that Bourne had assumed responsibility for the administration’s drug, world health, and hunger programs. He instructed Cabinet members to cooperate with Bourne, as he “needs to rely on staff assistance from the Departments to carry out his assignments from the President.” (Carter Library, Vertical File, Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 6/6/77–9/26/77)
  19. Although there is no indication that the President approved or disapproved these options, he did sign two memoranda that established the World Hunger Working Group chaired by Bourne and the Working Group on Food and Agricultural Policy chaired by Bergland. See Document 230. The earlier version of Bourne’s memorandum did not contain these two options.