284. Telegram From the Department of State to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts1

128220. For Chiefs of Mission from the Secretary; inform Consuls. Subject: Reaffirmation of U.S. International Population Policy. Ref: 75 State 297241.2

1. In my first message to the Department and the Foreign Service, I mentioned population as one of those global issues of increasing concern to the nations of the world and to our diplomacy.3 In that connection, basic U.S. policy on international population issues, as reported in reftel, has been reapproved at the highest levels of the new administration.

2. Most recently and most importantly, President Carter included the following statement on world population in the course of his statement of May 23 to the Congress of the United States:

“Rapid population growth is a major environmental problem of world dimensions. World population increased from three to four billion in the last 15 years, substantially cancelling out expansion in world food production and economic growth for the same period.

“Without controlling the growth of population, the prospects for enough food, shelter, and other basic needs for all the world’s people are dim. Where existence is already poor and precarious, efforts to obtain the necessities of life often degrade the environment for generations to come.

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“It is, of course, up to each nation to determine its own policies, but we are prepared to respond promptly and fully to all requests for assistance in population and health care programs. At my direction, the Department of State and the Agency for International Development stand ready to cooperate through international organizations, through private voluntary organizations, or through direct contacts with other governments.”4

3. In his message to the World Health Assembly on May 10, 1977,5 the President said that he would strive personally to find ways in which our government and the private sector can better cooperate with other nations on health, population and nutritional needs.

4. Commendable progress in slowing population growth has been made in many countries in recent years, but excessive population growth continues to contribute to high unemployment and underemployment, environmental deterioration, subsistence standards of living, malnutrition, and, in a few countries, starvation and increased death rates. Increased vigilance and urgent action are needed if these trends are to be reversed.

5. Leaders of developing countries should be encouraged in their efforts to promote sound population programs. Where requested and justified, the new administration will provide continuing and even expanded support to those programs, along with other donor countries and organizations.

6. The objective of the United States in this field is to work closely with others rather than to impose our views. In our efforts we should stress the economic and social gains for the poorest nations that result from reduced population growth, maternal and child health. In all these efforts, we should recognize the basic dignity of the individual and his or her right freely to choose family goals and to have the information and means to do so. These basic rights were specifically ac[Page 944]knowledged by the nations of the world at the Bucharest Conference in 1974.6

7. I will expect you to continue to give this problem your personal attention and to find suitable occasion, wherever appropriate, to con-vey to leaders of host countries the interests and concerns of President Carter and myself in this field.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770199–0151. Confidential. Drafted by Green; cleared by Mink, Blaney, Levin (AID), Tarnoff, and in substance by Tuchman; approved by Vance. Mink sent Vance a draft of the telegram under a May 24 action memorandum requesting his approval, noting: “It is important that our officials be informed of the new Administration’s policy and concerns in this field, and that they, especially our Ambassadors, give this matter their personal concern.” Tarnoff initialed Vance’s approval on the memorandum on June 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770118–2287)
  2. Telegram 297241 to all diplomatic and consular posts, December 17, 1975, provided background material and a rationale for current U.S. population policy in light of NSDM 314. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770118–2292)
  3. Vance’s January 24, 1977, message to civilian and diplomatic personnel is printed in Department of State Bulletin, February 14, 1977, pp. 125–126. In the course of his remarks, Vance commented: “We face some exciting and I am sure strenuous days together. We are all conscious of the press of events in the world—changing economic relationships which are increasingly intertwined with foreign policy, alterations in the nature of national power, the growing importance of global issues such as nuclear proliferation, energy, food, population growth, and the environment. We must also be aware of the hopes and concerns within our own country and abroad.”
  4. The full text of the President’s May 23 environmental message to Congress is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 967–986.
  5. Bourne transmitted a copy of the President’s message to the World Health Assembly under a covering memorandum to Vance on May 5. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770087–1546 and P770087–1547) Bourne delivered the President’s message to Dr. Sione Tapa, World Health Assembly President, who subsequently presented the message to the Assembly, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 9. The President was in London attending the G–7 Economic Summit and participating in a meeting on Berlin and arrived in Geneva later that afternoon in order to meet with Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad prior to returning to London for the NATO Ministerial meeting on May 10. The full text of Carter’s message is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 839–840.
  6. The 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest adopted a World Population Plan of Action that was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 3344(XXIX), December 17, 1974. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1974, pp. 551–558) For a summary, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–14, Part 1, Documents on the United Nations, 1973–1976,Document 116.