33. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Proposed Administration Position on Human Rights Amendments to International Financial Institution Legislation

Summary: Recent Congressional actions have placed the Administration in a difficult position on human rights. The House has taken a strong position, adopting the inflexible language of the Badillo Amendment by voice vote on April 62 despite Administration support of the more flexible Reuss Amendment.3 History could repeat itself in the Senate unless the Administration voices its strong support for the more flexible Humphrey language4 and its clear opposition to inflexible Badillo-Harkin language.

We face a real dilemma: while we do not like any of the amendments, we must voice support for the more flexible amendments (Humphrey, Reuss) or we will appear to be weakening our strong human rights position.

In the House we did voice our support for the Reuss Amendment. However, we did not at the same time voice our opposition to the inflexible language of the Harkin and Badillo Amendments. (The Harkin [Page 98] Amendment, which is law, directs the U.S. Executive Director in the Inter-American Development Bank to vote against extending international financial assistance to countries that engage in consistent human rights violations unless such assistance directly benefits “the needy people in such countr(ies).” The Badillo Amendment closely parallels the Harkin language, extending the Harkin provisions to all IFI’s.)

The Senate will be considering this issue next week in Committee. Senator Humphrey is sponsoring language that closely parallels the Reuss language, allowing greater flexibility for the Administration than the Badillo Amendment. Senator Humphrey believes that his language will pass the Senate only if it receives strong Administration support.

NSC, State, AID, Treasury and Export-Import Bank representatives met on April 11, to discuss ways to improve our increasingly weak and defensive posture on the Hill. There was consensus at the meeting that the major reason for the defeat of the Reuss language and the adoption of the Badillo Amendment was that the Administration never adopted a strong clear position during the debate.5

There was also consensus at the meeting that the Humphrey language is far preferable to the Badillo language and that in order to achieve success in the Senate, the President will personally have to voice both his support for Humphrey and his opposition to the Badillo-Harkin approach.6

Attached at Tab A is a Treasury paper which outlines the proposed Administration position on Human Rights amendments, citing arguments for the Humphrey amendment and against Badillo-Harkin language.

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That you approve the strategy outlined above which will require you to voice support for the Humphrey Amendment and opposition to Badillo-Harkin language in some forum which will be determined in the near future.

Tab A

Paper Prepared in the Department of the Treasury7

Administration Position on Human Rights Amendments

(1) The Badillo Amendment undermines the ability of the United States to promote human rights objectives effectively in the international financial institutions.

(a) Its automatic “no” votes destroy any negotiating flexibility on our part.

(b) Therefore, neither donor nor recipient countries have any incentive to work with us on improving the human rights situation.

(c) Furthermore, virtually all loans would go ahead over our objections, thereby revealing the ineffectiveness of such an automatic approach for all to see.

(d) The result is that we would be locked into a sterile, ineffective position.

(e) Indeed, we can become isolated in our efforts and thereby reduce our effectiveness in mobilizing support from other nations for better human rights conditions.

(2) By contrast, the Humphrey Amendment would enable us to significantly advance the cause of human rights.

(a) Our ability to support, expedite, or oppose specific loans and bank policies would give us considerable negotiating leverage.

(b) For example, we could “ransom” some prisoners or reduce other offensive practices by calibrating our positions on particular loans—even if the offending country maintained some offensive practices.

(c) We could work with other donor countries, getting their support for our initiatives in return for our taking positions “less offensive to the integrity of the institutions.”

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(d) In short, we could work effectively to advance our interests with both donor and recipient countries—since we would have a major bargaining chip in the use of our “voice and vote.”

(3) The Badillo approach is also undesirable because it undermines the integrity of the institutions. Indeed, both donor and recipient countries have expressed to us the view that it would represent “unilateral amendment of the bank charters.” Our major policy interest in enhancing the role of the banks would be set back severely if Badillo were adopted.

(4) Furthermore, the automaticity of the Badillo approach ignores other U.S. policy objectives which can be promoted through our position in the banks. The timing and intensity of our efforts on human rights must constantly be weighed against other U.S. objectives and therefore calibrated carefully. Badillo permits no such flexibility.

(5) Advancing our human rights concerns in the development banks must be seen in the context of overall U.S. policy toward human rights. The issue is how to advance our human rights objectives most effectively.

(a) It is completely appropriate to adjust levels of military assistance and security supporting assistance for this purpose.

(b) It is also appropriate to amend our levels of bilateral economic aid.

(c) Diplomatic initiatives must be a major part of any overall approach.

(d) Policy in the development banks must therefore be calibrated in light of these other channels, and our other objectives toward the banks.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Staff Office Files, Counsel’s Office, Robert J. Lipshutz Files, 1977–1979, Box 19, Human Rights (Re International Financial Institution Legislation), 4–8/77. Confidential. Sent for action. Brzezinski did not initial the memorandum.
  2. In March, Badillo had offered an amendment to the Reuss-sponsored H.R. 5262, based upon Harkin’s language, requiring the U.S. representatives to the IFIs to vote against loans to countries designated as human rights violators. The House Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee rejected the amendment and reported the bill to the House on March 31. (Congress and the Nation, Volume V, 1977–1980, p. 43) In an April 6 briefing memorandum to Vance, Bennet noted that the “human rights forces, led this time by Congressman Badillo, managed to attach Harkin-type amendments to all international financial institutions as the bill passed the House today.” (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Chron and Official Records of the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Lot 85D366, Harkin)
  3. Presumable reference to H.R. 5262; see footnote 35, Document 29. Although the Department initially resisted Reuss’ approach (see Document 20), Vance, in his March 23 testimony before Humphrey’s subcommittee, endorsed Reuss’ bill calling for the United States to use its “voice and vote” in the IFIs. (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Backs a Move For a Rights Curb On Overseas Loans,” The New York Times, March 24, 1977, p. A–5)
  4. A copy of Humphrey’s amendment is attached to an April 13 memorandum from Lamb to Christopher. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 17, Human Rights Interagency Group I)
  5. In an April 11 action memorandum to Christopher, Bennet described the interagency meeting and added: “The consensus of the group was that the Administration can not afford to go any farther than the Humphrey amendment, and that the Administration should support Humphrey, and oppose Badillo-type amendments. Treasury, which has the lead on this bill, is (a) leading an inter-agency effort to prepare a cogent and simple argument for this position, and (b) checking out the possibility of floor amendments.” (Ibid.) Tuchman also provided a synopsis of the meeting in the NSC Global Issues Cluster’s April 11 evening report to Brzezinski. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Oplinger/Bloomfield Subject File, Box 36, Evening Reports: 2–4/77)
  6. In his April 6 briefing memorandum to Vance, Bennet commented that the Badillo amendments “were as popular as motherhood and passed as voice votes. Reuss was not able to stave off a Rousselot–Badillo squeeze from right and left. If we had been prepared to take a firmer stand against Harkin rather than simply supporting the committee bill, it is possible that we could have avoided any amendments. I continue to believe, however, that the damage to the President’s credibility as a human rights champion would have been very substantial, and that our chances of removing the language in conference are substantial.” (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Chron and Official Records of the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Lot 85D366, Harkin)
  7. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the paper. According to an April 13 memorandum from Bennet to Christopher, Bergsten sent Bennet a copy of the Treasury paper under an April 13 memorandum. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 17, Human Rights Interagency Group I)