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

98034. Inform Consuls. Subject: Secretary’s Human Rights Speech. For Ambassador from Acting Secretary.

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1. USIS Wireless File 4/29 will provide complete text of Secretary’s human rights speech to be delivered 4/30 (1600Z) at University of Georgia Law School.2 This is not only his first major speech in office, it is also comprehensive administration statement of the President’s determination to place human rights considerations at the center of US foreign policy.

2. This speech should be given broad distribution to public and press (where possible) and to host country officials at all levels. Posts may wish to supply high-ranking contacts with full text at time of delivery or shortly in advance. Department will obviously be interested in receiving reactions.

3. Speech indicates policy will be implemented by positive steps, such as encouragement through public statements and economic assistance, or other measures, such as public or private expressions of concern and withholding aid when necessary. Mission representations can emphasize our interest in seeing practical results.

4. Human rights considerations will enter into our overall foreign policy, but policy implementation will be flexible, depending on details of each specific case.

5. While entire speech obviously merits careful review, high points are:

A) Human rights are defined as:

1) The right to be free from governmental violation of the integrity of the person, such as torture, etc;

2) The right to the fulfillment of such vital needs as food, shelter, health care and education; and

3) The right to enjoy civil and political liberties, such as freedom of thought, etc.

B) Our policy is to promote all these rights. While there may be disagreement on the priorities these rights deserve, we believe that, with work, all of these rights can be complementary and mutually reinforcing.

C) US policy will be implemented on case-by-case basis, according to sets of criteria and questions spelled out in text.3

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D) We will seek implementation through multilateral agencies as well as in bilateral relations. Secretary specifies that it is not our purpose to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, but as the President has emphasized, no member of the United Nations can claim that violation of internationally protected human rights is solely its own affair. Our policy is to be applied within our own society as well as abroad. We welcome constructive criticism, at the same time as we offer it. Declassify upon receipt.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770151–0364. Limited Official Use; Immediate. Drafted by Grose; cleared by Janeway, Neidle, and in S/S, and in substance by Robert Oakley, Thurber, Holly, Seeyle, Derian, Todman, and Hartman; approved by Christopher.
  2. Vance’s April 30 address at the University of Georgia School of Law, entitled “Human Rights and Foreign Policy,” is printed in Department of State Bulletin, May 23, 1977, pp. 505–508, and is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy.
  3. In his speech, Vance referenced three sets of questions relating to the nature of human rights cases, prospects for effective action, and the maintenance of perspective, adding, “In the end, a decision whether and how to act in the cause of human rights is a matter for informed and careful judgment. No mechanistic formula produces an automatic answer.” See also Bernard Gwertzman, “Vance Asks Realism in U.S. Rights Policy,” The New York Times, May 1, 1977, pp. A–1 and A–12.