48. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • U.S. Policy on Human Rights

This memorandum (1) provides a brief status report on measures being taken here to assure that our human rights policy is effectively implemented and (2) requests that you approve a means for interagency coordination on human rights.

1. To implement our human rights policy, we have organized a broadscale effort involving all relevant bureaus of the Department as well as all U.S. posts abroad. As part of this program, we have directed the following:

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—Specific proposed courses of action with respect to each country, with consideration to be given to each of the available approaches to encourage recognition of human rights.

—Strategy papers and action plans on how best to use security assistance, bilateral economic aid, and U.S. participation in international financial institutions to promote human rights.

—Action plans on more creative use of public diplomacy (e.g., through USIA’s efforts) to further human rights.

—Action plans for using multilateral institutions to promote human rights.

—More effective cooperation with the Hill and the growing numbers of human rights lobbies.

In addition, I have directed circulation throughout the Department and to all U.S. posts abroad of important statements on human rights made by you and senior Administration officials, including of course the Law Day speech.2 I have also appointed Warren Christopher as Chairman of the Department’s Human Rights Coordinating Group3 which oversees all major human rights decisions within the State Department, AID and USIA.

2. To enlist fullest possible support for our human rights policy, coordination throughout the Executive Branch is necessary. Many decisions in this area require collaboration with, for example, the Department of Defense, the Treasury, and the National Security Council.

In one particular area—decision-making on human rights issues as they relate to foreign assistance—interdepartmental coordination is already being provided by an interagency group formed pursuant to an NSC memorandum of April 1.4 That memo specified that the group should be chaired by my representative, and earlier this month I designated Warren Christopher as Chairman.

I believe that the coordination should now be broadened to include Executive Branch efforts on all fronts. The State Department is prepared to take the lead, if you agree.


That you direct the State Department to coordinate Executive Branch efforts affecting the promotion of human rights abroad.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 19, Human Rights—Tasking Memos. Confidential. Another copy is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 122, Vance, Misc. Communications with: 5/77. In the same file is a May 3 memorandum from Christopher to Vance specifying the actions that Christopher had taken or planned to take “to insure that our policy is implemented in the full range of U.S. diplomatic efforts.” (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 19, Human Rights—Tasking Memos) Christopher’s memorandum is an updated and expanded version of both Lake’s March 25 memorandum requesting that Christopher approve various action items (see Document 29) and the redrafted version of the March 25 memorandum, which is attached to Lake’s April 14 memorandum to Christopher (see Document 34).
  2. See Document 39.
  3. See Document 14.
  4. See Document 31.
  5. There is no indication as to whether the President approved or disapproved the recommendation. A handwritten notation on another copy of the memorandum reads: “No Record in White House per WH Suspense. OBE.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770144–0667)