52. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Maynes)1


  • U.S. Policy on Human Rights: Actions to be Taken

I have sent the attached memorandum (Tab 1)2 to the Secretary outlining a broadscale effort to implement our human rights policy as effectively as possible. That effort, which involves all relevant bureaus of the Department as well as AID, USIA and all U.S. posts abroad, is premised upon the comprehensive statement of policy set forth in the Secretary’s Law Day speech (Tab 2).3 That policy was recently amplified by the President in his speech at Notre Dame4 where he identified our basic commitment to promote the cause of human rights as the first of the cardinal premises on which our foreign policy rests.

In a related development an interagency policy review is under way under the aegis of the Special Coordinating Committee (SCC) of the NSC. I will chair the SCC for the purpose of this review, which is designed to produce a concise paper and specific policy recommendations for the President. The review will further develop and refine the policies already enunciated by the Administration. The May 20 memorandum from Dr. Brzezinski setting out the terms of reference for the review is attached at Tab 3.5

As you will see from my memorandum to the Secretary, one of the principal components of our effort is the development of an “Agenda for U.S. Action on Human Rights at the United Nations.” I would like you to undertake preparation of such an agenda for submission to the Human Rights Coordinating Group.

The agenda should encompass consideration of at least the following:

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(i) determining before the convening of each new session of the General Assembly and each major UN conference the priority human rights issues for special U.S. attention;

(ii) consulting early and often with close allies and, when possible, with non-aligned and third world nations, to identify human rights issues of shared concern and forge appropriate coalitions;

(iii) seeking ways to eliminate the racism-zionism issue, and trying to assure even-handed study and statements on country and area human rights situations so that not just a few countries are singled out;

(iv) following up on the President’s proposals for strengthening the HRC by more frequent meetings, by returning the Commission to New York, and by increasing its mandate with the appointment of a UN Human Rights Commissioner, and also to take steps to preserve the Commission’s procedures for dealing with private complaints on human rights.

Please do not feel constrained to limit your proposals to these five areas.

Paragraph 3(f) of the memorandum requesting the PRM seeks an evaluation of substantive and procedural initiatives the U.S. could take in various international forums to improve human rights conditions. The agenda I have requested above will clearly be of major assistance in preparing a response to paragraph 3(f). Since paragraph 3(f) is not limited to the UN, however, I would appreciate it if you would prepare a draft response to paragraph 3(f) setting forth any substantive and procedural initiatives you would recommend that the U.S. take in the UN as well as any other international forums to improve human rights conditions.

I think it is important to note, as you prepare your paper, that in his Law Day speech the Secretary (1) specifically defined the human rights which are the subject of our policy, (2) set forth in detail the questions to be considered as we determine whether and how to act with respect to human rights, and (3) stated that once we choose to act, the means available range from quiet diplomacy in its many forms, through public pronouncements, to withholding of assistance.

In addition to the above described action agenda, I would like you to prepare, in consultation with AID, and with clearance from D/HA and S/P, a status report on the observance of women’s rights as well as an action plan designed to foster greater observance of such rights. You may wish to consider the following in your paper: cooperation with U.S. women’s organizations; greater emphasis on women’s rights in the implementation of current U.S. legislation on development assistance; ways to follow-up on International Women’s Year.

Please have your staff contact Mr. Schneider of D/HA (Room 7802, x21181) for further details on substance, for information on format and [Page 151] procedures, and, as needed, for copies of tasking memoranda sent to other bureaus in connection with this effort. Your papers should be submitted by close of business June 15, except that I would like your draft response to paragraph 3(f) by close of business June 7. A Human Rights Coordinating Group meeting will be scheduled after June 15 to discuss your proposals.

  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. Copies of tasking memoranda sent by Christopher to T, PM, AID, PA, USIA, EB, H, and CU are in the National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 23, Human Rights—PRM I.
  2. Not found attached. Reference is to Christopher’s May 3 memorandum to Vance. See footnote 1, Document 48.
  3. Not found attached. See Document 39.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 51.
  5. Not found attached. Reference is to PRM–28 (see Document 46).