53. Note From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to Secretary of State Vance1


I plan to meet this week with the bureaus and agencies in the Department to discuss questions and problems they may be encountering in responding to the tasking memos they have received, which are referred to in the attached report.

To keep pressing forward but also to be coherent and responsible is a difficult balance, especially with a PRM in the works. I want to be sure the bureaus and agencies have an opportunity to express their concerns.

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Briefing Memorandum From the Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Derian) to Secretary of State Vance 2

Status Report on U.S. Policy on Human Rights: Actions Being Taken

Since May 3 the following actions have been taken in accordance with the memorandum from the Deputy Secretary.3

1. Communication of Policy to All Posts

A. The Atlanta Law Day speech was dispatched to all posts. Ambassadors and Embassy personnel informed the highest level of host governments of the speech and of U.S. human rights policy and reported on the reaction.

B. A cable has been sent to the posts directing the Ambassador to take personal responsibility for human rights reporting and for assuring Embassy personnel awareness of our human rights policy developments and of recent legislative and international legal developments in the human rights field.4

C. The results of the policy review memorandum process now underway will be communicated to the posts at an appropriate time.

2. Action with Respect to Individual Countries

A. All regional assistant secretaries have been requested to submit draft reports on human rights conditions and appropriate recommendations for achieving human rights improvements.5 Each region is currently preparing three draft reports for submission by June 15 with the remainder due on July 1. Bureaus will both prepare draft reports for comment by individual posts and in other instances permit posts to prepare the initial report for review and comment by the bureaus.

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B. This process of defining conditions, obligations, and recommendations in accordance with the directives enunciated in your Law Day speech and the President’s Notre Dame speech6 appears the best way to avoid the concept of a country “hit” list since it will provide positive individual human rights strategies for each country rather than a pariah list.

3. Coordination of Policy

A. The State Department continues to maintain overall direction of the human rights policy coordination within the executive branch. The Interagency Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance, which the Deputy Secretary chairs, met several times with full representation from other agencies to consider issues involving human rights and the International Financial Institutions.7

B. A special coordinating committee, which the Deputy Secretary is chairing, has been designated by the NSC to complete a policy review memorandum (PRM 28) on human rights and foreign policy.8 The Department is taking the lead in developing a response to the PRM with initial drafts due June 7, committee review by June 15 and final review by June 22.9

C. Internally the HRCG, which you previously established and which the Deputy Secretary chairs,10 has met to review action on human rights and IFIs prior to their consideration by the Interagency Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance.

D. An ad hoc working committee which D/HA and EB co-chair has been formed to provide initial recommendations to the HRCG and ultimately to the interagency committee, on bilateral and multilateral assistance issues relating to our human rights policy. In addition to co-chairing this group, D/HA also provides staff support to the HRCG and the inter-agency committee and acts as secretariat for those entities.

E. In the area of security assistance policy, D/HA has been named a full member of the proposed Arms Export Control Board and its

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various working groups. Policy guidelines can be discussed in this setting prior to further consideration of human rights and security assistance issues within the HRCG and the interagency committee.

F. D/HA has cooperated with the Foreign Service Institute in organizing the first seminar on human rights and will collaborate with the institute in future efforts to strengthen the understanding of our human rights policy within the Department and receive the counsel of on-line foreign service officers as to how best to implement that policy.

4. Economic Assistance

A. AID will be submitting drafts of its “New Initiatives in Human Rights” program as part of its response to the PRM, with a final report by mid-June.11

B. D/HA has met with the representatives of several other industrial nations, to discuss ways of cooperating on human rights. The consultation process will be continuing and will be bolstered by the recommendations from appropriate posts on how to accomplish this goal.

C. AID is drawing up a program covering what has been done and what will be done to promote women’s rights.12

D. With regard to multilateral programs:

(i) a procedure ensuring long lead time notice for IFI loans is near completion with the previously mentioned ad hoc working committee as the first source of screening for human rights considerations.

(ii) EB is developing a paper on the implementation of our human rights policy through the IFI’s. A summary draft will be completed by June 7 as part of the PRM exercise.

(iii) the implementation of our human rights policy in the IFIs has gone forward at the same time as we have responded to upcoming loans in the various IFIs. In two instances (Ethiopia and Benin), we have abstained on World Bank votes on human rights grounds; in two other instances (El Salvador and Argentina) we have indicated that human rights considerations would likely produce a negative vote and suggested the appropriateness of a delay in considering the loans.13 In the case of El Salvador, the delay was requested by that government. Our Embassy reported that the IFI action had engendered the first clear recognition on the part of the GOES of our seriousness in seeking [Page 155] human rights improvements.14 In the case of Argentina, our concern was communicated by the Secretary of Treasury at the IBD annual meeting.15 No final decision by the Argentine government in this matter has yet taken place.

In several other instances, demarches have been made to indicate that we are considering human rights factors as we evaluate IFI loans in keeping with the President’s stated intention of using our voice and vote in the IFI’s to promote human rights. In the case of Paraguay, the demarche produced a promise on the part of that government to respond favorably to the IAHRC request to visit Paraguay. The formal invitation, however, has not yet been offered. Other instances in which general demarches were made include Malawi and the Philippines. Other demarches are in process for Indonesia, Guatemala and Romania.

These actions have given substance to the Administration’s human rights policy in the IFIs and thereby improved the chances for the success of our legislative strategy. However, continuing evidence on this policy is clearly necessary if the legislative strategy is ultimately to be successful.

5. Security Assistance

As noted, the Arms Export Control Board is now in operation with D/HA participation and initial efforts to define policy guidelines are underway. In relation to our effort and in conjunction with the PRM, a summary statement will be available June 7. In addition, D/HA, in fulfilling its legislative requirements, has continued to advise on arms transfers to countries with human rights problems. The reports now being prepared for each country also will discuss ways in which security assistance programs can be modified in order to help implement our human rights policy.

6. Cooperation with the Congress

H has been actively engaged in security assistance, State Department authorization, IFI activities, and economic assistance legislation. In addition H has worked closely with other bureaus and the White House in pressing for the consideration of the Genocide treaty. The Deputy Secretary opened the Senate ratification hearings on the [Page 156] treaty.16 This has been part of the developing strategy for ratification for the United Nations covenants and conventions and the OAS Convention on Human Rights, which the President signed this week.17

While the balance sheet is still in our favor and a cooperative and friendly attitude has dominated the process, there is growing questioning among some sectors of the Congress with regard to the vigor of our human rights policy. This was most apparent in the IFI legislation in the House but has recurred on several security assistance matters. Closer coordination by D/HA and H with the more outspoken advocates on the Hill should take place. There remains a basic receptivity to our policy if a greater number of specific actions can be cited, even privately, to these Congressmen and Senators.

D/HA has been meeting with the human rights organizations in Washington on an individual basis and participated as well in NGO activities.

7. Multilateral Diplomacy

a. The United Nations

In response to the Deputy Secretary’s previous memorandum and in keeping with the PRM, IO is working actively on “an agenda for U.S. action on Human Rights at the United Nations” and has engaged in efforts to seek the appointment of a UN Human Rights Commissioner and to strengthen the UNHRC.

b. The Organization of American States (OAS)

Preparations are well underway for efforts to strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights Commission at the upcoming General Assembly including efforts to obtain budgetary increases, increasing the number of visits, more adequate debate and broader educational programs. ARA also is preparing papers in other ways to strengthen OAS human rights activities.

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8. Improving U.S. Performance and Defense of American Rights

The visa policy review has not yet been completed, although a decision is currently pending by the President on this issue and on possible legislative amendment. This matter also will be treated as part of the PRM exercise.

9. Public Diplomacy

Both as part of the PRM exercise and in response to tasking memorandums within the Department, USIA, CU, and PA are exploring ways to improve public awareness and understanding of our human rights policy.18 The first town meeting in Los Angeles emphasized the human rights policy and upcoming town meetings will advance that effort.19

  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. No classification marking. A handwritten notation on the note indicates that Vance saw it.
  2. No classification marking. Drafted by Schneider. Sent through Christopher. Schneider initialed for Derian. Derian sent an updated version of the memorandum, dated July 19, through Christopher to Vance. (Department of State, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1976–1977 Human Rights Subject Files and Country Files, Lot 80D177, SHUM—Policies)
  3. See footnote 1, Document 48.
  4. See Document 51.
  5. See footnotes 3 and 4, Document 49, and Document 52.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 51.
  7. See Document 41. A 4-year listing of Christopher Committee meetings and countries discussed, prepared in 1980, indicates that the Committee met on May 6, 18, and 19. (Department of State, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1980 Human Rights Subject Files, Lot 82D180, IAGHRFA—History & Organization)
  8. See Document 46.
  9. The Department of State’s outline for the response to PRM/NSC–28 is printed as Document 54.
  10. See Document 14.
  11. See Tab A, Document 58.
  12. See Tab B, Document 58.
  13. The Interagency Group reached agreement on the course of actions for these countries at its May 19 meeting. (Meeting minutes, May 20; National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 17, Human Rights Interagency Group I)
  14. In telegram 2297 from San Salvador, May 17, the Embassy reported that the threat of a U.S. veto of an IDB loan to the Government of El Salvador had signaled a “new GOES attitude on human rights.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770175–0468)
  15. The eighteenth annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank convened in Guatemala City, Guatemala, May 30–June 1, 1977.
  16. Reference is to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1948, and entered into force on January 12, 1951. (A/RES/260(III)A) President Truman submitted the Convention to the Senate in 1949. Although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had favorably reported the Convention, the Senate as a whole had not given its advice and consent as of early 1977. In a May 23 message to the Senate, the President urged ratification of the Convention, noting that ratification “would be a significant enhancement of the human rights commitments of this nation, demonstrating again to the world in concrete fashion our determination to advance and protect human rights.” Carter’s message is printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 27, 1977, p. 676. Christopher testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 24, asserting, “There is no valid moral, political, or legal argument against U.S. adherence to the genocide convention. There are strong moral, political, and legal reasons why we should become a party.” (Ibid., p. 678)
  17. See Document 47.
  18. For the USIA proposal, see Document 60.
  19. The Department’s first town hall meeting took place at the Los Angeles Hilton Hotel on May 20. At one of the sessions, Derian summarized the administration’s human rights platform and reiterated the administration’s commitment to global rights issues: “We’re really concerned about basic human rights around the world. President Carter is very serious about human rights. This is not a fad. This commitment has become a key element in the consideration of American foreign policy.” (Tendayi Kumbula, “Human Rights Stressed at L.A. Meetings,” The Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1977, p. A–26)