58. Memorandum From the Administrator of the Agency for International Development (Gilligan) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • U. S. Policy on Human Rights

Attached are the contributions to PRM 28 which you requested from A.I.D. These are:

—Action Plan for Expanding A.I.D.’s Human Rights Initiatives (Tab A)

—Status Report on the Observance of Women’s Rights (Tab B)

—Use of Economic and Food Assistance to Improve Human Rights Conditions (Tab C)

The last paper has been coordinated with State/EB as you requested.

These possibilities for additional action in pursuit of the Administration’s human rights objectives are appropriate for consideration at this point. No decisions should be made on them at this time, however, since their respective pros and cons cannot be reflected in a contribution of this length. Each should be more thoroughly and openly discussed, and coordinated with proposed action in other areas, to fully develop information on which final action can be based. I assume such interagency discussions will be part of the PRM 28 process as it has been for earlier PRMs.

John J. Gilligan

Tab A

Paper Prepared in the Agency for International Development2


The A.I.D. program provides support for selective initiatives specifically addressed to human rights concerns, in the context of eco [Page 169] nomic development. The kinds of initiatives which we have said we contemplate include, but will not necessarily be limited to:

(a) Cooperative programs with leading international or regional institutions, such as the International Commission of Jurists and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which are specialized in dealing with serious human rights violations;

(b) Programs designed to help the urban poor and rural poor to have effective access to the rights and protections which are provided for them under law and under development programs—including arrangements for local advocacy and for nonformal education aimed at providing the poor majority with knowledge of their rights and of governmental processes which affect them; and

(c) Sponsorship of studies and conferences regarding human rights problems and their relationship to development.

The emphasis is to be on the various categories of human rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as they relate to each other.

Each A.I.D. regional bureau has proposed to follow a strategy to fit the particular circumstances and needs of the countries it is concerned with. LA has stressed legal aid and “public interest” law. NE emphasizes the need for a better understanding of local social, cultural, and political conditions. ASIA stresses the work of voluntary groups, such as the Asia Foundation. AFR intends to encourage studies and conferences, with emphasis on African participation, which focus on problems related to the development in multi-ethnic societies, the human rights aspects of local and traditional values, and the human rights consequences of economic and political change.

In actions taken to date:

—A.I.D. sponsored a one-day meeting at Johns Hopkins University of scholars, foundation officials, human rights activists, and officers from the Executive and Legislative Branch on the relationship between economic and the other categories of rights. The deliberations are summarized in the April issue of War on Hunger.3 A.I.D. also funded a conference sponsored by the State University of New York at Albany and the Irish Institute for Public Administration on the roles which legislative bodies play with respect to the various categories of human rights. A report on that meeting is available.4

—A.I.D. is sponsoring a program of studies by scholars in various countries on non-totalitarian approaches toward economic growth with equity. We are contributing to a program of research on local political leadership and development programs and progress. Antedating [Page 170] the new initiatives, it has supported a program for technical assistance to representative assemblies in developing countries, but this support is scheduled to end in 1977. We have also distributed a collection of reports dealing with Human Rights and Economic Development.

—A.I.D. supports a major American Society for International Law study of the role of public interest law as an instrument for economic and social development. We have helped a legal aid program in Chile and expect to do the same in other countries.

—We have supported conferences on social and political structures and rural equity in Afghanistan and Yemen.

—We are providing money for some leaders in the World Peace Through Law organization to visit African countries for the purpose of surveying the need for “paralegal” services. A proposal to support a conference on human rights to be sponsored by the Rwanda Government is pending.

Some of the private voluntary organizations assisted by A.I.D. have been doing work that is relevant to the new initiatives. A.I.D.’s latest report to Congress mentions legal aid and probation reform projects supported by the Asia Foundation.

A.I.D.’s human rights policy for the future will be the subject of a discussion of A.I.D.’s Senior Staff scheduled for June 10. There are a number of options which are to be considered; we will inform the Deputy Secretary of any specific results of that meeting.

Tab B

Memorandum From the Coordinator of the Women in Development Office, Agency for International Development (Fraser) to the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Intergovernmental and International Affairs, Agency for International Development (Butler)5


  • Human Rights: AID Response to PRM 28

Women’s rights are necessarily a part of human rights both because women are half of humanity and also because women have frequently been considered second class citizens legally, socially and economically.

The Women’s Rights Movement has its roots in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement beginning with the abolition of slavery, running [Page 171] through the demands for suffrage and reasserting itself following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Legislation frequently includes both the terms race and sex. When it does not there is often parallel legislation. Likewise, many private and voluntary organizations are becoming increasingly interested in women rights. The AID Women in Development Office is seeking contact and response to requests from both the traditional women’s groups and the newer women’s rights groups concerning the women in development issue. The women in development sections of the Foreign Assistance Act both current and pending6 are responses to the women’s rights movement within the U.S. and International Women’s Year.

The AID Action Plan

1. Meetings, seminars and conferences with experts and other interested persons at home and abroad on the general issue of women in development and on the specific elements contained in the World Plan of Action for the Decade for Women.7

2. Concentration on the Five Year Minimum Goals as set forth in the U.N. World Plan which include:

a. A marked increase in literacy and civic education of women through primary, secondary and vocational training to the highest level of education;

b. Participation in policy and decision making by women;

c. Recognition of the economic value of women’s work, both in traditional work (home and child care which is uncompensated) and in that work inside and outside the home done for cash or in exchange for goods or services;

d. Increased provision for health education, sanitation, nutrition, family education, family planning and other welfare services.

3. Constant monitoring of all programs, projects and activities. This monitoring to be in accordance with the current legislation, with implementation to include:

[Page 172]

a. Evaluation by Bureaus and Missions of current and proposed programs:

—to assure that women’s needs, interests, concerns and efforts are not overlooked or ignored;

—to determine whether and how AID programs promote the Five-Year Minimum Goals in the World Plan of Action.

AID will provide operating units with simple, objective criteria for use in this assessment.

b. Allocation of funds in which central AID administrators inform the appropriate operating units of the nature and extent of efforts required to assure that programs provide sufficient emphasis on women’s rights.

Tab C

Paper Prepared in the Agency for International Development8


Economic assistance and food assistance are potential tools for pursuing our human rights objectives. Both have strengths and weaknesses in this regard.

Economic assistance is perceived to be immediately responsive to policy control—the presumption is that we could cut direct financial assistance to governments pursuing policies of which we disapprove. A distinction should be made between development assistance, which is intended to benefit the poor majority, and security supporting assistance which is extended for political reasons. Manipulation of development assistance programs to achieve short-run political leverage, however, is not consistent with sound development programming since it is aimed at the needy, who may be those suffering most from denial of human rights. Security supporting assistance could and should be more responsive to short-run political considerations.

Food assistance under PL 480 Title I is more amenable to short-run manipulation, in that it may technically be seen as balance-of-payments assistance. Such use runs the considerable political risk, however, of appearing to deny food to hungry people in order to achieve U.S. political objectives. (The domestic purposes of the program may also argue against sharp increases and decreases.) Title II, [Page 173] which is programmed specifically for humanitarian purposes, ought not to be considered for human rights leverage.

Economic Assistance

A.I.D.’s legislation requires that it be sensitive to human rights considerations in the design and implementation of its programs. Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act requires a denial of all development assistance under the Act to governments which engage in consistent patterns of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, unless the assistance directly benefits the needy people of that country. Section 502B declares that no security assistance shall be provided to a government that engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, except under extraordinary circumstances.

A.I.D. currently:

—reviews ongoing and proposed projects in each country which may be a serious violator of internationally recognized standards of human rights.

—ensures that such projects will directly benefit the needy people of the country.

A.I.D. will:

—submit assistance proposals for such countries to the Interagency Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance for discussion of overriding political considerations.

—ensure, in developing its proposals for projects in developing countries in which there is a serious question about human rights, that full consideration will be given to the impact of the program on the improvement of human rights in that country.

—constantly examine the implementation of its programs in all countries to ensure that they are supportive of the Administration’s human rights objectives.

—review annually, on a country-by-country basis, its total proposed levels of bilateral development and supporting assistance to ensure that these levels are fully compatible with the Administration’s policy of positively promoting a commitment to human rights.

The strengthening of sound development policy which is necessary to reach the needy people of developing countries however, requires long-range planning. A.I.D.’s internal procedures require keen sensitivity to human rights issues, and the process described above should serve to ensure built-in responsiveness. Therefore, we hope that development assistance would not be used to send short-term signals of approval or disapproval except in extreme cases. Further, while reductions in development assistance in reaction to flagrant violations of human rights may be appropriate in extreme cases, sudden increases would be much harder to implement productively. Positive incentives should thus be limited to instances of longer-term steady improvement [Page 174] of human rights conditions rather than specific individual actions. Supporting assistance is more political in nature; this means that sudden changes are less disruptive but also that there may be overriding political arguments against using it to pursue human rights objectives.

Nonetheless, there are possibilities for additional action which could be considered.

—Automatic cutoff of development and security supporting aid to flagrant violators. This should be reserved for extreme cases only. It would not preclude humanitarian assistance to meet disasters.

—Increase development and/or security assistance to reward positive steps. It is difficult to programmatically justify short-term responses in development assistance.

—Respond to longer-term human rights trends by raising or lowering programmed aid levels. This is more consistent with sound use of development resources. Could be coupled with demarches in capitals to explain this policy.

—Develop projects specifically directed to enhancing the respect for rights.

—Consult with other donors to achieve coordinated action. This would require considerable time and effort, but could be effective over the longer term.

A.I.D. will continue to reflect, in its development assistance policy, continuity and perseverance of support of the respect for human rights, including the fulfillment of such basic human needs as food, shelter, health care, and education. A.I.D. will continue to examine the appropriate mix of these possibilities for additional action.

Food Assistance

The new food aid legislation pending in Congress9 contains a provision that no Title I assistance be provided to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, unless the agreement directly benefits the needy. An agreement will not be considered to directly benefit the needy unless either the commodities themselves, or the proceeds from their sale, will be used for specific projects or programs which the President determines would directly benefit the needy.

The following are some additional measures which the Administration might consider for using food aid to promote human rights, together with discussions of their possible usefulness and drawbacks:

—Publicize U.S. intentions to include human rights considerations in food aid programs. Instruct Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission to inform host governments. Make the point in speeches and statements by senior officials.

[Page 175]

Discussion: This initiative would help to underscore to our missions abroad and to foreign governments the U.S. intention to incorporate human rights considerations in programming food aid; the effort should increase host countries’ sensitivity to human rights problems. This is a low-cost course of action; we see no serious disadvantages.

—Use food aid agreements to seek human rights reform on a case-by-case basis. Specify during negotiations what human rights actions would be required to obtain food aid. Indicate that progress would be considered a positive factor in future food aid decision-making, while regression or continued violations would be regarded negatively.

Discussion: This procedure would give the U.S. considerable leverage to seek improvement of human rights conditions. This leverage would be hard to exercise discreetly, however, in a way which avoids forcing the recipient nation to acknowledge publicly it is a human rights violator. Not every case would lend itself to pressure through food aid. Failure to reach agreement on a food aid program due to human rights issues would adversely affect bilateral relations and could lead to charges of U.S. intervention.

—Reduce or eliminate food aid programs in countries which we believe have performed poorly in the human rights area.

Discussion: The problem with a sanctions approach is that it creates animosity without providing a positive incentive for a country to improve its human rights performance. When American food aid is withdrawn, needy people may suffer badly. While there may be regimes whose human rights performance is so repugnant as to require withdrawal of American food aid, in general it would appear desirable to avoid this action.

—Include human rights self-help measures in appropriate PL 480 agreements.

Discussion: Self-help development measures are currently included in each PL 480 agreement. The principle could be extended to human rights measures. These provisions would have to be carefully drafted to avoid giving unwarranted offense. This would be difficult to enforce and could result in limited bilateral tension, but is an option. It would be more useful in communicating concern than in securing actual progress.

—Shift our food aid programs to countries with favorable human rights performance. Announce that we will give priority to such countries and provide food assistance on more favorable terms.

Discussion: This proposal is the most forthcoming and would specifically make human rights performance a key criteria in programming food aid. Many would question such a criteria when food needs [Page 176] in many countries are so great, however, and the proposal does not give the U.S. much leverage over offending countries where the need for food assistance is recognized to be great.

At a minimum, we should inform missions that we plan to give increased emphasis to human rights considerations in the allocation of food aid. We should avoid using food aid to chastize poor human rights performance but seek to encourage improved performance by recognizing progress in our negotiations. Measures beyond this should be implemented only in extreme cases, due to the high visibility, humanitarian justification, and domestic support of food aid programs.

For these same reasons, Title II should not be considered as a source of leverage to achieve human rights objectives.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 19, Tasking Memos. Confidential. Wisner initialed the memorandum.
  2. Confidential.
  3. Reference is to a monthly periodical produced by the Press and Publications Division, Office of Public Affairs, Agency for International Development (AID/OPA/PP).
  4. Not further identified.
  5. No classification marking.
  6. The “current” reference is to the Percy amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973 (S. 1443; P.L. 93–189), which Nixon signed into law on December 17, 1973. The amendment added a Section 113—Integrating Women Into National Economies—to the act. The “pending” reference is to the International Development and Food Assistance Act (H.R. 6714), which contained an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act directing the President to submit to Congress a report on the impact of development programs, projects, and activities on the integration of women into the developing economies of countries receiving U.S. development assistance. Carter signed the International Development and Food Assistance Act of 1977 (P.L. 95–88; 91 Stat. 533–552) into law on August 3, 1977.
  7. Delegates to the World Conference of the International Women’s Year, held in Mexico City June 19–July 2, 1975, approved a World Plan of Action designed as a “general guide” toward eliminating discrimination against women. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–14, Part 1, Documents on the United Nations, 1973–1976, Documents 175185. See also Document 342.
  8. Confidential.
  9. Reference is to P.L. 95–88; see footnote 6 above.