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75. Memorandum for the Files1

SUBJECT

  • Working Group on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance

The group met to consider PL–480 in general, a $480,000 preinvestment technical assistance grant to Ecuador, and the agenda for the upcoming Interagency Group meeting. USDA and AID/Food for Peace, as well as the regular members of the group, were represented.2

PL–480

AID/Food for Peace made a presentation on Title II, disaster relief, and Title I programs. After the Title II discussion, the group agreed that because Title II activity was almost always confined to instances of severe humanitarian need, and because food under Title II was usually distributed directly to needy and often starving people, the group would recommend to the Interagency Group that PL–480 Title II activity not be routinely reviewed by the working group. The group felt that by its very nature, PL–480 Title II activity directly promotes human rights.

A similar determination was made in the case of AID disaster relief activities. Once again, disaster relief, by its very nature, directly promotes human rights. Further, it has been USG policy to provide disaster relief whenever requested. Nelson Coar pointed out that the IFIs on occasion become involved in disaster relief; the group made the same determination on multilateral disaster relief that it did on bilateral relief.

Most of its discussion at the meeting, which lasted for two hours, dealt with Title I. The discussion began with a presentation on the general workings of the Title I program. It was pointed out the Title I served many objectives in addition to, and on occasion apart from, providing humanitarian aid. Title I provides budget and balance-of-payments support to host governments, it is used to promote the development of free markets in recipient countries, and it indirectly subsidizes American farmers. The extent to which each of these purposes is served by the Title I program in a given country will largely de[Page 251]termine the degree of effectiveness which can be expected from using the Title I program to affect the human rights situation in that country.

USDA and AID/Food for Peace stressed that planning Title I sales was a lengthy and involved process which could not be turned on and off very easily; they also stressed that the success of the program rested in part on the ability of customers to be able to rely on the program from one year to the next, and that the program also had an important domestic constituency. Longstanding group members, including EB and D/HA, responded that implementing the link between human rights and our bilateral and multilateral assistance programs had created planning and continuity problems for other parts of AID as well as for the international financial institutions; that we were actively and continuously seeking ways to improve our procedures; and that the group endeavored to take operational program requirements and constraints, and other relevant factors, into account without sacrificing progress towards our policy goals. The point was also made that our human rights policy would be viewed as arbitrary and inconsistent, and therefore be jeopardized, if, for example, we were exerting pressure on a country in the IFIs and through non-PL–480 bilateral aid at the same time that we were allowing to proceed without hindrance highly concessionary program aid through PL–480 Title I.

It was pointed out that introducing the Food for Peace program into our human rights policy might not satisfy human rights-related requirements of the new Food for Peace legislation. AID/Food for Peace assured the group that it was in the process of drawing up comprehensive regulations which would meet all the requirements of the legislation. After reviewing the new legislation and a verbal summary of AID/Food for Peace’s plan to implement it, the group was satisfied that it need consider only how to tie implementation of our human rights policy to PL–480 Title I.

The group decided to recommend to the Interagency Group that the following procedure be adopted with respect to PL–480 Title I: When AID/Food for Peace and USDA, along with other agencies, begin the process which eventually culminates in a Title I agreement with a country, AID/Food for Peace will inform D/HA and EB that the process is underway. D/HA and EB, in consultation with other interested offices and agencies, will be able to determine whether the anticipated PL–480 program might become a useful tool of our human rights policy in the relevant country, and will inform the group, whenever it is considering actions to improve the human rights situation in a country, of any pending PL–480 Title I activity in that country.

AID/Food for Peace requested some indication of countries in which it might expect its Title I activities to be affected by human rights policy. EB and D/HA responded emphatically that any such list could [Page 252]be construed to be a “hit list.” It was pointed out that human rights situations are constantly evolving; that progress in countries which still have a long way to go will often receive a positive response from the U.S. because we want to respond positively to positive trends; and that in general the form of our human rights initiatives in different countries will often turn on tactical considerations which can only be evaluated in the context of a variety of rapidly changing factors. D/HA agreed to indicate informally a few countries slated for PL–480 Title I which had human rights records such that barring a drastic transformation no attempt to influence the human rights situation in those countries through assistance was envisaged at this time. It was made emphatically clear, however, that any countries not so mentioned, which included by far most Title I recipients, did not represent a group of countries in which any action was being contemplated. It was pointed out that most of the countries in the remaining group also would not experience any reduction in bilateral or multilateral assistance due to the U.S. human rights initiative and had not in the past. There was some concern that this rendered the list basically useless for Food for Peace’s purposes, but as this was the objective sought by EB and others at the meeting, the issue was allowed to rest.

After the meeting, representatives from EB, D/HA, Treasury ARA, and AF discussed the agenda for the Interagency meeting. It was agreed that in addition to the PL–480 recommendations, the agenda would consist of the following items:

Argentina: The country evaluation plan on Argentina will be cleared by the meeting and will be distributed with the agenda. The gathering decided to recommend that rather than continue to flatly oppose Argentina’s IFI program, a positive step might be to allow some of the program to come forward if Argentina will grant the “right of option to seek asylum” to political prisoners, or take even more significant steps. ARA stated that it was likely that the right of option would most likely be reinstituted soon anyway, and it was felt that allowing movement on the IFI program in response to the reinstitution would demonstrate our willingness to cooperate and respond positively to positive trends.

Nicaragua: There was no discussion of Nicaragua because the country evaluation plan was not ready.

Ethiopia: While it was anticipated that the decision on the AID loans will have been made by the meeting, an AFDF loan will come up on September 19th in the AFDF Board. D/HA will recommend abstaining; Treasury, EB, and AF favored a “yes” vote, perhaps with a statement. It was decided not to make a recommendation to the Interagency Group.

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A final topic on the agenda will be “procedures.” The discussion should be a continuation from the previous meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 17, Human Rights Interagency Group I. No classification marking. Drafted by Nash.
  2. A notation in an unknown hand next to this paragraph reads: “Ecuador was O.K.”