80. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Possible Human Rights Initiatives

(1) Creation of a Human Rights Foundation

This would be modeled on the Inter-American Foundation which is a quasi-governmental organization that receives its money through Congressional appropriation, but has very loose ties with the gov[Page 261]ernment, and makes its own policies.2 This foundation could: 1) funnel money to the international human rights organizations and to national human rights organizations operating in other countries (as well as to American human rights groups), based on the value of their work; 2) provide much needed support for refugee resettlement efforts, including the retraining (language, professional standards, etc.) and placement of professionals (doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc.) who are political refugees. In particular, the Foundation could finance the resettlement of such key individuals—not in the US where their talents are wasted—but in other third world nations badly in need of these skills. This would redirect the classic “brain drain” in the interest of promoting both human rights and economic development; 3) support the work of NGOs in the multinational organizations particularly the UN, where they are the source of crucial data on human rights conditions; 4) set up and award an annual human rights prize, with a sizeable award comparable to the Nobel, to recognize an outstanding contribution to human rights anywhere in the world.3 The Foundation could probably employ (depending on the legislative terms of its creation) foreign nationals who could provide essential expertise in certain areas, and would give it a slightly multinational image.

(2) Reapportionment of Support from the Violators to the Violatees

The Administration could publicly announce that it was rechanneling certain funds which would have gone to governments guilty of human rights violations, and would spend it instead on those who had suffered from these violations.4 This would obviously have to have Congressional approval, but if it were announced in this way, it would probably get it. These funds might either be spent directly by the government, or could be redirected through the Foundation or to an international body of some sort, for example, the UN Commission on Refugees. (In view of last week’s Congressional denial of the funds needed to support the additional 15,000 Indochinese refugees paroled earlier this summer, this may prove to be the only way we can get help to these people.)5 This policy would be closely linked to:

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(3) Targeting of Foreign Assistance to Countries which Respect Human Rights

The relevant statutes prescribe certain rules which must be followed in allocating US foreign assistance (including SSA, AID programs, PL–480), and political-military interests impose additional constraints, but within these limitations there is still latitude to target money and aid to countries where there is a good, or improving, human rights record. The problem is that in a sense we would be further punishing the needy who live under a bad regime in doing this. However, the reality is that there are more than enough needy people to go around, and so it can be argued that in this way we provide an additional incentive to bad governments to change (and for people who live under these governments to unseat them). We follow this policy now in theory—but certainly not in practice. The country-by-country ZBB process simply does not provide for such kinds of tradeoffs. We should be able to point to clear trends—decreases for violators, increases for others—rather than increases for Indonesia and the Philippines, Nicaragua, etc.6

(4) Overt Criticism of Offenders

The President or Andy Young 7 could speak out against gross violators.

Uganda: The President might suggest, in some very low key manner, that Americans might want to organize an informal, voluntary boycott of Ugandan coffee (à la grapes and lettuce).8 We could arrange that the NGOs and civil rights groups would pick up this ball and run with it.

Cambodia: strong public criticism in a major forum. Might we raise this issue with the PRC, the only country with diplomatic representation in Cambodia? We could use their public support of our human rights policy to gently suggest that their support of this vicious regime is inappropriate, or that they should use their influence to stimulate improvements.

Vietnam: there is much public criticism of the fact that this Administration has not spoken out against what is going on in Vietnam. We could push for human rights improvements both publicly and privately with the government.

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(5) Improvement of Relations with Congress

The mess with the IFI bill, and the recent refusal to fund 15,000 more Indochinese refugees, is evidence of the severe problems in Congress at both extremes of the ideological spectrum. The human rights leaders in Congress are perfectly aware that the Right is using this issue to end all foreign aid, but because of their criticism and lack of trust in the Administration’s policies, they are in a box, and a coalition of the Administration with those who should be its natural allies on this issue is much more distant now than it was last January. Before relations deteriorate further, we should make a determined effort to turn things around by initiating a series of working meetings—chaired by the Vice President with Christopher also present—with the prominent members on this issue from both Houses and both parties. The agenda should be set by the Congressmen (through staff consultations) but should include one meeting devoted to bilateral assistance policies (economic and military), and one to the IFIs, with explicit discussion of what Congress wants and expects from the US delegations. There should also be a meeting devoted to policies toward the USSR and Eastern Europe, where a consensus might be built about the Jackson-Vanik problem. These meetings would provide a reasonably quiet and apolitical forum for the Administration to try to explain why it has taken some of the actions it has, (for example, on the recent Nicaraguan decisions).9 This would be helpful for us too—if our policies cannot be rationalized in this forum then they will obviously never work on the Hill.

(6) In the UN—Fight Efforts by the USSR, Argentina, Chile, etc., to Remove the Consultative Status of the NGOs.

This move is apparently afoot10—I have not yet heard about it from USUN—but it is widely worried about elsewhere. We should be in the lead of those fighting it.

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(7) In all Multinational Forums—Recognize and Promote the Power of Words

Nothing could demonstrate more clearly than the Helsinki Final Act, the unexpected and unpredictable power of “mere words.” Eleanor Roosevelt’s insistence on including human rights language in the UN Charter was of course greeted by roars of cynicism—and yet now they have in many respects achieved the status of international law. It was not the US, but the Helsinki Monitoring Groups in Eastern Europe and the USSR, which turned the Helsinki agreement from a Western loss into a triumph. We should learn from this lesson the potential for exploitation of any international document which the Soviets sign. There is no reason to allow them to continue to get credit for signing documents to which they do not even pay lipservice. We might start by reminding the world at Belgrade, that on August 8, 1975, Izvestia hailed the Final Act as “a new law of international life” thus discrediting subsequent claims of “interference in domestic affairs.”11

(8) Get the Genocide Treaty Ratified

This was the President’s first human rights goal, and yet we haven’t yet succeeded—because we haven’t really tried. People are beginning to notice and to criticize—“talk is cheap.” Signing all the international human rights treaties does us little good in international forums if we can’t get them ratified, and the Genocide Treaty is where we must begin. I still believe that this should be tried before the Panama Treaty. If successful, it would aid that effort by demonstrating that the Right wing can be defeated. Only about five votes are needed.12

(9) Find a Way to Use Allard Lowenstein’s Talents

Unfortunately we cannot make him an Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, but we should find some way to make better use of his abilities than his current job (US Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs) or to use his current post for some major initiative. All of his energy, eloquence and idealism are exactly suited to this issue (matched with lots more political savvy than others now involved).

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues—Bloomfield Subject File, Box 17, Human Rights: Policy Initiatives: 1/77–10/78. No classification marking. Tuchman did not initial the memorandum. Tuchman sent the memorandum to Brzezinski under an October 11 covering memorandum; Brzezinski wrote the word “urgent” on the covering memorandum and added: “I think this is pointed in the right direction. 1) I suggest you quickly talk to a few NSC staffers (Hunter, Huntington, Armacost) to get their reactions. Also maybe Owen. 2) Give me a memo to the President, suggesting these [unclear] for his approval, or a modest human rights program. ZB.” (Ibid.)
  2. Brzezinski wrote “good idea” in the margin next to this sentence.
  3. Brzezinski placed a vertical line in the margin next to the portion of this sentence that begins with “source” and ends with “Nobel.”
  4. Brzezinski drew an arrow in the margin pointing at the beginning of this sentence and wrote “interesting but needs development.”
  5. Presumable reference to the passage of H.R. 7769 by the House on September 27. H.R. 7769 allowed Indochinese refugees (classified as parolees) who had resided in the United States for 2 years to apply for permanent resident alien status, extended the federal resettlement aid program (which would temporarily expire on September 30), provided for a general phase-out of the program, and allocated $25 million for job training and placement programs. The Senate subsequently passed a companion measure on October 10. (Congress and the Nation, Volume V, 1977–1980, pp. 46–47)
  6. Brzezinski’s handwritten notations in the margin adjacent to this paragraph are illegible.
  7. Brzezinski circled Young’s name, drew a line from it to the margin, and commented “or maybe the V.P.?”
  8. Presumable reference to grape and lettuce boycotts either organized or supported by United Farm Workers (UFW) founders César Chávez and Dolores Huerta during the 1960s and 1970s.
  9. Presumable reference to the administration’s late September decision to extend a military aid agreement with Nicaragua, while simultaneously withholding economic aid, following President Anastasio Somoza’s lifting of a 3-year “state of siege.” (John M. Goshko, “U.S. Decides to Aid 2 Nations,” The Washington Post, September 29, 1977, p. A–3 and Karen DeYoung, “Nicaragua Denied Economic Aid, Gets Military,” The Washington Post, October 5, 1977, p. A–10) At the September 28 IAGHRFA meeting, the members considered several AID loans and opted to support only those that involved grants to voluntary agencies. The Group decided “to take no action for the time being with regard to other AID loans, and to try to seek a delay in the consideration of the IDB loan so that the group could consider it at a subsequent meeting after more time had elapsed so that it could better access the effects of the lifting of the state of siege in Nicaragua.” (Meeting minutes of the Interagency Group on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance; National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 17, Human Rights—II)
  10. Brzezinski underlined the phrase “is apparently afoot” and wrote in the margin: “? is it or isn’t it?”
  11. Brzezinski placed a vertical line in the margin next to the portion of the sentence that begins with “should” and ends with “life” and wrote “fine but need more concrete expression.”
  12. Brzezinski’s handwritten notations in the margin adjacent to this paragraph are illegible.