83. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs (Bergsten) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • Implementation of New Human Rights Legislation

Title VII on human rights of Public Law 95-1182 raises certain questions that I believe should be considered by the Inter-Agency Group on [Page 275]Human Rights and Foreign Assistance. In particular, the following two issues need our prompt attention.

1. Channeling assistance toward countries other than those that engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. The Secretaries of State and Treasury are to submit annual progress reports to the Congress on implementation of this mandate.

The Congress intends to use human rights as a means of allocating available resources. The human rights PRM states that “efforts should be made to reinforce positive human rights and democratic tendencies in the Third World, particularly in the states that already have demonstrated good or improved human rights performance.” The PRM also supports incentives as well as sanctions as a means of advancing the cause of human rights. For example, in referring to incentives, the PRM proposes goodwill missions, Presidential letters, and public statements in support of countries with good or improving human rights records. For the most part, however, the PRM does not provide guidance for implementing a policy of incentives.

Any process whose aim is to channel multilateral assistance away from offending countries towards recipients where the human rights conditions are good is not likely to be achieved quickly. However, the process should be initiated as soon as possible. In implementing such a policy, it will be necessary to determine which countries the U.S. considers to be serious problems or gross offenders, at the same time we select countries that can be considered exemplary.3

2. Initiation of wide consultations designed to develop (1) a viable standard for (a) meeting basic human needs, and (b) the protection of human rights and (2) a mechanism for acting together to insure that the rewards of international economic cooperation are available to those who subscribe to such standards.

By including this provision, the Congress is no doubt seeking to encourage us to get support from other countries for our human rights [Page 276]objectives. The provision conveniently coincides with the Administration’s interest in internationalizing our efforts, which will be indispensable to success of our policy and will at the same time obviate the need to be out front, as we are now, in exercising human rights initiative through the IFIs. Having already done some initial work in establishing standards for human rights performance and for meeting basic human needs, we should, of course, take an active role in multilateral efforts in this regard.

In referring to the reporting requirements on progress made on “internationalization” of our human rights policies, the Congress recognized in Sec. 703(b) that the achievement of this goal would be gradual. The stress in the legislation on this effort is on “initiation” of a wide consultation. A necessary first step to comply with this provision would be to consider mechanisms for a general approach to internationalization and vehicles for initiating international consultations.4

As indicated at the outset, I believe that the Interagency Group should address both issues promptly. To start the process, Treasury will prepare proposals5 for dealing with both the substantive and procedural aspects involved. We will submit drafts to the Group as soon as possible, for review and discussion by the several agencies concerned.6

C. Fred Bergsten
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 21, Human Rights Interagency Group V. No classification marking. Oxman sent a copy of the memorandum to Christopher under an October 28 covering memorandum and attached an October 29 letter thanking Bergsten for his memorandum, which Christopher signed. (Ibid.)
  2. The President signed H.R. 5262 into law on October 3. The legislation, P.L. 95–118 (91 Stat. 1067–1072), authorized U.S. contributions to IFIs during FY 1978 and outlined factors for the consideration of loans. Earlier in July, House and Senate conferees had reached a compromise position on IFI loans and human rights, proposing that U.S. representatives to the IFIs would be required to oppose loans to countries in violation of human rights norms but would not be required to vote against these loans. Likewise, U.S. officials would not be required to oppose loans if the President certified that opposition would not advance human rights in that country. However, the full House rejected the compromise in September, returning to the Senate an amended H.R. 5262, which required U.S. representatives to oppose loans or aid to any country that violated human rights standards unless the assistance directly benefited the needy. (Congress and the Nation, Volume V, 1977–1980, p. 44)
  3. Christopher bracketed the portion of this paragraph that begins with the word “policy” and ends with the word “exemplary.”
  4. Christopher placed two parallel lines in the left margin of the portion of this paragraph that begins with “The stress” and ends with “consultations.”
  5. Bergsten sent a copy of the Department of Treasury’s initial proposals, entitled “Human Rights Objectives: Strategy for Implementing Title VII, PL 95–118” and “Basic Human Needs: Strategy for Implementing Title VII, PL 95–188,” to Christopher on December 6. (Department of State, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1980 Human Rights Subject Files, Lot 82D180, IAGHRFA—History & Organization)
  6. Christopher placed two parallel lines in the left margin of this paragraph.