262. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter 1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Reuss Amendment.]

The Reuss Amendment. You raised a question about the implications of the Reuss Amendment (attached)2 to authorizing legislation for the [Page 789]international financial institutions (IFI’s).3 We have supported the Reuss approach as preferable to the extension of the more restrictive Harkin Amendment4 adopted in the last session to all of the IFI’s. The Harkin Amendment requires us to vote against loans from the Inter-American Bank and the African Development Fund to countries which are gross human rights violators, unless the loans benefit the needy. This approach grew out of Congressional frustration with the lack of action on human rights in the previous Administration. We regard the Harkin Amendment as a very awkward tool, which tends to politicize the IFI’s and divide recipients and donors into two camps.

Our support of the Reuss Amendment may be paying off. In the House, the Banking Committee agreed to repeal the Harkin Amendment in favor of the Reuss approach. It is likely that the Committee will be able to sustain its action on the floor although the going will be difficult. Senate Foreign Relations is also in the process of replacing Harkin with a Humphrey Amendment similar to the Reuss Amendment.5

Congress is almost certain to enact human rights provisions in authorizing legislation for the IFI’s. But the current trend in the Congress is away from the rigid positions of the past and toward giving the Administration greater flexibility. We, in turn, must work quietly in the IFI’s to ensure that they are more sensitive to the human rights concerns.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 18, Evening Reports (State): 4/77. Secret. Carter wrote at the top of the page: “To Cy, cc Zbig. J.C.”
  2. Not attached. The Reuss Amendment (H.R. 5262), which was to apply to U.S. participation in international financial institutions, directed “that the United States, ‘in connection with its voice and vote, shall advance the cause of human rights, including by seeking to channel assistance toward countries other than those whose governments engage in a consistent pattern of gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, such as torture, or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.’” (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Backs a Move For a Rights Curb On Overseas Loans,” The New York Times, March 24, 1977, p. A5)
  3. In a March 23 Evening Report to Carter, Vance noted that during his appearance that day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there had been a prolonged discussion of human rights and foreign aid. Vance reported: “When asked about our position on how to handle human rights in the international financial institutions, I said that we supported the human rights provision in Reuss’ bill authorizing our contributions to the IFIs.” Carter wrote in the margin below this sentence: “This concerns me. Please briefly assess ultimate consequences.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 18, Evening Reports (State): 3/77) The March 24 edition of The New York Times contains a report on Vance’s March 23 appearance before Congress. (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Backs a Move For a Rights Curb On Overseas Loans,” The New York Times, March 24, 1977, p. A5)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 260.
  5. Carter wrote “ok” in the margin adjacent to this paragraph.
  6. On April 6, the House of Representatives rejected the approach of the Reuss Amendment in favor of directing U.S. IFI representatives to vote against loans for countries whose governments violated human rights. (“Carter is Rebuffed by House on Rights,” The New York Times, April 7, 1977, p. 1) On October 3, Carter signed H.R. 5262 into law. The act, which regulated U.S. participation in a number of international financial institutions, directed U.S. representatives in the IBRD, IDA, IFC, IDB, ADF, and ADB to vote against loans for countries whose governments violated human rights. For additional documentation on human rights and U.S. participation in international financial institutions, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.