271. Memorandum From Roger Hansen of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • A Last Attempt at a PRM–8 “Product” for the President


Your phone call this morning deeply saddened me. It revealed that for five months and three weeks I have worked for you with so little communication that I have wasted your time and mine, and it appears that no constructive purpose has been served.

When you asked me to come on board for six months, the purpose was specifically stated: “to get PRM 8 through the bureaucracy in a way [Page 830] that allows us to reconceptualize North-South relations”. That is what I have been trying to do ever since the last day of January; that is why the Track II group was eventually set up after the failure of the EPG effort; and that is why the PRM 8 before you now2 is not a Roger Hansen think-piece, but the very best I could squeeze out of the bureaucracy after three months of hard work. It is still so “out-front” that the Van Dyks’, the Bergstens’, the Paul Boekers’, etc. are at work desperately trying to produce a deadlock tomorrow.3

I finally thought that the best I could do for you was to start a process for thinking about North-South relations, based on four major elements (p. 37–38 of PRM). That is what I hoped the PRC meeting would produce.

Now, with three days left, I find that you want a Roger Hansen proposal, regardless of whether or not anyone in the bureaucracy agrees with it. Had I known this earlier, I could have saved us both six months of wasted effort, and needn’t have joined the NSC to produce the product for you.

What follows is an attempt to set forward in less than five pages an overall approach to North-South relations, followed by much more specific emphasis on the “Carteresque” centerpiece, as I read the President’s instincts and think about the domestic and international constraints with which he must deal in proposing North-South initiatives.


Paper Prepared by Roger Hansen of the National Security Council Staff4


A lengthy reconsideration of US policies toward the “Third World” countries leads to the following conclusion:

I. Overall Scope

US North-South strategy should consist of four component parts, each aimed at the accomplishment of a different set of US foreign policy goals (with some overlap between them).

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1. Those changes in direction in what have in the past been thought of as the central core of US policies vis-a-vis the developing countries: trade liberalization; substantially increased economic assistance; a system of global food reserves; and a strengthening of such central financial institutions as the IMF and the World Bank. In these areas of “traditional” North-South policy, the Administration has already made important commitments which will be of considerable interest to the so-called “middle tier” LDCs, neither the strongest nor the weakest. The US goal in these policy arenas will be to keep Administration commitments made already by defending them successfully before the Congress and the American public. This job will be neither easy nor glamorous, but nevertheless second only to a Basic Human Needs initiative described below in importance to more constructive North-South relations.

2. A second ingredient in an appropriate North-South strategy will entail greater flexibility needed to deal with the problems and the opportunities presented by the emergence of the so-called “upper-tier” of developing countries. Some are financial powers, e.g., Saudi Arabia; some are industrial powers, e.g., Brazil; some are rapidly becoming potential military powers (at the regional level), e.g., Iran.

The United States must develop a set of policies and bilateral relationships with such countries which will allow us to incorporate such emerging local powers into all of our trilateral global systems of consultation and management which are appropriate. A major element in this set of policies will be greater flexibility in encouraging such countries to become members of such organizations as the Group of Ten on monetary affairs, particular working groups of the OECD of special interest to them, etc.

This set of policies is of particular importance if we are to gain the cooperation of these countries in the achievement of our policy goals in such realms as human rights, non-proliferation, conventional arms sales, and cooperation in such bodies as the UN, CIEC, and others where they can sometimes act as a “bridge to the South”.

3. The third element, far less specific yet terribly important as one looks to the longer term, concerns a concentration on the need for global reforms where more-than-incremental approaches may well be necessary to deal effectively with “world order” problems over the coming decade. The vision needed in the North-South area is similar to the Presidential mandate given to the CEQ in his May 23 Environmental Message.5 Clearly a strong case can be made for systematically studying such linked issues as food production, health facilities, popu[Page 832]lation growth, and the fulfillment of basic human needs. If we do not begin to examine these problems in their aggregate and in their linkages to one another, we may well miss the opportunity to find “simultaneous” solutions which detailed study of each issue in isolation will not produce.

4. Finally, and for reasons detailed below, the Administration should make a major commitment to a Basic Human Needs (BHN) approach in its support of development progress bilaterally, together with OECD associates, and through such multilateral institutions as the World Bank and the International Development Association. This initiative would be of more benefit to the “lower tier” LDCs where the largest numbers of the so-called “absolute poverty” population is to be found. In this sense it would add balance to our entire package of North-South policies. But it is recommended for far more important reasons detailed in the next section.

II. An Initiative on Basic Human Needs: Rationale

An initiative on a Basic Human Needs (BHN) approach should become the centerpiece of our North-South strategy for the following reasons:

1. The time is right. Development economists throughout the world, North and South, are stressing the fact that older approaches to development have failed to spread the benefits of growth. The result is that approximately one billion people within the LDCs today are living in what is described as “absolute poverty” (as measured by infant mortality, caloric intake, longevity, health and sanitary facilities, etc.). Many economists are turning to the concept of the fulfillment of basic human needs by which they mean assured levels of food, health and educational facilities, clean water, etc. Measurements and definitions differ; all are beginning to come together.

2. The US foreign policy setting is right. Given the Administration’s emphasis on human rights, a new and added emphasis on BHN would not only be a natural complement but also an integral part of a global stress on human rights. North and South have long feuded over the divergent emphases in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the North emphasizing personal, civil and political rights; the developing countries, basic economic rights (needs). The US can take a major step toward closing this “values gap” by embracing jointly the concepts of human rights and basic human needs, and by proposing a major development program to see that the fulfillment of basic human needs is achieved throughout the world by the end of the century.

3. A BHN focus can help the North and South to break out of the presently deadlocked “dialogue” last noted at CIEC. It can provide a comprehensive framework in which general North-South agreement can [Page 833] be reached, which would then facilitate the solution of many other specific political and economic problems between North and South. Although many southern elite groups would initially oppose such a program, this opposition is to be expected and not to be a cause of concern. Far better than “fairness” among nation-states, a concept difficult to defend philosophically or support empirically, “fairness” among people in delivering to all a package of basic human needs can be seen as the ultimate purpose of all other economic policies, and a global norm to which all countries can subscribe.

4. BHN is also an integrating concept which has great potential for producing greater coherence and sense of direction to the entire UN system in the development field. Already the embryonic notion is beginning to provide an integrating framework for mutually supporting efforts at increasing food production (in FAO, the WFC, and IFAD); at developing integrated basic services to reach the billion poorest people of the world (UNICEF, WHO, etc.); and at formulating more sensible and integrated strategies of so called “self-reliant” development (UNESCO, UNIDO, ILO, etc.).

5. BHN could produce the same result for the development efforts of the OECD countries. That is, it could give the aid programs of the OECD countries a common purpose and a shared methodology in approaching the problem of the world’s poorest people. It would not interfere with other aspects of development assistance serving different goals (e.g., infrastructure projects in “middle tier” countries not related to BHN).

6. Finally, it could also become (and is already becoming) an organizing principle within the international community’s International Financial Institutions. Again it would infuse these heterogeneous agencies with a common purpose, program, and methodology for approaching the problems of the poorest.

III. Outline of a Specific Proposal on BHN

1. It has been very roughly estimated that a BHN program which would make available to the “absolute poverty” population minimum acceptable diets, drinking water, sewage facilities, minimum public health standards and basic education might cost about $10 billion a year over a twenty year period (1975 dollars and prices). If housing were included, the figure would rise somewhere between $2–6 billion. (While the comparison is not relevant, it is still somewhat unsettling to note that the estimated annual investment cost of a BHN program is about 3% of annual global defense spending.)

2. The United States, which has already requested that the OECD countries mount a serious study of the BHN concept and the problem of making it operational, should develop a set of proposals to provide a [Page 834] minimum of $10 billion (1975 dollars) per year for the financing of a global BHN program. The money should be contributed by the US, as many other OECD countries as we can engage in the effort, and by the OPEC countries.

3. The program would need a great deal of technical work before it could be presented in detail. Among the most difficult problems would be:

a) The raising of the minimum $10 billion per annum contribution. (Not all would be “new” money. The DAC countries now give close to $14 billion in assistance. The more of these funds that were allocated toward a BHN set of programs, the less “additionality” over present levels.)

b) The “conditionality” problem. Northern countries would insist on oversight mechanism which assured that the money was being spent on projects agreed upon. But the LDCs will resist any overt “intervention”. Thus the problem; how to develop a new (or old) mechanism which can receive the funds from the North and distribute them to the South in accordance with agreed-upon ground-rules.

c) To work best, Southern countries must be assured that the funds will be available for lengthy periods of years. So the North must be prepared to pledge lengthy automatic commitments just as the South pledges to undertake serious policy reforms to become eligible for the funds.

d) In sum, there is the difficulty of striking a major North-South bargain, and of developing a mechanism to receive and allocate funds and monitor expenditures. All of this could be done bilaterally, but, far less effectively.

e) Finally, there is the problem of operationalization of such a program. How much does one count on the market system? How much on administrative decision? What kind of “delivery” systems will actually get food, medical care, etc., to the target population?

4. In light of the international political, financial and institutional issues, and the very technical issues about the mounting of a BHN program in any particular country, any US proposal will need to be carefully constructed. Therefore, it is urged that an inter-agency group be assembled immediately under the chairmanship ofto develop the appropriate range of options for a major US BHN initiative within the coming six weeks.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 63, PRC 028 North/South Issues 7/27/77 [1]. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 270.
  3. A PRC meeting on North-South strategy took place on July 27. See Document 273.
  4. No classification marking.
  5. For the text of Carter’s May 23 message to Congress on the environment, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 967–986.