261. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs (Malone) to the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science, and Technology (Buckley)1


  • Appointment Request

The attached short paper provides a different perspective on world population growth which may interest you. Richard Benedick used it as a basis for discussion with Vatican officials last September and January and more recently with William Wilson.2 The paper was prepared with the informal collaboration of moral theologians and other concerned Catholics.

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The questions raised by Ben Wattenberg’s recent Op-Ed piece in the Post (attached) also deserve serious attention because of possibly misleading implications of his analysis for U.S. policy.3

Richard and I would welcome about an hour of your time to discuss foreign policy implications of these issues and the role of the State Department in managing U.S. international policies in this area. For your further information, I am also attaching a memorandum summarizing the Department’s role and some current major issues.

As a possible agenda for our talk, I would suggest the following items:

1. World population growth and implications for U.S. policy.

2. State Department role/interagency coordination/relations with AID.

3. United Nations Fund for Population Activities and private organization activities.

4. Biomedical research/natural family planning.

5. Vatican dialogue.

6. China—cooperative social science research.


That you agree to meet with Richard Benedick and me at your earliest convenience.4

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Attachment 1

Paper Prepared by the Coordinator of Population Affairs, Bureau for Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of State (Benedick)


—There is no precedent in the history of mankind for the numbers being added to the world’s population: between now and the end of the century, the world’s population will probably grow from the current 4.4 billion to over 6 billion—an increase in only 20 years which is almost as much as the entire world population as recently as 1930. Ninety percent of this growth will occur in the low-income countries.

—These factors are condemning hundreds of millions of people—chiefly women and children—to lives of physical and spiritual degradation, and often mental retardation. World Health Organization studies demonstrate that the health of mothers and children is adversely affected by pregnancies too early and too late in life, by close spacing of children, and by higher numbers of births (beyond three). UNICEF reports that millions of unwanted children are being abandoned each year by parents—especially in Latin America—to lives of vice and misery on the streets.

—There is a built-in momentum to this population growth which compels a sense of urgency to attempts to address the problem. Consider, for example, Mexico, with a 1975 population of under 70 million: If a two-child family norm could be achieved by the year 2000, Mexico’s population would still continue to grow for several decades, before stabilizing at around 175 million. If, however, the two-child norm were reached only 20 years later (i.e., by 2020), demographic momentum would carry the eventual stabilized population to approximately 270 million!

—It is open to question whether the population of this planet may stabilize at 9–10 billion, or at 12 billion or more. In a world characterized by growing scarcities and strains on biological and environmental systems, numbers such as these have portentous implications for the future of mankind—perhaps for the very survival of the human race. It is not primarily a problem of distribution; countries cannot achieve meaningful economic and social development when they are on a treadmill, struggling to provide the basic necessities of existence to constantly growing numbers of people.

—At this stage in human evolution, survival of the human race is no longer menaced, as in the historical past, by too few numbers. [Page 727]Indeed, the wholly modern pressure of population begins to affect delicate balances in the environment, and to conflict with our responsibility for stewardship of the earth.

—Under these circumstances, moral issues of past centuries bear re-examination. It may, for example, be asked whether the human race, taken as a whole, has a moral right to continue procreating in a way which threatens the opportunity for future generations to achieve human dignity and justice and to realize their spiritual potential.

—As expressed by Pope John Paul II in Redemptor Hominis,5 the Catholic Church has a transcendent role in looking beyond the immediate future, to the coming millenium, in searching for ways to conserve the environment and to secure the dignity of man and the education of the generations to come. Therefore, the Church is in a unique position to offer a positive and realistic response to the major social and human issues of our day.

—The Catholic Church’s position with respect to the modern phenomenon of population growth thus has important implications for its teaching mission, for its role in the ecumenical movement, for the conditions of life of hundreds of millions of women and children, and for future generations on this planet. In the sacrament of marriage, the conscientious choice of fewer children may be seen not as selfishness, but rather as responsible parenthood: increasing the capability of fathers and mothers to bestow more attention, spiritual guidance, education, time, and love on each individual child—as well as contributing to the greater good of humanity on a finite planet.

—Natural family planning, while an ideal method in many respects, may not be effective or feasible in every situation. It seems reasonable to respect the motivation and conscience of husbands and wives in choosing the number of their offspring, within a modern context of human dignity and reverence for life. Under these circumstances, as in other areas of morality recognized in Church teachings, scientifically approved means of fertility regulation may come to be regarded as the lesser of two evils.

—The United States, although a secular state, shares many of the concerns of the Church in looking toward a future of hope and better life for the coming generations. On a planet of finite resources, we will all face unprecedented dilemmas in the future. We welcome a dialogue on these fundamental issues, including economic and social development, maternal and child health, excessive population growth, rapid urbanization, problems of the aged, etc.

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Attachment 2

Paper Prepared in the Department of State


  • The State Department Role in International Population Policy

In recognition of the serious implications of world population growth for U.S. foreign policy objectives of peace and stability, the State Department was assigned, by President Nixon, the central responsibility for (1) formulation of U.S. international population policies, and (2) efforts to enhance the effectiveness of U.S., international, and national programs in this area. This responsibility is exercised through the Coordinator of Population Affairs, reporting to the OES Assistant Secretary and assisted by a small staff of Foreign Service Officers. The intragovernmental framework for policy development is an eighteen-member committee, established under an NSC mandate and chaired by the Assistant Secretary for OES. Specific functions of the Coordinator in exercising these responsibilities include:

1) Directing activities of the interagency committee, and producing an annual report to the President which is the basic national policy document on international population matters.

2) Maintaining head-of-agency and senior policy-level contacts with AID, HHS, and with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), World Bank, WHO, FAO, and other international institutions.

3) Participating in the AID budget process and providing testimony before Congress on U.S. international population policies and programs.

4) Representing the U.S. at the UN Population Commission, UNFPA Governing Council, and other international meetings.

5) Keeping population at the forefront of the world’s agendas, and contributing to a strengthening of international consensus on population issues through:

—promoting and undertaking head-of-state and senior policy-level contacts on population with foreign governments;

—seeking appropriate treatment of population issues and action-oriented resolutions on population at relevant international conferences;

—public statements and speeches by senior Administration officials and by the Coordinator;

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—briefings of U.S. Ambassadors and senior officials.

6) Maintaining liaison with nongovernmental organizations, universities and research institutions, and serving as spokesman for U.S. policy.

Attached for your further information are copies of (a) a recent memorandum to Secretary Haig on this subject, (b) testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, providing more details on U.S. policy and the linkage to national security, (c) the last NSC Annual Report, containing policy recommendations and a survey of world population trends and programs, (d) my recent statement at the United Nations, published by the National Catholic Documentary Service.6

Following are brief descriptions of current major issues.

1. AID Population Assistance

The AID population budget—which covers assistance to governments in establishing and implementing population/family planning programs, training, commodities, and research—has been stagnating since 1979 at around $200 million annually, or about five percent of total U.S. foreign aid. This has meant serious cuts, in real terms, in many valuable programs, coming ironically at a time when LDC’s are increasingly recognizing the need to limit population growth.

—In the current FY 1982 budget exercise, and in preparations for FY 1983, the Department should pressure AID to accord highest priority to population assistance, without which other aid is undercut by the effects of rapid population growth.

2. UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)

The leading multilateral agency, with a current program of about $150 million ($32 million from the U.S.), faces similar problems of flagging donor support and inability to meet growing LDC requests for assistance. A problem here is within AID: at a time of budget stringency, there are strong pressures to divert resources from UNFPA to bilateral programs. A strong multilateral agency is important to us, because it can operate in countries where bilateral population programs might be too sensitive, and because of its multiplier effect as the major channel for other donors’ support. We are currently engaged with AID in an appraisal of UNFPA, aimed at the Governing Council meeting in June which will consider the UNFPA’s role for the 1980’s. (I will be head of the U.S. delegation at this meeting.)

—We need to complete this exercise, ensure a fair share for UNFPA within AID’s budget, continue efforts to improve effectiveness of UNFPA programs, and encourage support of other donors.

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3. Biomedical Research

Deficiencies of existing methods of regulating fertility from the standpoints of safety, acceptability, and effectiveness lead to high discontinuance rates, which substantially offset the efforts expended on motivation for smaller families and on provision of a service delivery infrastructure. Yet, global expenditures for research in reproduction—mostly in the U.S.—are also stagnating, and amount to only one or two percent of total biomedical research—which bears no relation to the potential benefits of a breakthrough in this field. It is imperative to increase research funding in order to expand the options, follow up on currently promising leads, adapt existing methods to the particular physiological and social circumstances of LDC’s, and attract high-quality scientific talent to the field. Private industry cannot be expected to fill the gap because of the unprofitability of an “ideal contraceptive.”

—In an effort to upgrade the international priority of product-oriented biomedical research, we have stimulated UNFPA to take first steps toward establishing a new international coordinating mechanism; we need to follow up on this initiative with the World Bank, WHO, foundations, and other potential donors.

4. Venice Summit Follow-Up

The U.S. was successful in placing the population growth problem in the agenda and communiqué of the Venice Summit last June. Follow-up activities, in preparation for the Ottawa Summit, are directed at raising the priority of population in the diplomacy and aid policies of our Allies, specifically:

—examining the adequacy of aid in this sector, related to growing interest by LDC’s and potential for expansion of UNFPA;

—raising the priority for product-oriented biomedical research, possibly through the mechanism discussed above;

—appointment of a policy-level official within their governments to manage and promote diplomatic and aid activities in population (similar to OES/CP).

5. China

Establishment of formalized cooperation with China in the population field under the Science and Technology Agreement would be an important signal both to LDC’s and other donor countries. There is much to learn from the Chinese experience which might be transferable to other LDC’s. We would also hope to collaborate with China in keeping population high on the agendas of various UN forums; China’s relations with the Third World, particularly Africa, are an important favorable factor.

Last fall, OES sponsored a one-day workshop at the National Academy of Sciences on population research in China, which attracted schol[Page 731]ars from throughout the U.S., and which resulted in a recommendation that population be included under the S&T Agreement. Social science research, demography, population policies, and program administration could be the subject of a new protocol involving the Department and the National Academy of Sciences. The Chinese Government has invited a Department-led mission in April to negotiate modalities of a cooperative research agreement. U.S. demographers/social scientists of international reputation have agreed to join this delegation, including Ansley Coale of Princeton, Parker Mauldin of the Rockefeller Foundation, Allan Rosenfield of Columbia, and Wendy Baldwin, head of Social Science Research at NIH’s Center for Population Research.

6. Vatican

Over a year ago, with the support of U.S. Special Envoy Robert Wagner, and following careful preparations with Churchmen and moral theologians, I initiated a dialogue on population with Vatican officials. These discussions, which have reached high policy levels, including the Foreign Minister, Cardinals, and Bishops, have been cordially received, and the Vatican has welcomed exchange of demographic and scientific material and a continuation of contacts; last September, I also left with the Vatican an informal aide memoire on moral aspects of the population growth problem.7 I have also pushed AID to new activities in natural family planning—a fact which was favorably noted by the Vatican. Further cooperation with the Vatican could be useful in limiting their opposition in international forums (a recent example was the UN Population Commission), and should contribute to a better appreciation of the problem among Vatican policymakers. (The National Catholic Documentary Service recently published, with favorable commentary, the full text of my plenary statement at the UN Population Commission—attached.)

—We will need to discuss this issue with the President’s new Special Envoy, William A. Wilson, and consider next steps in this relationship.

7. International Consensus Activities

a) Proposed 1984 World Population Conference: At the UN Population Commission this month, we succeeded in obtaining a resolution recommending an economical and issue-focused conference, which hopefully could be designed to avoid political polemics and concentrate on substantive matters.8 The broad support among LDC’s at the Commission for this kind of conference was encouraging; the Soviet Union was isolated in opposition. We need to monitor preparations for the confer[Page 732]ence—including potential costs—and decide at this spring’s ECOSOC whether to pass the recommendation on to the General Assembly.

b) UN Agencies: We will explore with IO opportunities to upgrade priority of population activities in such organizations as WHO, FAO, and UNICEF, through U.S. positions and statements at governing body meetings.

c) Policy Statements: We will seek occasions for appropriate statements in speeches by the Secretary and other Department principals; an early opportunity is the International Development Conference in May in Washington.

8. Policy Development/Key Countries

We have been promoting the AID RAPID project, a computerized video-screen presentation of the linkage between population growth and a given country’s development objectives, as an effective way of reaching national leadership. Recently, Ambassador (Ret.) Marshall Green, as a consultant to the Department, made a RAPID presentation to President Sadat and elicited from President Zia a request for preparation of one for Pakistan. Nigeria and Kenya also appear to be at a watershed in their official attitude toward population growth; RAPID programs are under preparation. We plan to follow up on and reinforce these activities.

The CIA, at our request, has in preparation analyses of the linkage between population factors and potential political and economic instability in several areas of particular national security interest to the U.S. We will seek to use these analyses in foreign policy review exercises as well as in Congressional contacts in support of U.S. international population policies.

Richard Elliot Benedick
  1. Source: Department of State, Country Files, Miscellaneous Population Files, 1974–1992, Lot 93D393, Background Papers 1980–1984. Unclassified. Drafted by Benedick. In the upper right-hand margin, Buckley wrote, “Please return to Mr. Malone,” and drew an arrow next to his comment. In the right-hand margin, an unknown hand wrote, “JLM—please see note on page 2 Steve,” and drew an arrow next to his name. In the right-hand margin, Malone wrote: “Steve I am agreeable to Buckley’s suggestion for the weekly sessions. I think we should start them effective July 1 however due to our respective schedules during June. JLM.”
  2. None of these meetings has been further identified.
  3. Dated May 18, attached but not printed. See Ben Wattenberg, “What ’Population Explosion?’” Washington Post, p. A15.
  4. On June 2, Buckley highlighted the date and time lines under recommendation, and drew a line to the bottom of the page. In the bottom margin, Buckley wrote: “Jim—This particular issue raises larger desirability that we schedule weekly 1 hour sessions to review O.E.S. concerns, including population—Suggest we begin after my trip to Pakistan (June 10–18) Jim.”
  5. See John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, Encyclical Letter, March 4, 1979.
  6. Not found.
  7. Not found.
  8. See Document 260.