289. Information Memorandum From Richard Benedick of the Office of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs to the Deputy Secretary of State (Dam)1


  • International Conference on Population: “Occupied Territory”

In response to the request from your office,2 the following is background on the genesis of the draft recommendation concerning occupied territory and U.S. treatment of it prior to the August 6–14 Mexico City Conference. In view of Ambassador Buckley’s unusual statement at the August 14 plenary of the Conference, concerning “a misjudgment on the part of our representative at the preparatory committee,” and referring to an “error” and a “hasty decision about a complex issue beyond his area of expertise, with predictable results” (Tab 1),3 and a further remark by him reported by Associated Press, that the recommendation “was overlooked by a U.S. delegate to a preparatory conference” (Tab 2),4 it is clearly essential to set the record straight.

I believe that Ambassador Buckley’s statements were uncalled for:5 I know of no instance in which one U.S. Ambassador, speaking for the United States Government, publicly criticized the actions of another in front of an international meeting. Moreover, his charges are groundless;6 it is obvious that the difficulties encountered in Mexico over this recommendation would have occurred regardless of any action taken by the U.S. representatives at the preparatory committee. By taking a non-provocative stance in March,7 we in fact avoided specific condem[Page 818]nation of Israel.8 Ambassador Buckley’s gratuitous statements are really no explanation for the ultimate vote of the Conference on this particular recommendation.

There was no mention of occupied territory either in the draft recommendations prepared by the Secretariat for the January 23–27 (first) preparatory committee meeting, nor in the debate at that meeting, nor in the revised draft presented to the March 12–16 second preparatory committee.

A recommendation (then numbered 34) was introduced, in writing and without comment, by Senegal on the last afternoon of the March meeting, under the section on “population distribution and internal migration.” The U.S. was represented at that meeting by Harold Fleming of USUN, Phil Claxton, private sector consultant, and me, as head of delegation.

While we noted that the language potentially applied to Israel, it was clear that, in the absence of any specific mention of Israel, it could also apply to other international situations (as later admitted by Ambassador Buckley in an August 14 plenary statement). We also ascertained that the U.S. had, in fact, signed the Geneva Convention referred to in the text.

Our decision at this point was influenced by our experience with the disarmament recommendation, no. 5. We and others had objected to an original Secretariat draft recommendation. The Soviets then tabled even more objectionable language, which was followed by prolonged, useless, and inconclusive debate.

Our judgment on March 16 was that, if we now made an issue over recommendation 34, we ran the risk of attracting new language which would specifically mention Israel.9 Our decision was also influenced by the understanding that consensus actions of a preparatory committee are provisional and non-binding, and that all recommendations are de facto open for further review at the main Conference.

As no objection was raised by Israel to the Senegal proposal, we felt that the preferable U.S. course was not to interpret it as anti-Israel, thereby provoking a debate which would almost surely lead to specific mention of Israeli settlements (which, in the event, is what happened at Mexico City), but rather to review the matter in Washington in the course of preparing U.S. positions for the August Conference.

Subsequently, all of the recommendations were circulated for review by State and AID offices following their publication by the UN Secretariat in June, with recommendation 34 among others being [Page 819] flagged for particular attention. In early July, formal position papers were requested, with recommendation 34 again being noted for special attention.10

On July 19, at Ambassador Buckley’s request, Jon Glassman was assigned to him to coordinate preparations for the Conference. My office passed on to him all material relevant to the Conference, and I participated with him in a meeting on July 23, involving AID, IO, and other offices, concerning the position papers then under preparation, including specifically the paper dealing with recommendation 34.11 Later on July 23, the U.S. delegation to Mexico City was announced by the White House.12 I was not on it and, after consulting with Jim Malone, I withdrew from the process of coordinating the completion of the position papers.

I was never asked by Ambassador Buckley, during his week in Washington, for any background on the preparatory committee treatment of recommendation 34, and I find his subsequent public criticism incomprehensible and offensive.

  1. Source: Department of State, Organization and Conference Files—Meetings/Governing Council 1984 Meetings/Governing Council, 1983–1984, Lot 87D37, Conference Results (Recommendations) ICP, Mexico City, August 1984. Copies were sent to Armacost, Spiers, Malone, Kirk, and Draper.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Dated August 14, attached but not printed. In telegram 14083 from Mexico City, August 15, the Department transmitted the text of Buckley’s final plenary statement. (Department of State, Organization and Conference Files—Meetings/Governing Council 1984 Meetings/Governing Council, 1983–1984, Lot 87D37, Reporting Cables, ICP, Mexico City, August 1984)
  4. Dated August 14, attached but not printed.
  5. Dam highlighted this sentence and underlined the phrase “uncalled for.”
  6. Dam underlined the word “groundless.”
  7. See footnote 6, Document 290.
  8. Dam underlined the phrase “avoided specific condemnation of Israel.”
  9. Dam underlined this sentence.
  10. A document, entitled “Recommendations for the Further Implementation of the World Population Plan of Action: Recommendation 34,” is in Department of State, Organization and Conference Files—Meetings/Governing Council 1984 Meetings/Governing Council, 1983–1984, Lot 87D37, Position/Background Papers.
  11. No record of this meeting has been found.
  12. In telegram 218703 to Mexico, New York, Geneva, and Munich, July 25, the Department transmitted the White House list of delegates. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D840476–0277)