A Progressive Platform on
Human Rights and Foreign Relations
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
The promotion of human rights and respect for international
law should be the cornerstone of American foreign policy. The
United States should:
1. End all support for repressive regimes. In large part,
this could be accomplished simply by enforcing Section 502B of
the Foreign Assistance Act, which was originally known as the
Harkin Amendment. It prohibits security assistance to any country
which "engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations
of internationally recognized human rights." Though this
law was passed in 1974 it has never been enforced. It should be
now, and the principle should be broadened to include economic
aid and trade preferences as well.
2. Abide by World Court decisions.
3. Support the establishment of a right of Habeas Corpus before
an internationally constituted tribunal to be available to any
person, anywhere, whose imprisonment violates fundamental norms
of international law.
RELIEVING THE THIRD WORLD: DEBT, POVERTY AND ENVIRONMENTAL
The massive debt owed by the Third World to private and public
banks and governments in the industrialized countries is causing
immense misery and environmental destruction.
Prompted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the
World Bank, dozens of Third World countries have enacted austerity
programs, known as "structural adjustment," as a response
to their debts. As part of structural adjustment programs, these
countries devalue their currencies, cut back on their limited
social programs, fire large numbers of government workers, remove
protections for domestic industries, open up to foreign investment
and orient their economies to exports. The idea is to earn more
in exports than is spent on imports, with the difference going
to pay back old loans.
People in these countries, especially those in the poorest
sectors who have nothing to fall back on, are devastated by cutbacks
in health and education programs and by surging unemployment.
The outbreak of cholera in Latin America, for example, is directly
tied to structural adjustment policies.
The Third World debt burden also exacts a huge environmental
toll. Indebted Third World countries are -forced to overexploit
their natural resource base -- including tropical rainforests
-- since they are countries' most accessible source of export
The United States must address the debt and related issues
if it hopes to alleviate world poverty and hunger and to help
raise worldwide wage levels, rather than have them dragged down
to the lowest international common denominator.
First, the United States should work to have international
banks forgive much of the debt. These banks have already written
off much of the debt on their books and received the tax deduction
benefits, but they have not passed the write-downs on to the Third
World debtors. In other words, Third World countries are still
paying interest on debts which banks have written off.
Second, the United States must arrange meaningful Third World
debt relief for the remaining debt. African debt should be forgiven
Third, the United States must rein in the IMF and the World
Bank, institutions whose policies have wreaked havoc with Third
World societies. The U.S. delegates to the IMF and World Bank
should be instructed to demand that:
* No loans be given to countries which engage in consistent
patterns of gross violations of internationally recognized human
or labor rights.
* Social and environmental impact statements accompany every
loan the institutions make.
* Adjustment programs protect vital health and educational
* All future economic reform programs maximize production
participation of the poor in the economy and promote fair access
to economic resources and social services for poor and vulnerable
* The public gain maximum possible access to documents, including
those used in making loan decisions, with due regard for appropriate