A Progressive Platform on
Human Rights and Foreign Relations



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.


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 revenues.

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 entirely.

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 programs.

* 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 population groups.

* The public gain maximum possible access to documents, including those used in making loan decisions, with due regard for appropriate confidentiality.

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