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The Papers of George Lister: "Mr Human Rights"

  The Papers of George Lister > The Human Rights Bureau

The Human Rights Bureau

and the Institutionalization of Human Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy

   

Although many associate President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) with the institutionalization of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, George Lister was fond of pointing out that the impetus for the institutionalization of human rights in U.S. foreign policy actually began in Congress in the early 1970s. Congressmen Donald Fraser (D-Minnesota) and (now Senator) Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) were at the forefront of this initiative in different ways.

Between August 1 and December 7, 1973, Congressman Fraser, then chair of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations and Movements, conducted 15 public hearings on U.S. foreign policy and human rights with more than 40 witnesses, including U.S. government officials, jurists, academics, and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The outcome of these hearings was a March 1974 subcommittee report that made 29 specific recommendations calling for the U.S. government to play a leadership role in international human rights protection. The first recommendation stated: "The Department of State should treat human rights factors as a regular part of U.S. foreign policy decision-making."

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Selected Documents:


   
     
Lister at his desk at the State Department, 1966.
Lister at his desk at the State Department, 1966.

Video Clips:
Requires Windows Media Player

Joseph Eldridge on the birth of human rights in U.S. foreign policy
Joseph Eldridge Transcript (pdf)


John salzberg on the creation of the Fraser Subcommittee
John salzberg Transcript (pdf)


John salzberg on the legacy of the Fraser Subcommittee
John salzberg Transcript (pdf)


Richard Schifter on the establishment of the Human Rights Bureau
Richard Schifter Transcript (pdf)


Harold Hongju Koh on Lister's influence in the human rights bureaucracy
Harold Hongju Koh Transcript (pdf)


Elliott Abrams on the name change of the Bureau to Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Elliott Abrams Transcript (pdf)


John Shattuck on the growth of the Human Rights Bureau in the 1990s
John Shattuck Transcript (pdf)


Harold Hongju Koh on Madeleine Albright and human rights in the late 1990s
Harold Hongju Koh Transcript (pdf)


Elliott Abrams on the institutionalization of human rights and democracy in U.S. foreign policy
Elliott Abrams Transcript (pdf)


George Lister Conference Clips

Streaming Video of the Institutionalization of Human Rights


Streaming Video of Dinner Discussion