Archive (Reagan Library)

South Africa: McFarlane memorandum (public diplomacy programme to sell US policy towards South Africa) [declassified 1999]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: White House
Source: Reagan Library (NSC African Affairs Directorate Box 91026)
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 461
Themes: Foreign policy (Africa), Commonwealth (South Africa), British policy towards South Africa

September 5, 1985


SUBJECT: Establishment of a Special South and Southern African Public Diplomacy Working Group

As the result of consideration by the NSC regarding United States policy in South and southern Africa, it is necessary to undertake an immediate effort to design and implement a public diplomacy program in the United States and abroad to gain understanding and support for the Administration's policy toward southern Africa, with emphasis on South Africa.

The principles this Administration stands for in South and southern Africa are clear. We seek to use the influence we have to end apartheid peacefully but rapidly, achieve peace in Namibia and in that context achieve a withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola, end cross border violence in the region, and limit Soviet influence there. Because of our history, deep commitment to racial justice and our national interests, we should play a role in achieving racial understanding, justice, equality, and political participation by all in South Africa. Our international prestige permits us to play a key role in advancing peace in the region. To make a difference in these areas, this Administration is determined to be involved and make a contribution. Our many audiences need to understand this message.

The public diplomacy strategy should have:

  • short term component which, in its first phase, will develop themes, plan and carry out a domestic and international public diplomacy strategy designed to explain our policy toward the area;
  • .
  • a component, particularly in the short term, to communicate effectively with South African audiences; and
  • .
  • a longer phase to build a broader base of understanding at home and abroad, to involve more of our citizens and our institutions in promoting peaceful change in South Africa.

The short term component coincides with final Congressional action on a South African sanctions bill, continued anti-apartheid demonstrations, and consideration of disinvestment legislation by state and local governments. The longer range phase would last at least through the end of 1986.

The effort will be undertaken under the authority of the Special Planning Group (SPG), which was designated under NSDD 77, and managed by the International Political Committee (IPC).

I would like to note the fact that Secretary Shultz has named Ambassador Dave Miller to head the interagency South and Southern African Working Group. I ask the Secretary of State to obtain resources, staff and funds for this extremely important public diplomacy effort. All agencies represented on the SPG are requested to make available personnel and provide resources for this effort. Under the direction of the IPC, the Working Group should develop an integrated public diplomacy strategy to cover both our short and longer term objectives and report back to the SPG within three weeks.


Robert C. McFarlane