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Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) established the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and separated, for the first time, military and humanitarian foreign assistance, acknowledging “that a principal objective of the foreign policy of the United States is the encouragement and sustained support of the people of developing countries.”  The FAA lays out U.S. development policy and sets out the conditions under which U.S. foreign assistance is given. 

Section 116 of the FAA prohibits U.S. assistance to governments that have engaged in a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations – including torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charge, or forced disappearance ­– or which fail to protect children from exploitation and conscription into the armed forces.  In determining the human rights practices of a country, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), and the Ambassador for International Religious Freedom (IRF) will consider: how much the government has cooperated with investigations by international bodies such as the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);  the results of previous diplomatic efforts by the President and the U.S. Congress; and whether the government has a history of committing or tolerating serious violations of religious freedom. 

The FAA also requires DRL to provide an annual report to the Congress on human rights practices in every country receiving foreign assistance from the United States and any remaining countries in the United Nations.  In addition to reporting on the human rights violations detailed above, these Country Reports on Human Rights Practices detail practices related to coercion in population control, refugee protections, and trafficking in persons.   


Section 502B of the FAA prohibits the provision of security assistance or crime control equipment to countries with poor human rights practices unless the President certifies that there are extraordinary circumstances to justify that assistance.  The FAA also requires that international security assistance programs promote human rights.  Congress is empowered to request a human rights report on any country, delivered within 30 days, which speaks to the country’s human rights record and whether security assistance should be made available to that country.


The Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act amended the FAA to require the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices to include information on freedom of the press and to identify those countries that are particular repressive against members of the press.


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