Gara LaMarche

Gara Lamarche is President of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Recent Articles

From the Front Lines

Early in the Clinton administration, the United Nations Human Rights Commission was holding hearings in New York on the compliance of various member states -- including, for the first time, the United States -- with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I was there because I was working at Human Rights Watch, but in the gallery observing the proceedings were a number of more surprising visitors -- not just the professional UN watchers but a wide variety of advocates for civil rights and social justice, some of them quite poor themselves. They came, I realized, because they saw in the body of international human-rights standards a tool for advancing their own work on behalf of the most marginalized of Americans: prisoners, poor people, and immigrants. Despite their disparate concerns, they were drawn by the same global vision, one more supportive of their goals, in many cases, than the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. human-rights movement has grown in scope and...

Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry by Michael Ignatieff

Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry By Michael Ignatieff, with contributions by K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur, and Diane F. Orentlicher. Edited and introduced by Amy Gutmann. Princeton University Press, 187 pages, $19.95 I s the world moving forward or backward when it comes to honoring and protecting basic human rights? In Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Michael Ignatieff sees both progress and retrenchment. Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there has been a "global diffusion" of the central ideas and language designed after World War II to "create fire walls against barbarism." Virtually no government claims to be wholly unaccountable to the world community for the treatment of those within its borders. A vibrant array of nongovernmental organizations -- from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International at the global level to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Tunisian Human Rights League at the local one --...

Ending Executions

As I write, the United States is preparing to execute Timothy McVeigh on May 16. If the death penalty is to exist at all, it's hard to imagine a more compelling candidate--a terrorist and mass murderer, apparently sane and unremorseful. Yet, remarkably, there are stirrings of debate about McVeigh's execution, led by the doubts expressed by some of the families of his Oklahoma City victims. When the hardest of hard cases gives so many people pause, it's clear that an opportunity is at hand for a public reappraisal of capital punishment in America. In the last year or two, a remarkable shift has taken place. Minds have begun to change, or at least open. The Republican governor of Illinois, George Ryan, declared a moratorium on executions in his state. The New Hampshire legislature repealed the death penalty, only to have Governor Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, veto the bill. George Will and Pat Robertson have expressed reservations about the death penalty. Polls show a sizable drop in...