Whenever policymakers have tried to place human rights at the center of American foreign policy, they frequently find themselves trading them away for other strategic goals—or facing accusations of hypocrisy. How can we make human rights take center stage?

Sarah Margon, the Washington director for Human Rights Watch, discusses the complicated relationship between American foreign policy and human rights. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, the United States has cultivated an ambiguous relationship to the issue of human rights. Since September 11, human rights discourse has been marginalized more than ever, despite the steady efforts of a small community of lawmakers, diplomats, and advocates. Values and rights still play a fundamental role in America’s self-image and, for a dwindling constituency, undergird our foreign policy. This podcast explores how to make the case for a human rights-based approach to U.S. foreign policy at our current, fraught historical moment.


  • Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch
  • Thanassis Cambanis, The Century Foundation