“At The Carter Center, we believe all people are entitled
to basic human rights. When people have these rights,
they feel a sense of justice and self-worth. These are the
seeds of peace.”
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
The Carter Center’s peace programs strengthen freedom and democracy
in nations worldwide, securing for people the political and civil rights that
are the foundation of just and peaceful societies.
Amid the trend toward greater democracy worldwide, The Carter Center
has been a pioneer in the field of election observation, monitoring more
than 70 national elections to help ensure that the results reflect the will
of the people.
Beyond elections, the Center seeks to deepen democracy by nurturing full
citizen participation in public policy-making and by helping to establish
government institutions that bolster the rule of law, fair administration of
justice, access to information, and government transparency.
A culture of respect for human rights is crucial to permanent peace.
The Center supports the efforts of human rights activists at the grass
roots, while also working to advance national and international human
rights laws that uphold the dignity and worth of each individual.
When democracy backslides or formal diplomacy fails, the Center offers
mediation expertise and has furthered avenues for peace in Africa, the
Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.
Since 1982, The Carter Center has shown that creating a world at peace
is a very possible journey, one step at a time.
Now more than ever, citizens around
the world participate in elections to
hold their governments accountable,
and more governments than ever
recognize democratic elections as
essential to establishing their
legitimate authority. Yet one
democratic election does not change
the political culture of a society
overnight. Long-term efforts are
necessary to build an inclusive
democratic society that respects
human rights and laws, administers
justice fairly, and encourages full
citizen participation in government.
Assessments by organizations that monitor elections in emerging democracies are central to
determining whether an election is considered genuinely democratic. The Carter Center has been a
pioneer of election observation, monitoring more than 70 elections in Africa, Latin America, and
Asia since 1989 and forging many of the techniques now common to the field.
The Center must be invited by a country’s election authorities and welcomed by the major political
parties to ensure it can play a meaningful, nonpartisan role. Long before election day, observers analyze
election laws, assess voter education and registration, and evaluate fairness in campaigns. When votes
are cast, the presence of impartial observers deters interference or fraud and reassures voters that they
can safely and secretly cast their ballots. Before, during, and after an election, the Center’s findings are
shared in country and reported to the international community through public statements.
Developing Standards for Democratic Elections
The Carter Center — with the U.N. Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic
Institute — recently played a key role in producing the Declaration of Principles for International
Observation, which established professional standards for election observers. Launched in 2005, the
declaration has been endorsed by more than 30 observer organizations. Now the Center is spearheading
efforts to identify and foster consensus on common international standards for what constitutes a
genuinely democratic election. A related project is creating a method for observing electronic voting.
Beyond elections, the Center works to strengthen
democracy by promoting the rule of law and
expanding the role that citizens and nongovernmental
civic organizations play in political processes.
The rule of law in democratic societies depends upon
a legal system that provides access to justice for all
citizens, administers justice fairly, and guarantees
constitutional protections for people’s individual
rights. Yet many emerging democracies are
plagued by corrupt or inefficient judicial systems.
Above: A poll worker examines a ballot in Indonesia,
The Center helps targeted countries build where The Carter Center observed the country’s first truly
equitable access to justice, promote judicial democratic elections in 1999.
reform, and enhance the expertise of Opposite page: Carter Center observers monitor all
lawyers, judges, and court personnel. aspects of a polling site, including voter check-in.
A politically active civil society also plays a critical role in deepening democracy, but in most
emerging democracies, civic organizations lack full knowledge of democratic principles and human
rights standards. The Center provides tools to assist these groups and supports the participation of
marginalized segments, such as women, indigenous peoples, refugees, and youth.
The Carter Center has observed more
than 70 elections in 28 countries.
“The international observers showed us how to
run an election correctly, democratically.”
Rimmond Zonveni, discussing the Carter Center’s role in
elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a war-torn
nation plagued by corruption and lack of infrastructure
HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM
A commitment to human rights for all people around
the world was a founding principle of The Carter
Center. These include civil, political, social, economic,
and cultural rights and freedoms enumerated in the
U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The
Center’s Human Rights Program undertakes a range
of activities to strengthen such rights as the bedrock
of peaceful and just societies.
Courageous and effective activists for the rights of
others often face great risks in countries where basic
human rights are still ignored. These unsung heroes
from countries worldwide gather annually at the
Human Rights Defenders Forum at The Carter Center
to discuss national and global issues affecting the
enjoyment of human rights, such as the state of U.S.
commitments to human rights and the impact
of the war on terror. Discussions are led by former
U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the U.N. high
commissioner for human rights.
In addition, for more than 20 years, President and Mrs. Carter have personally supported thousands of
human rights defenders by appealing through letters or in private meetings to heads of state on behalf
of those who are persecuted for their courageous work.
The Carter Center has worked to strengthen
institutional protections for human rights and the work
of activists in more than 25 countries, including
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Israel,
the Palestinian territories, and Egypt.
Strengthening International Human Rights Systems
President Carter was a strong proponent for establishing
the post of high commissioner for human rights at the
United Nations, and the Center has worked closely with
each of the high commissioners. In 2006, President Carter
and other Nobel Peace Prize laureates were instrumental
in reforming the U.N. Commission on Human Rights,
now the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Center also
has endorsed the work of the International Criminal
Court and voiced concerns about torture and other
critical human rights issues.
Advancing Human Rights Above: Police officers in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo participate in a training course on human
at the Grass Roots rights laws sponsored by The Carter Center. Officers
from areas where crime and human rights violations
An important corollary to global issues in human rights are highest due to poverty and lack of social services
is the program’s work to help nations meet specific were chosen to participate. For most officers, the
course marked their first formal training on this topic.
human rights standards and support citizens who monitor
and advance human rights at the ground level. In the Opposite page: A Palestinian woman walks through
an opening in the wall that divides Israel and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Center’s Human Palestinian territories. The Carter Center’s field offices
Rights House provides training and networking resources are monitoring human rights conditions in the region.
to local human rights groups and, at the invitation of the
Congolese government, assisted a review of the fairness
of national mining contracts in this poverty-stricken but
mineral-rich nation. The Center also has opened offices
in Israel and the Palestinian territories to monitor and
report on human rights abuses.
“Every time I come to the Carter Center’s
Human Rights Defenders Forum, I go home
more energized and more hopeful that I’m not
Dr. Saad Ibrahim, human rights activist and professor
at American University in Cairo 7
CONFLICT RESOLUTION PROGRAM
Wars produce the worst violations of human rights worldwide and are the greatest impediment to
human development. Most of the more than 50 major armed conflicts since the Cold War have been
internal clashes over religion, national or ethnic identity, or access to natural resources or wealth.
The Conflict Resolution Program works to resolve such conflicts and build sustainable peace.
The Center has become a trusted broker for peace, serving as an alternative channel for dialogue and
negotiation until official diplomacy can take place. As a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization
with access to world leaders and expertise in mediation, negotiation, and peacebuilding, the Center
helps warring parties when traditional dispute resolution methods fail, filling the space between
official diplomacy and unofficial grassroots peace efforts.
Monitoring and Mediating Conflicts
Program staff and interns monitor daily many of the world’s armed conflicts to better understand their
histories, the underlying causes, the primary actors involved, disputed issues, and efforts being made to
resolve them. The Center will intervene if no current avenues for mediation exist or are working
effectively. To mediate, the Center must be invited by all the major adversaries and see evidence that
they are truly interested in resolving the conflict. Conflict Resolution Program staff pave the way
through ground-level contacts, and President Carter may travel to the region and remain in close
touch with key leaders.
Implementing Peace Agreements
An end to fighting does not always mean a conflict has
been completely resolved. The often protracted process that
leads to a peace agreement represents the beginning of an
even longer process of peace implementation and post-
conflict reconciliation. All parties must be held accountable
for implementing agreements in good faith. Beyond the
implementation of a peace agreement, root causes of a
conflict may linger and continue to fester to the point of
reigniting the conflict. Bringing former combatants together
to forge a shared future demands patient, persistent efforts.
Steps may be taken to ease ethnic tensions, identify and
build consensus around shared social goals, strengthen the
rule of law, and bring justice to victims.
While direct negotiation to resolve armed
conflict is the program’s major focus, there is
also an emphasis on preventing conflict. A
series of minor crises can signal or contribute
to deteriorating societal and political stability.
In such situations, parties in dispute may
approach the Center as a neutral third party
to facilitate dialogue that can keep tensions
from erupting into violent conflict.
Above: Emmanuel Kwenah, leader of Liberia’s Bong Youth
Association, greets villagers in rural Leleh, located near Gbarnga.
The Carter Center has partnered with the community-based
organization to educate Liberians in the rule of law.
Opposite page: President Carter and Carter Center staff have
mediated peace agreements around the world, such as the
agreement between Sudan and Uganda in 1999 to restore
The Carter Center has furthered avenues to peace in
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, the Korean
Peninsula, Nepal, Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
the Middle East, and South America.
“The Carter Center helped to end war, and we
thank the Center for that and for encouraging
us through work in rule of law, so people do
not go back to war.”
Mama Tumeh, leader of Liberia’s countrywide Traditional
Women for Peace and regarded as the spiritual leader of
women throughout Liberia
ACTIVITY BY COUNTRY
Since its founding in 1982, The Carter Center has undertaken
peace activities in more than 55 countries worldwide.
Israel and Lebanon
the Palestinian Albania
Nicaragua Guyana Nigeria So
Venezuela Sierra Leone Ethiopia
Costa Rica Suriname
Panama Colombia Ghana
Democratic Republic Burundi
Peru of the Congo Tanzania
The Carter Center
Has Observed Elections
Democratic Republic of the Congo
North Korea Ghana
Sri Lanka Mali
que Indonesia East Timor Nepal
with past and current Carter Center peace activities
The Carter Center established the Americas
Program in 1986 when the Western
Hemisphere was undergoing dramatic political
changes, restoring or establishing democracies
and opening economies. Today, when many
countries in the region have achieved more
than two decades of democratic governance,
the program works to ensure that these
established democracies work effectively to
serve their citizens.
In some countries, dissatisfaction with
democratic performance has been growing, and
problems still prevail, including weak political
institutions, persistent poverty and income inequality, and unpredictable economic growth. Conflicts
are emerging as citizens demand change, calling for expanded political, civil, and social rights as well as
redistribution of economic resources.
Sustaining Democracies and Preventing Crises
The program helps countries facing significant citizen demand for political change to sustain strong
democracies and prevent crises by sponsoring open dialogue and mediation, organizing consensus-
building exercises, helping to identify reform priorities, and consulting with local actors about issues
that may generate conflicts or could deepen democracy. In all of this, the Center acts as an unofficial,
neutral nongovernmental organization — but one with access at the highest levels of government — to
help mitigate potential crises within and between countries.
Advancing Democracy Through Effective Citizenship
By helping citizens exercise their political and social rights and responsibilities, the program works to
enhance the quality of democracy and living standards in specific countries. An overarching program
goal is to encourage greater government transparency, through past initiatives to improve campaign
finance reform and thwart government corruption and a current effort to improve citizen access to
information. The Carter Center views access to information (ATI) as a fundamental human right,
a cornerstone of democracy, and a crucial element in building citizen confidence in democratic
governments. The program has worked with regional organizations and in partnership with government
and civil society to pass, implement, and enforce ATI laws in Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.
The Americas Program has had an impact throughout
the Western Hemisphere, with a current focus on
Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
Building Regional Consensus
The collective defense of democracy is a key
challenge and opportunity for countries in the
Western Hemisphere. The program works with
the Organization of American States (OAS),
its associated bodies, the United Nations, and
regional civil society networks to help establish
consensus on specific international norms to
protect and promote democracy and citizenship.
It also encourages individual state compliance and
regional evaluation mechanisms. The program
tracks key issues in inter-American relations
and serves as secretariat for the Friends of the
Democratic Charter. The Friends group includes
former presidents, prime ministers, and cabinet
Above: Ecuador government workers demonstrate against a
members from the hemisphere, who visit stressed
reorganization plan. The Carter Center has closely watched
countries and recommend ways for governments, political developments in Ecuador from its field office in capital
Quito, as the country undertook a yearlong process of writing
citizens, and the OAS to prevent tensions from
a new constitution.
erupting into crises.
Opposite page: Even after 20 years of voting in hopes of
improving their lives, many people in Latin American countries
are still poor.
“I don’t think we can overstate the role
The Carter Center has played in providing
training to help Jamaica move away from a
culture of secrecy to a culture of openness.”
Carolyn Gomes, executive director, Jamaicans for Justice,
discussing the access to information law in Jamaica and
the Carter Center’s part in its implementation 13
One of the most important democratic experiments of the last 25 years has been the movement in
600,000 villages across China toward open, competitive elections, allowing 75 percent of the nation’s
1.3 billion people to elect their local leaders, equivalent to city council members in the United States.
For a decade, at the invitation of the Chinese government,
The Carter Center has worked to help standardize the vast
array of electoral procedures taking place in this new
democratic environment and foster better governance in
local communities. Today, while continuing to monitor
local elections, the program is focused on rural and urban
community building and civic education about rights, laws,
and political participation.
Advancing Political Reform
In addition to conducting voter education and monitoring
elections for villager committees and local people’s congress
deputies, the program cooperates with Chinese partners to
introduce better election procedures and strengthen the
capacity of elected deputies to oversee government Above: A resident of Shidong village in Tianjin
province, China, votes to elect community leaders.
performance. The program has formed close relationships
with academic and nongovernmental organizations in Opposite page: English-language and Chinese-
language Web sites sponsored by The Carter Center
China to advance political and social change. provide a place for debate about political and
democracy issues in China.
Opening Internet Dialogue
Web sites sponsored by The Carter Center have become an important portal for political reform in
China, engaging large audiences with articles in both Chinese and English and offering a platform to
debate current affairs in a traditionally closed society. The goal of the Web sites, www.chinaelections.org
(Chinese language) and www.chinaelections.net (English language), is to advance better governance
and elections in China. The program also supports the Chinese-language National Information Network
on Villager Self-Government (www.chinarural.org), which facilitates the administration of local
elections and the participation of rural residents in governance.
The Center recognizes that meaningful democracy requires informed and involved citizens.
To that end, the program works in rural villages, in cooperation with China’s Ministry of Civil
Affairs, to expand channels for civic participation and build volunteer corps. In urban areas, the
program works with local nongovernmental organizations to address the rights and practical needs
of new homeowners.
Access to Information
With implementation of new regulations that give citizens
access to government information, China recently marked
a turning point toward greater transparency in government
operations. To enhance citizen knowledge of their new
rights, the Center has created www.chinatransparency.org,
an Internet clearinghouse including all of the new
regulations and comparative studies of successful access
to information practices in other nations. The Center also
will create exchanges among access to information officials
and scholars in China and other nations.
The Carter Center has worked in China
since 1998, evolving from assisting with
elections to building civil society.
“The Carter Center has done a lot in China to
promote social progress. Although it is difficult to
work there, I believe that things will gradually
become better and The Carter Center will be able
to contribute more to China’s transformation.”
Cong Riyun, professor at the China University of
Political Science and Law 15
CASE STUDY: LIBERIA
Building a Culture of Peace in a War-Torn Nation
By helping to address the root
causes of conflict, The Carter
Center is a committed partner to
countries seeking to establish a
sustainable peace. The Center
often begins its work in a country
with one activity but then builds
upon its successes, integrating new
efforts with past experience. This
collaboration between Carter
Center programs increases the
impact of peacemaking efforts.
In Liberia — a nation that experienced a long and devastating civil war — The Carter Center, for nearly
two decades, has been a trusted mediator between warring parties, a resource for a fledgling democracy,
and a voice for justice and human rights.
The Center’s involvement with Liberia began in 1991, when its Conflict Resolution Program was
invited by all sides to help seek avenues to peace. As mediation efforts continued, the Center’s strong
relationships with the Liberian people resulted in the organization being asked in 1997 and again in
2005 to assist with election observation — a field the Center has pioneered as a nongovernmental
organization. Both elections took place peacefully, a vivid example of how free and fair elections can
be a powerful healing influence for war-torn nations.
Today, the Carter Center’s work
continues, with a focus on outreach to
rural areas to advance human rights
and strengthen the justice system.
The goal is to help citizens harness
the formal legal system to address
grievances instead of resorting to
violence or traditional tribal methods
such as trial by ordeal.
HOW WE WORK
The following principles guide the Carter Center’s
peacebuilding work throughout the world.
Whether negotiating the rules of an electoral
process among political parties, mediating
between warring groups, or helping community
organizations establish priorities, The Carter
Center works to bridge differences and build
consensus through dialogue.
In Liberia, an entire generation grew The Center maintains strict neutrality as a broker
up in a world where justice did not for peace among parties in conflict. As a monitor
exist without bloodshed. Yet, with of electoral processes, the Center issues
freer and fairer elections as well as balanced and thorough reports and refuses to
greater protection for human rights, validate processes observed to be manipulated,
the Liberian people are building a more giving Center reports credibility both in country
peaceful future, and The Carter Center and internationally.
is there to help.
Partner for Results
The Center forms partnerships with
Opposite page, top: A long and devastating civil
war left hundreds of thousands of Liberians living
international agencies, governments, and
in camps for displaced people. The Carter Center grassroots nongovernmental organizations
was invited by the warring parties in 1991 to help
to achieve maximum results and avoid
mediate the conflict.
duplication of efforts.
Opposite page, bottom: As the country began to
transition to peace, Liberia asked The Carter Center to
observe its first democratic elections in 1997. Citizens
waited in long lines to exercise their right to vote.
Focus on Sustainability
Following an election or mediation, the Center
Above: After 14 years of civil war, most Liberians have remains engaged long-term to help countries
little knowledge of the formal justice system, new laws,
and ways to seek justice. A Carter Center-sponsored build the democratic institutions and strong civil
project is aimed at informing community members, society necessary for permanent peace and
especially in rural areas, about their legal rights.
Center partner Modia Drama Club stages community democracy. Emphasis is placed on building a
events where legal scenarios are acted out. country’s capacity to address its own problems
and prevent future conflict.
The Carter Center’s work to
bring hope to citizens in struggling
democracies and war-torn nations
would not be possible without the
generous support of our donors.
To contribute or find out more,
contact the Center’s Department
of Institutional Development at
(404) 420-5109 or visit
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in
more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity;
preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop
production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former
First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.
The Carter Center
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