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Democracy Program

Our Goal

The Carter Center works globally to advance democratic elections and governance consistent with universal human rights.


What do Carter Center election observers do?

Election observers recognized as impartial and credible play a key role in shaping perceptions about the quality and legitimacy of electoral processes. To ensure a meaningful, nonpartisan role for its election observation activities, The Carter Center must be invited by a country's election authorities and welcomed by the major political parties.

Election observation missions start long before election day, with experts and long-term observers analyzing election laws, assessing voter education and registration, and evaluating fairness in campaigns. On election day, observers assess the casting and counting of ballots. In the days and weeks after the election, observers monitor the tabulation process, electoral dispute resolution processes, and the publication of final results.

Read more about our recent observation of elections in Guyana, Tunisia, MozambiqueMadagascar and Nepal.


Developing Guidelines for Election Observation

To support impartial, credible election observation, The Carter Center, in cooperation with the U.N. Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic Institute, played a key role in producing the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, which established professional guidelines for election observation.  The Declaration has been endorsed by more than 40 organizations worldwide and endorsing organizations meet annually to discuss key challenges.


Building Consensus on Standards for Democratic Elections

The Carter Center has played a leading role in building consensus on standards for democratic elections, based on state obligations under public international law. In 2010, the Center launched the Election Obligations and Standards Database, which consolidates more than 150 sources of international law related to human rights and elections. It is used by The Carter Center and other election observers to provide a basis to assess elections against international and regional laws and standards.

The Center is also one of nine organizations that together manage the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network. ACE is an online community and knowledge repository that provides comprehensive information and customized advice on electoral processes to electoral management bodies, political parties, civil society organizations, and researchers.


How else does the Center strengthen democracy?

One or two democratic elections cannot change the political culture of a society overnight. Recognizing that democratic transitions are long processes involving much more than elections, The Carter Center also conducts long-term monitoring of political transitions. In addition, the Center works to strengthen civil society organizations to support the growth of democratic governance, most recently in Tunisia and Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Advancing Human Rights at the Grass Roots

An important corollary to global issues in human rights is the Carter Center's work to help nations meet specific human rights standards and support citizens who monitor and advance human rights at the ground level.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Center's Human Rights House provides training and networking resources to local human rights groups and, at the invitation of the Congolese government, the Center assisted a review of the fairness of national mining contracts in this poverty stricken, but mineral-rich nation.


Results and Impact 

  • Monitored 100 elections in 38 countries since 1989, forging many of the techniques now common to the field.
  • Played a leading role, in cooperation with other key groups, in establishing guiding principles for election observation.
  • Created a comprehensive online database of international laws that can be used by observers to assess elections, and which provides a foundation for consensus on standards for democratic elections.
  • Developed innovative open source software (ELMO) enabling faster collection, review, and analysis of data gathered by election observers.
  • Worked to improve accountability and transparency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's industrial mining sector, resulting in government decrees on mining transparency, greater disclosure of mining contracts and tax revenues, compensation paid to local communities impacted by mining operations and wider accessibility of critical mining information through creation of the Congo Mines website (


The Carter Center is committed to creating a world where every child, woman, and man has the opportunity to live in peace and enjoy good health.

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A pioneer in the field of election observation, The Carter Center has observed 100 elections in 38 countries and continues to forge methods and tools that lead the field.

Election Reports

The Carter Center provides an impartial assessment of electoral processes and, where relevant, recommends improvements. Read the reports.