The Carter Center has observed 95 elections in 37 countries.
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.
The assessments of 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 90 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. Read more about our recent and upcoming election observation missions in Nepal, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Libya, Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cote d'Ivoire >
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.
|Go to our Democratic Election Standards section to read the full text of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation in |
selected languages; learn how election standards developed over time; view reports on the Center's electronic voting missions; and read summaries from meeting and events hosted by the Democratic Election Standards project.
Read a Q&A on the Declaration of Principles and Code of Conduct with Democracy Program Director David Carroll >
In August 2010, The Carter Center launched the Database of Obligations for Democratic Elections, the first of its kind to consolidate more than 150 sources of international law related to human rights and elections that can be used by international and domestic election observers to assess elections. Read the press release >
The Carter Center is assisting the African Union in strengthening their institutional capacity to conduct consistently high-quality election observation missions according to recognized international principles. The Carter Center and the African Union signed a memorandum of understanding in July 2008 to reinforce their efforts to further the African Union's goals of democracy strengthening and good governance. Learn more about the Center's work with the African Union >
|Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter observes the voting process in the historic 2005 Liberian elections. The Carter Center sent a 28-person delegation for both rounds of Liberia's national elections.|
Rule of Law: 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. The Center helps targeted countries build equitable access to justice, promote judicial reform, and enhance the expertise of lawyers, judges, and court personnel. Read about our work in Liberia >
Civil Society: 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. Learn more about the Center's work in the Palestinian Territories >