The Carter Center works globally to advance democratic elections and governance consistent with universal human rights.
Impartial, credible election observers play a key role in shaping perceptions about the quality and legitimacy of electoral processes. The Carter Center has been a pioneer of election observation, monitoring more than 100 elections in Africa, Latin America, and Asia since 1989 and forging many of the techniques now common to the field. 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. Before, during, and after an election, the Center's findings are reported through public statements, both in-country and to the international community.
Developing Guidelines for Election ObservationTo support impartial, credible election observation, The Carter Center, in cooperation with the U.N. Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic Institute, produced the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, which established professional guidelines for election observation. The Declaration has been endorsed by more than 50 organizations worldwide, and those 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. 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.
Strengthening Democratic Governance
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 Center works in targeted countries to strengthen the foundations of democratic governance through a range of programs: deploying international observers to monitor political transitions, constitutional drafting, and peace implementation processes; providing training and support to domestic civil society organizations to observe elections and monitor government performance in meeting core democratic and human rights; and catalyzing high-level political engagement to advocate for key democratic and electoral reforms.
To support these initiatives, the Center has developed a series of best-practice tools and training resources that it makes available to international and domestic observers, civil society groups, and other key stakeholders.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, the Center works to strengthen democracy by supporting and training citizen election observers, activists who are working to advance respect for human rights, and local groups seeking reforms to enable the Congolese people to benefit from their country's natural resources, particularly its mineral-rich mines.
Results and Impact
Monitored 101 elections in 39 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 (www.congomines.org).