Blog | Carter Center Experts Publish Article on Obligations for Democratic Elections

A groundbreaking project to identify and foster concensus on common standards for what constitutes a genuinely democratic election is the focus of a recently-published article in Democratization by Carter Center Democracy Program Assistant Director Avery Davis-Roberts and Director David Carroll.  The article’s premise–that use of public international law provides an objective basis by which to assess elections–has also led the Center to develop a searchable database of more than 150 sources of law.  For the first time, election observers will have a single source to research a country’s ratified or endorsed international and regional treaties and instruments, helping observers to hold the country accountable to their legal obligations when assessing an election’s conduct.

The compendium and database of obligations for democratic elections, a result of years of research, was launched this week on the Carter Center’s website.

In their article, “Using International Law to Assess Elections,” Davis-Roberts and Carroll argue that the use of international human rights law is an important means of not only promoting democratic elections, but also more objective election observation.  When using international human rights law–as well as the domestic laws of the country being observed–to assess elections, observers are essentially trying to determine the degree to which fundamental rights and freedoms (such as the right to vote, or freedom of assembly) are fulfilled.

In 2006, The Carter Center embarked on a multi-year initiative aimed at building consensus on standards for democratic elections based on obligations in Public International Law – the Democratic Election Standards (DES) project.  The DES project builds on the success of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and draws on past work on election standards and assessment criteria by other leading organizations.  This initiative has been funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Irish Aid Civil Society Fund.

Click here to read a  pre-printed version of “Using International Law to Assess Elections” (Democratization vol.3, 2010).

The final and definitive version can be purchased and read at:

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