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Carter Center Slideshow: The Carter Center at 30: Champion for Human Rights

  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Carter Center is working on several fronts to strengthen human rights. At the invitation of the Congolese government, the Center assisted in a review of the fairness of national mining contracts in this poverty-stricken, but mineral-rich nation. In capital Kinshasa, the Center's Human Rights House provides training and networking resources to local human rights groups. (Photo: G. Dubourthoumieu/The Carter Center)

  • Sima Samar, activist for women's rights in Afghanistan, has attended the Center's Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum over the years, sharing her experiences with others on the front lines of freedom. "We must learn from the past and make sure that the principles of human rights are common across all countries and are not negotiable," said Samar. (Photo: T. England/The Carter Center)

  • Members of the U.N. General Assembly discuss a report from the International Criminal Court, the goal of which is to end impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the global community. In the late 1990s, President Carter and The Carter Center were instrumental in the formation of the court, which has issued 27 indictments since its founding. (Photo: Devra Berkowitz/UN Photo)

Since President Carter's groundbreaking efforts in the White House to place human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy, the goal of securing human rights for all - civil, political, social, and economic rights - has driven the Carter Center's work to advance peace and health in more than 70 nations.

These rights, which are the bedrock of peaceful and just societies, have gained support from a growing movement for global human rights standards in recent decades.

Two of the most significant developments were the creation of the post of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the active help of The Carter Center and President Carter.

President and Mrs. Carter have worked privately since leaving the White House to prevent the persecution and unlawful detention of thousands of people worldwide for their political or religious beliefs, often interceding with world leaders on behalf of those unjustly imprisoned.

"In the 1990s, there was a collective call for international enforcement of the fundamental human rights that had been codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948," said Karin Ryan, director of the Human Rights Program. "Through the U.N. Human Rights Council and the ICC, the international human rights community now wields significant power in its ability to name and confront violators, to bring about change, and to encourage governments to investigate and prosecute serious acts of violence that occurred."

With the growing cry for human rights and democracy, many more local movements and organizations also have emerged in the past 30 years to hold their governments accountable for meeting specific human rights standards and for protecting citizens' rights. Through its Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum, the Center has amplified the voices of these courageous and effective grassroots leaders, who often face shrinking political space, unlawful detention, and even threats to their lives. Periodic forums led by President Carter and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights have given activists from more than 50 countries a platform to reach and inform policy makers and a network for creating and coordinating strategies to address common challenges, such as the role of religions in advancing human rights and women's rights.

"People all over the world are demanding their rights - the freedom to express oneself, freedom to associate with anyone they want, equal treatment under the law," said Ryan. "When these rights are granted, so much more is possible."

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