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The Carter Center at 30: Champion for Human Rights

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.

"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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