Carter Center Plans Forum Focused on Protecting Human Rights

Contact: Soyia Ellison,

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ATLANTA — More than 60 activists, peacemakers, and community leaders from 36 countries will come together July 21-24 for the Carter Center’s annual Human Rights Defenders Forum to discuss “Restoring Faith in Freedom.”

Topics will include economic and social rights, building faith in institutions, strengthening the social contract, and the recent backlash against human rights defenders. The forum also will showcase the experiences of courageous women and men on the front lines of the fight for human rights.

All sessions on Tuesday, July 24, will be livestreamed on Media are welcome to watch and report. In addition, media are invited to attend the final session of the day, from 3:50 p.m. to 5 p.m., which will also be livestreamed on and This session will include a 20-minute Q&A with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, during which press, audience members, and viewers of the Facebook livestream may submit written questions related to human rights. Viewers can participate in the discussion using #FaithinFreedom.

Participants in this year’s forum include:

  • Onike Morufu Abdul-Azeez, the chief imam of NASFAT Worldwide, an Islamic organization based in Nigeria with more than a million members across the globe. For nearly two decades, Abdul-Azeez has used scripture to try to improve the way women and girls are treated and to counter violent extremism.
  • Radhika Balakrishnan, a professor and faculty director at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. She also serves on the Commission for Gender Equity for the City of New York and co-chairs the Civil Society Advisory Committee for the United Nations Development Program. 
  • Traci Blackmon, the executive minister of justice and local church ministries for the United Church of Christ, USA. Her work in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, lead to her appointment to the Ferguson Commission and to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. 
  • Patricia Melva Gualinga, leader of the Kichwa Village of Sarakuwa in Ecuador’s Amazon. Her work as an environmental activist and as a defender of the rights of indigenous peoples in Ecuador has led to death threats against her. 
  • Mobina Jaffer, Canadian senator from British Colombia. Canada’s first Muslim senator and first senator of South Asian descent, Jaffer served as Canada’s special envoy for peace in Sudan from 2002 to 2006.
  • Ramesh Sharma, national coordinator of Ekta Parishad, a land rights organization with an active membership of 250,000 landless poor that is regarded as one of the biggest people’s movements in India.
  • Liz Theoharris, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, has helped lead the fight for a $15 minimum wage. She is the co-director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and a founder of the Poverty Initiative.

Media interested in attending Tuesday’s session in person, or in interviewing any of the human rights defenders, should contact Soyia Ellison at by Friday, July 20, in order to be cleared for attendance by the Secret Service.

Forum Agenda

*All sessions will be livestreamed on*

Tuesday, July 24

10 a.m. — 11:20 a.m. 

Welcome by Carter Center CEO Ambassador (ret.) Mary Ann Peters

Opening remarks by President Carter, “Restoring Faith in Freedom”

Remarks by Radhika Balakrishnan, Rutgers University

Remarks by Rev. Traci Blackmon, United Church of Christ

11:45 a.m. — 1 p.m.

“Restoring the Social Contract”

2:15 p.m. — 3:15 p.m.

“Reinforcing the Front Lines of Freedom”

3:50 p.m. — 5 p.m.


Remarks by Andrew Gilmour, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights

Remarks by Canadian Senator Mobina Jaffer

Remarks by President Carter 

Moderated discussion

Livestream Q&A with President Carter (4:30 to 4:50 p.m.)


Note: Schedule subject to change.


"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.