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Human Rights Defenders Initiative

The Carter Center supports global and domestic human rights defenders who are working against democratic backsliding and the rise of authoritarian regimes.

  • Human rights activists and scholars from 28 countries gathered at The Carter Center to listen and learn from each other during the 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum. (Photo: The Carter Center/ M. Schwarz)


This initiative carries on former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s legacy of steadfast support for human rights defenders by providing convening space and thought leadership.


To advance human rights by convening cohorts of defenders on a regular basis to promote resilience, well-being, and action planning while also providing technical support globally.


+Human Rights Defenders Small Grants Mechanism

The Carter Center and DT Institute are partnering to provide rapid response grants to human rights defenders confronting unprecedented challenges to democracy and fundamental freedoms. The new ACCELERATE funding mechanism will provide financial and technical support for human rights defenders.

RFP deadline extended to April 30ACCELERATE Programmatic Grants for Civil Society Organizations under the Human Rights Defenders Initiative at The Carter Center and DT Institute (PDF)

+The Human Rights Defenders Forum

The Human Rights Defenders Forum was first convened by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 2003 as a response to the erosion of fundamental human rights after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Human Rights Defenders Forum in May 2024 will aim to examine the ongoing erosion of human rights standards and identify key steps toward strengthening the global human rights movement.

It is more urgent than ever to stand in solidarity with human rights defenders as they tackle increased authoritarianism and resulting conflict, shrinking civic space, and climate change.

Since 2003, the Human Rights Defenders Forum has provided interested parties a safe place to build solidarity and exchange methods to advance human rights in the spirit of President Carter’s lifelong example. The gathering brings together defenders, experts, and policymakers to air the experiences of those on the front lines around the globe.

Past forums have focused on elevating women’s leadership in policymaking and peacemaking, aligning religion with human rights advancements, integrating advancement of all rights (civil, political, economic, social, and cultural), and responding to backlash against human rights defenders, especially women.

The most recent Human Rights Defenders Forum, “Building Solidarity toward Equality for All,” was in 2019. It provided a platform for consultations on the most pressing actions that governments, civil society, intergovernmental bodies, and others must take to create more sustainable and effective ways to protect defenders and amplify their voices and narratives at all levels.


"Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels."
United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups, and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article I

Throughout the world, there is a rise in authoritarianism, a crackdown on fundamental freedoms, and a restriction of human rights defenders’ activities.

The internet has transformed the way people and societies interact; global economic growth has not been equitable across regions or within countries; and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how deeply vulnerable the global population is to unforeseen global catastrophes. Moreover, a focus on the human rights impacts of climate change has shifted the way defenders go about their important work.

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“We need to amplify the voices of peacemakers and human rights defenders, especially women.”

– former President Jimmy Carter
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