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Human Rights House

  • Mural art painted by Jason Kibiswa Bulambo in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Carter Center has been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2007 to advance human rights by empowering civil society organizations and strengthening their technical and organizational skills to carry out their work effectively. Under the programing of the Human Rights House, the Center aims to reinforce a country’s ability to determine its own future in a way that respects the will of the people and serves their needs. Recent projects have focused on the following areas:

Human Rights Defenders Protection Networks

Human rights defenders can face threats and reprisals as a result of their efforts to confront human rights violations. As these threats sometimes come from the very security forces people normally turn to for protection, it can be difficult for human rights defenders to operate safely or know where to go for support.

Because of this, since June 2011 the Human Rights House has worked to promote the development and support of province-based solidarity networks that have the technical capacity and resources to respond to threats against defenders. These networks utilize the collective power of the member organizations to demand accountability from authorities, strengthen their emergency response to human rights defenders facing threats, and build relationships with government entities that can intervene on their behalf. They also collaborate at both the local and national levels to address systemic and legal barriers to human rights that are imbedded in restrictive policies and practices.

Women’s Voice and Leadership

Women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are consistently and disproportionately affected by poverty and conflict, and they continue to face barriers to their full enjoyment of human rights. For example, discriminatory social beliefs and practices can reduce women’s and girls’ access to education, and thereby, opportunities for economic security and self-determination. Women remain underrepresented at all levels of the decision-making sphere in the Congo, despite its constitutional requirement for gender equality.

To help improve this situation, The Carter Center is implementing a five-year project to expand women’s voices and leadership by supporting local women’s rights organizations trying to drive reforms through local, national, and international efforts. Core partners receive multi-year financial and technical support to strengthen their capacity to establish relationships with organizations, to take joint actions to advocate for and improve awareness of a range of women’s rights issues, and to promote practices and policies that can improve respect for women’s rights.

Because the project emphasizes the need for innovative approaches to promoting gender equality and addressing both long-standing and emerging women’s rights issues, the Center also will provide smaller grants to selected organizations looking to implement pilot activities.

Youth Houses

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo,  a large population of young people is eager to play a role in the future of their country, but they face several barriers to effective participation in decision-making and are often not aware of constructive, nonviolent ways in which they can engage in public affairs.

To address this issue, in 2016 The Carter Center partnered with local civil society organizations in Kinshasa and Goma to establish three Youth Houses, through which the Center works to increase awareness among young people of the principles of democracy and human rights and to foster an understanding of the power of their voices and their ability to make critical contributions to their communities.

Through a series of democracy- and human rights-themed artistic competitions in music, theatre, and drawing, the Center has coached young artists in Goma and Kinshasa to use their art to spread awareness about democracy and human rights among their peers and to explore their roles and responsibilities as citizens and future leaders in the DRC’s development. Carter Center workshops and ongoing mentorship have helped youth deepen their technical artistic abilities and learn to develop coherent, compelling messages to encourage youth engagement and tangible social and political changes within their communities.

Along with partners that operate the Youth Houses, the Center conducts roundtables on various themes identified by youth that relate to their engagement in political and public life. Thought leaders, government officials, and civil society representatives have taken part in these roundtables, which also permit young people to share and develop ideas on how to take action to improve respect for human rights and civil liberties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Beyond the walls of the Youth Houses, previous participants continue to demonstrate their commitment to their communities and the advancement of human rights, utilizing the skills they strengthened during program activities to raise awareness and engage on important issues. In 2020, many used their artistry to raise awareness about COVID-19 and promote the use of protective measures.

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