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Human Rights Program

  • A commitment to human rights for all people around the world is a founding principle of The Carter Center. Above, a woman sells charcoal in a market in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photo: The Carter Center/ G. Dubourthoumieu)

Our Goal

The Carter Center’s Human Rights Program envisions a world where all people have the freedom to enjoy equally all their human rights so as to reach their full potential and live in dignity. It advances and protects human rights by supporting individuals and nations striving to realize the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and responsibilities enumerated by the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a growing body of public international law.

Supporting and Protecting Human Rights Defenders

Courageous and effective activists working for the rights of others often face great risks in countries where basic human rights are still ignored. These unsung heroes from countries worldwide gather at the Human Rights Defenders Forum at The Carter Center to address national and global issues affecting the enjoyment of human rights. Forum discussions have been led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and publicized to call attention to shared concerns. To continue dialogue, foster collaboration to advance human rights, and to amplify human rights defenders’ voices, the Human Rights Program built a virtual Forum on Human Rights at The Carter Center. Through its Human Rights House in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Center has developed and supported networks that work in solidarity to swiftly protect defenders from threats.

Promoting and Protecting Human Rights of Women and Girls

In his book “A Call to Action,” President Carter wrote, "The world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights." The Human Rights Program advances work that builds on the Carters' legacy, including on women’s rights and leadership, particularly in peacebuilding and combatting sexual exploitation. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Human Rights House aims to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations focused on improving women’s rights – as well as the rights of youth – to implement responsive, innovative approaches to promote gender equality.

President Carter has highlighted the power of religion as a factor in whether women enjoy human rights, including the right to peace, and the program is committed to partnerships that align religious life with human rights, especially for women and girls. Through its Mobilizing Faith for Women and Girls Initiative, it engages religious and traditional leaders in Ghana and Nigeria to help end gender-based discrimination and violence, providing training on human rights-based approaches and partnering with them on projects to advance the rights of women and girls.

Advancing Human Rights and Good Governance

All human rights work indivisibly as a whole. The Carter Center concentrates on economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.

The Human Rights Program’s Extractive Industries Governance Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo supports Congolese civil society organizations as they monitor, report, and advocate for reform of the oil, gas, and minerals industries at the local and national levels in order to enhance transparency, accountability, and respect for all human rights. To address human rights and development concerns caused by extractive operations near local communities, the project supports dialogue to ensure constructive engagement and negotiation between companies, local governments, and affected communities.

The Human Rights House in the Democratic Republic of the Congo supports youth-focused civil society organizations that operate Youth Houses in Kinshasa and Goma, where they work to raise awareness about human rights among youth and promote their participation in public life.

Results and Impact

  • The Center and President Carter promoted the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the post of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and, in 2006, were instrumental in reforming the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, now the U.N. Human Rights Council.
  • Since 2003, regularly held Human Rights Defenders Forums have supported the work of courageous activists from around the world.
  • In 2015, the Center launched the virtual platform The Forum on Human Rights at The Carter Center to promote human rights, connect human rights defenders, and showcase the work of activists to a worldwide audience, providing them with an opportunity to interact with human rights experts and expand their knowledge of human rights through the resource library and archive.
  • In six provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the program established protection networks that provide holistic, rapid response support to human rights defenders when they are threatened as a result of their work. These networks have also successfully advocated for legislative changes, including, in 2019, crucial new protection laws in some provinces for human rights defenders.
  • In advance of the 2018 election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it worked to increase the capacity of youth-focused civil society organizations and to engage youth by establishing three Youth Houses in Kinshasa and Goma. Young participants have become leaders in their communities, implementing their own trainings and raising awareness about important human rights issues.
  • For more than 30 years, President and Mrs. Carter have personally supported thousands of human rights defenders by appealing to heads of state in letters or in private meetings on behalf of those who are persecuted for their courageous work.
  • Through the Mobilizing Faith for Women and Girls Initiative, the Center has partnered with nearly 200 religious and traditional leaders in Ghana and Nigeria to advocate for women’s and girls’ rights.
  • The Extractive Industries Governance Project has improved transparency and accountability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s oil, gas, and minerals industries, most notably through a 2017 investigation of mismanagement at the DRC’s largest state-owned mining company and by making recommendations for improvements and protections that government officials incorporated into the 2018 mining code.
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The Carter Center commemorates the 70th anniversary of the UDHR with the "Scripturally Annotated Universal Declaration of Human Rights." This publication compiles Biblical texts that demonstrate alignment with the UDHR.

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The Carter Center is committed to creating a world where every child, woman, and man has the opportunity to live in peace and enjoy good health.

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