Advancing the Human Rights and Election Standards Initiative

January 14, 2016. Atlanta, GA. President Jimmy Carter speaking at the Human Rights Election Standards Workshop at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Photo by Michael A. Schwarz/The Carter Center

There is an emerging consensus within the international election observation and assistance community that elections should be assessed based on standards grounded in international human rights laws. This broad consensus is due in part to The Carter Center’s leadership on the Democratic Election Standards project, through which the Center is collaborating with peer organizations to build common ground on methods and standards in international election observation.

An integral part of this work is the Center’s Human Rights and Election Standards initiative, which was launched in February 2015 at a conference co-chaired by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonović. The goal of the first meeting was to bring together leading members of the election observer and human rights communities, and to provide an opportunity to highlight areas of potential collaboration between election practitioners and human rights experts — two groups with mutual interests that have not often worked closely with one another.

During the 2015 conference, it became clear that there was enthusiasm for finding ways to increase collaboration. There was also interest in developing practical suggestions for increased cooperation to address the need for greater accountability on human rights aspects of electoral processes.

The second workshop in the series was was held on Jan. 14-15, 2016 and continued this discussion, focusing specifically on the work of special rapporteurs and how they can work with election practitioners to support democratic elections that advance human rights. Participants examined past cooperation between the international election assistance community and special procedures mandate holders, and considered the opportunities and challenges of increasing collaboration between these two communities.The third workshop in the series took place on June 16-17, 2016 at Palais Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland. This meeting convened members of U.N. treaty bodies and members of the international elections community where they reflected on the elements of a human rights-based approach to elections and advancing strategies for collaboration between their communities. The fourth workshop was help on February 21, 2017 and convened members of the international elections community and U.N. member states active in the Universal Periodic Review process,

The Carter Center is planning to have a final summary conference, convening selected participants from the previous workshops, currently planned for the end of 2017, with the aim of consolidating lessons and outcomes of the previous workshops and developing a plan of action for future collaboration.