The Carter Center believes that greater and more sustained interaction between the international elections community and human rights mechanisms is needed to promote electoral reform, strengthen democratic governance, and foster the evolution of relevant international law on elections.
About Human Rights and Election Standards (HRES)
Genuine elections that reflect the will of the people are a fundamental human right. Yet international mechanisms for reviewing states’ fulfillment of their human rights’ commitments often do not consider election-related issues. U.N. treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, and other mechanisms rely on input from stakeholders to advance new interpretations of public international law. This helps the law evolve and meet emerging challenges. Until now, however, there have been no organizations with a specific focus on electoral and democratic rights working to support and enhance these mechanisms.
The Carter Center’s HRES initiative builds on a history of consultation and common values to strengthen the partnership between the global elections and human rights communities.
Between 2015 and 2017, The Carter Center and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) held a series of conferences and workshops with election observation and assistance practitioners and the international human rights community. Over the course of four consultations, more than 100 human rights and elections experts and representatives of states discussed the challenges facing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in times of closing political space, and formulated clear recommendations for ways to work together to advance the common goal of genuine, democratic elections that express the will of the people.
At the final meeting, held at The Carter Center in December 2017, the Human Rights and Election Standards Plan of Action (available in English [pdf| Word], French [pdf | Word] and Spanish [pdf | Word]) was prepared to synthesize all of these recommendations. The plan of action includes a series of practical suggestions on how the elections and human rights communities can work together more closely, as well as a number of longer-term recommendations.
The Carter Center and the OHCHR are committed to implementation of the plan. Additional information about related activities will be available here.
Information and summaries of the proceedings for previous meetings is included below.
Initial HRES Conference, February 2015
The Carter Center, Atlanta, GA, USA
During this two-day conference, participants from the human rights and election observation communities came together for the first time to examine collaboration between the international election assistance community and human rights mechanisms and establish consensus on a rights-based approach to elections. The conference was co-chaired by President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović. Participants included members of election observation groups and civil society organizations, United Nations human rights experts, representatives of human rights commissions, and scholars. This discussion, summarized here, laid the foundation for the subsequent consultations.
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Photos by Michael Schwarz/The Carter Center.
Meeting with Special Rapporteurs, January 2016
The Carter Center, Atlanta, GA, USA
This two-day conference convened U.N. Special Procedures mandate holders and members of the elections community. Participants took part in seven sessions over two days, reflecting on the elements of a human rights-based approach to elections and advancing strategies for collaboration between the human rights and elections communities. Specifically, participants focused on how special rapporteurs and election practitioners can benefit from and contribute to each other’s work. They also looked at potential challenges and how to address them. The participants discussed several concrete recommendations for the human rights and election observation communities, both individually and collectively, summarized in the meeting proceeding notes.
Meeting with U.N. Treaty Body Members, June 2016
Palais Wilson, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
The Human Rights and Election Standards workshop convened members of U.N. treaty bodies and the international election community on June 16 and 17. During six sessions over two days, participants reflected on the elements of a human rights-based approach to elections and strategies for collaboration between the human rights and elections communities. This meeting built on discussions from previous meetings but focused on areas of potential collaboration between election practitioners and the U.N. human rights treaty bodies with mandates that relate to issues that arise in electoral processes. The outcomes of the meeting can be found here.
Meeting on the U.N. Universal Periodic Review Process, February 2017
United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
The third Human Rights and Election Standards workshop, co-convened by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and The Carter Center, brought together representatives of the international human rights and elections communities and representatives of states active in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Participants took part in five sessions, in which they considered how the topic of elections has been addressed in the UPR process, discussed practical steps to make recommendations regarding elections more effective in the UPR context, and identified collaborative measures to ensure follow-up and implementation of election-related UPR recommendations. The summary of proceedings can be found here.
This work was made possible, in part, by the generous support of Mr. Steven E. Nothern.