The Carter Center works globally to advance democratic elections and governance consistent with universal human rights.
Impartial, credible election observers play a key role in shaping perceptions about the quality and legitimacy of electoral processes. The Carter Center has been a pioneer of election observation, monitoring more than 100 elections in Africa, Latin America, and Asia since 1989 and forging many of the techniques now common to the field. To ensure a meaningful, nonpartisan role for its election observation activities, The Carter Center must be invited by a country’s election authorities and welcomed by the major political parties.
Election observation missions start long before election day, with experts and long-term observers analyzing election laws, assessing voter education and registration, and evaluating fairness in campaigns. On election day, observers assess the casting and counting of ballots. In the days and weeks after the election, observers monitor the tabulation process, electoral dispute resolution, and the publication of final results. Before, during, and after an election, the Center’s findings are reported through public statements.
Developing Guidelines for Election Observation
To support impartial, credible election observation, The Carter Center, in cooperation with the U.N. Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic Institute, produced the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, which established professional guidelines for election observation. The declaration has been endorsed by more than 50 organizations, which now meet annually to discuss key challenges.
Building Consensus on Standards for Democratic Elections
The Carter Center has played a leading role in building consensus on standards for democratic elections. In 2010, the Center launched the Election Obligations and Standards Database, which consolidates more than 150 sources of international law related to human rights and elections. It is used by The Carter Center and other election observers to assess elections against international and regional laws and standards.
The Center is also one of nine organizations that together manage the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network. ACE is an online community and knowledge repository that provides comprehensive information and customized advice to electoral management bodies, political parties, civil society organizations, and researchers.
Strengthening Democratic Governance
One or two democratic elections cannot change a country’s political culture. Recognizing that democratic transitions are long processes, the Center works in targeted countries to strengthen the foundations of democratic governance through a range of programs: deploying international observers to monitor political transitions, constitutional drafting, and peace implementation processes; providing training and support to domestic election observers and human rights monitors; and advocating for key democratic and electoral reforms.
To support these initiatives, the Center has developed a series of best-practice tools and training resources for international and domestic observers, civil society groups, and other key stakeholders.
In Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, the Center works to strengthen democracy by supporting and training citizen election observers, activists who are working to advance respect for human rights, and local groups seeking reforms to enable the Congolese people to benefit from their country’s natural resources, particularly its mineral-rich mines.
Results and Impact
- Monitored 109 elections in 39 countries since 1989, forging many of the techniques now common to the field.
- Played a leading role in establishing guiding principles for election observation.
- Created a comprehensive online database of international laws that can be used by observers to assess elections and that provides a foundation for consensus on election standards.
- Developed the innovative open-source software ELMO that enables faster collection, review, and analysis of data gathered by election observers.