Human Rights

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Human Rights Program

Our Goal

СƵ Center’s Human Rights Program envisions a world where all people are free to enjoy all their human rights equally, to reach their full potential, and to live in dignity. The program advances and protects human rights by supporting individuals, organizations, and nations striving to realize the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and responsibilities enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a growing body of public international law.

Strategic Objectives

The Human Rights Program has four strategic objectives that guide our work:

• Advance the rights of protected groups.
• Apply comprehensive human rights frameworks through programming within the United States.
• Promote climate and environmental justice.
• Provide responsive expertise to pressing human rights issues.

СƵ Center pursues these objectives through many programmatic initiatives, including racial justice, women’s rights, supporting human rights defenders globally, and in-country focus in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Israel-Palestine. Please visit the initiative-specific pages for more information.

What are Human Rights?

As defined by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Human rights are rights we have simply because we exist as human beings — they are not granted by any state. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental — the right to life — to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.

While all people have human rights regardless of the legal system in which they live, many documents have enshrined human rights so that all can develop rules and processes for the realization of human rights. The foundational document doing so is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provided the basis for more than 70 human rights treaties. Domestic law in many countries also enshrines human rights so that people can seek remedies for harm at the national level.

  • Three women sit on a stage at a conference.

    “President Carter is the president that brought human rights to the center of foreign policy,” remarked U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield (center) during a discussion celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at СƵ Center on Dec. 11, 2023. (Photo: СƵ Center/ B. Gray)

Results and Impact

  • СƵ Center and President Carter promoted the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the post of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which, in 2006, were instrumental in reforming the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, now the U.N. Human Rights Council.
  • For more than 30 years, President and Mrs. Carter supported thousands of human rights defenders by appealing to heads of state in letters or private meetings on behalf of those persecuted for their courageous work.
  • Since 2003, we have regularly held Human Rights Defenders Forums and have supported the work of courageous activists worldwide. In 2024, the Center launched the ACCELERATE funding mechanism in partnership with DT Institute to support human rights defenders through small grants.
  • Through our Women's Rights Programming, the Center has partnered with nearly 200 religious and traditional leaders in Ghana and Nigeria to advocate for women’s and girls’ rights. We are expanding this work to focus on women environmental rights defenders in the future.
  • Our Racial Justice Initiative advances truth-telling programs aimed at confronting and repairing the unhealed trauma caused by white supremacy and consequent racial violence. The program also serves as a catalyst for fundamental policy shifts, bringing together committed people and institutions that share the goal of advancing equal justice for all.
  • A woman in a purple dress smiles broadly.

    A commitment to human rights for all people around the world is a founding principle of СƵ Center. Above, a woman in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where СƵ Center has a variety of projects, including the Women’s Voice and Leadership project, which helps train local women’s organizations and provides them with small grants. (Photo: СƵ Center/ S. Ellison)

  • In six provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Human Rights House 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 for human rights defenders in some provinces. We supported the networks around the elections held in December 2023.
  • In partnership with Congolese organizations, our Extractive Industries Governance activity conducted nine human rights impact assessments of extractive operations to further climate and environmental justice in the DRC, uncovering environmental problems such as air, water, and soil pollution; health problems such as chemical burns and breathing conditions; and social and economic problems such as land seizures and the loss of livelihoods.
  • In promoting genuine democratic elections anchored on public international law and respect for human rights, СƵ Center provides independent information to key international human rights mechanisms such as the Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Such information typically includes the extent to which the state conducting the election has implemented key civil and political rights in the ICCPR, including the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression, equal participation, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly. 

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СƵ 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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