The Carter Center is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter. In partnership with Emory University, The Carter Center works to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. The Center is governed by a Board of Trustees, consisting of many prominent business persons, educators, former government officials, and eminent philanthropists. The Atlanta-based center has helped to improve the quality of life for people in more than 70 countries. In 2002, President Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development” through The Carter Center.
The Center’s motto – “Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.” – highlights the two core program areas for Carter Center activities. Peace Programs strengthen democracy, mediate and prevent conflicts, advance human rights, and monitor elections around the world. Health Programs seek the control and eradication of diseases such as Guinea worm disease, river blindness, malaria, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis, work to diminish the stigma against mental illnesses, and improve nutrition through increased crop production in Africa.
Work in these areas is guided by five principles:
A community advisory group – the Board of Councilors – includes public and private-sector leaders who support The Carter Center and its activities in their communities and organizations. Members attend quarterly presentations on the Center’s work.
President and CEO John Hardman oversees the Center’s day-to-day operations and staff of 160, which includes international experts in the fields of peace and health. More than 100 student interns from universities around the world assist the staff each year.
Center-based councils of eminent persons who offer guidance to or participate in Center activities include: the Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas, the International Council for Conflict Resolution, the International Task Force for Disease Eradication, and the Mental Health Task Force. The Carter Center also collaborates with other public and private organizations.
The Carter Center is located next to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum on 37 acres of parkland two miles from downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The library and museum are owned and operated separately by the United States National Archives.
Carter Center observers analyze election laws, assess voter education and registration processes, and evaluate fairness in campaigns. The presence of impartial election observers deters interference or fraud in the voting process, and reassures voters that they can safely and secretly cast their ballots and that vote tabulation will be conducted without tampering.
Teams typically include 30-100 highly qualified impartial observers – regional leaders, political scientists, regional specialists, and election observation professionals.
The Carter Center sends observers only when invited by a country’s electoral authorities and welcomed by the major political parties. Observers do not interfere in the electoral process and do not represent the U.S. government.
The Center played a key role – with the U.N. Electoral Assistance Division and the National Democratic Institute – in building consensus on a common set of international principles for election observation. It is also leading the effort to develop effective methodologies for observing elections that employ new electronic voting technologies.
For example, the Center is supporting the efforts of civic leaders in Ethiopia to convene discussions about the most pressing and contentious political and social issues facing the country, and in the Palestinian Territories, it maintains a small presence in Ramallah focused on the ongoing monitoring and analysis of critical issues of democratic development.
Democratic initiatives in Latin America include support for regional access-to-information programs, creation of an inter-American support network, and reform of political campaign financing. The Center-based Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas plays an important role in accomplishing these objectives.
The Carter Center also promotes the dissemination to emerging democracies and regional organizations of models, lessons, and best practices for democratic governance. The goal is to empower those in transitioning countries who are trying to build stronger democratic institutions and practices.
The Center actively supports human rights defenders around the world. In partnership with Human Rights First and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Center holds an annual human rights defenders policy forum hosted by President Carter in Atlanta.
President and Mrs. Carter have intervened with heads of state on behalf of human rights defenders and victims for more than 20 years. They often take their human rights concerns to heads of state in personal meetings and through letters.
Recent examples include:
When The Carter Center began spearheading the campaign to eradicate Guinea worm in 1986, there were 3.5 million cases of the disease in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, there are approximately 10,000 cases, and most of these are in just two countries: Sudan and Ghana. Guinea worm is poised to be the first parasitic disease eliminated from earth and the only disease to be eradicated without the use of vaccines or medicines.
The Carter Center is uniquely positioned to lead an international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease, possessing access to international leaders, technical expertise, and strong partnerships with local, national, and international agencies.
Within affected countries, the Center reinforces existing disease eradication programs by providing technical and financial assistance, as well as logistics and tools, such as donated filter cloth material, larvicide, and medical kits.
The International Task Force for Disease Eradication has been based at The Carter Center since its formation in 1988. The group has reviewed more than 100 infectious diseases and identified six as potentially eradicable – dracunculiasis, poliomyelitis, mumps, rubella, lymphatic filariasis, and cysticercosis.
The Center has worked to stop spread of the disease in 11 countries across Africa and the Americas by helping residents and local health workers institute and sustain drug treatment programs and health education activities. The international river blindness campaign seeks to eliminate the disease from the Western Hemisphere by 2012.
The Center has distributed more than 100 million doses of Mectizan – a drug donated by Merck & Co., Inc., that treats and prevents river blindness.
Center health workers also prevent transmission of trachoma – a bacterial infection that is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. Trachoma is prevalent in places that lack the tools for basic hygiene, clean water, and adequate sanitation.
The Center follows the World Health Organization’s four-pronged approach – called the SAFE strategy – to fight trachoma in six African countries. The Trachoma Control Program is working to improve sanitation in those communities by building latrines, providing corrective surgery, distributing antibiotics, and educating communities on basic hygiene.
Lymphatic filariasis and malaria are mosquito-born diseases also targeted by The Carter Center. The Center has distributed 3 million long-lasting insecticidal bed nets in Ethiopia. It has also established drug distribution systems in Nigeria to treat and stem the spread of lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis.
The Carter Center believes in building networks of village-based health care workers to treat people for various diseases at the same time. Emphasis is on helping national and local governments establish programs that they can sustain into the future.
Since 1997, the Center established with the Ethiopian ministries of health and education the Ethiopia Public Health Training Initiative to improve academic training for health care personnel in Ethiopia and increase access to health care in rural communities throughout the country.
In partnership with the Sasakawa Africa Association, the Center has worked since 1986 in 15 sub-Saharan African countries to teach 8-10 million small-scale farmers improved techniques that double or triple their crop yields.
The program promotes use of fertilizers and crop protection chemicals, soil fertility, and environmentally friendly agronomic methods of crop production. It also supports efforts to construct quality grain storage to sustain market prices for the farmer and ensure greater food security, establish farmers' associations, and use quality food crops such as high-protein maize.
Rosalynn Carter leads the Center’s efforts to fight stigma associated with mental illness. The Center works to improve U.S. public policies that can help prevent mental illnesses and increase equity in mental health care, holding an annual symposium with national leaders in mental health and other fields.
The Center also seeks to raise public awareness of mental health issues globally through the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, which enable journalists to explore mental health issues. To date, more than 75 journalists have participated in the program.
The Carter Center received the inaugural Delta Prize for Global Understanding in 1999 – an award administered by the University of Georgia.
In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented The Carter Center with the Gates Award for Global Health.
The release of President Carter's book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid created controversy for The Carter Center. Dr. Kenneth W. Stein resigned his position as a Center fellow, and this was followed by the resignation of 14 members of the Board of Councilors. However, none of the Center's governing board of trustees resigned.
Regarding global health program, numerous NGOs have reported great difficulties working with the Carter Center, as the organization rarely wants to work collaboratively, and has often slighted or not acknowledged the work completed by various NGOs and private sector firms involved in their work.