Carter Centre wants to preserve the stories of human rights defenders

October 22, 2019

On 15 October 2019, Ernie Suggs, reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta had wrapped up and that former President Jimmy Carter said he’d like to see such defenders honored in a more permanent way at his namesake facility. According to the United Nations, 431 human rights defenders were killed worldwide in 2017. The Carter Center should tell those 431 stories, the former president said. Carter has been calling for the center to increase its presence in the human rights arena. “We ought to have a common place where we can get that information,” he said. “We ought to have a way to communicate with others so that, when people are abused or killed, their stories will be told.” However, there are already some serious projects on this area; see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/13/stop-the-killings-you-can-help-front-line/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/04/progress-report-on-i-defend-rights-project-in-2018/

Karin Ryan, the Carter Center’s senior policy adviser for human rights, said the narratives often get muddled. “The Carter Center has the ability to amplify the stories of human rights defenders, and the Carter Center has a reputation of speaking out and speaking truth to power,” Ryan said. “President Carter believes that we should be doing more and has challenged us to have a more comprehensive plan to get it done. When defenders start dying, what happens to society?”

About 50 activists, peacemakers and community leaders from 28 countries participated in the forum, which focused on “Building Solidarity toward Equality for All.” The group talked about global protection for activists, challenges faced by women fighting for human rights, and the best ways to support civil, economic, political and social rights. “Events like this are special because it makes us appreciate other agents and agencies that are doing good work around the world,” said Bashir Y. Mundi, a native of Nigeria and the director of the Development Initiative of West Africa. “This work can be under-appreciated and challenging, as evident by the stories you hear about the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives and freedom.

Carter Center Statement from the 2019 Human Rights Defenders Forum:

Forum participants call on local and national governments and international organizations to:

1) Increase efforts to protect activists who are threatened and attacked. Offer activists political, moral,band physical support in times of crisis. Create robust programs to support women activists. Stop impunity for violators—hold accountable those who attack human rights and peace activists.

2) Increase meaningful long-term support for their work. Activists report that the difficult work of movements and civil society organizations is hamperedbydrastic funding cuts by previously reliable sources. In addition to issuingstrong statements about human rights abuses,governmentsshould also provide needed resources and other support. Philanthropic foundations also should increase flexible, long-term support. The Carter Center’s Human Rights Program has created a web-based platform to facilitate ongoing discussions and community building for human rights defenders and peacebuilders at forum.cartercenter.org

https://www.ajc.com/news/carter-wants-center-preserve-the-stories-human-rights-defenders/F5pFmpgVArA9XOgAnVoc8L/

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