Leading human rights defenders from 21 countries gathered in Atlanta this week to discuss the central role of human rights activists in securing a genuine and lasting democracy. In a conference jointly sponsored by Human Rights First and the Carter Center, defenders concluded that only deep-rooted democracy based on human rights principles and the protection of those who defend them will be sustainable.
The 2006 Human Rights Defenders Policy Forum “Beyond Elections: Defending Human Rights in the Age of Democratization” was co-chaired by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, and included policymakers and representatives from the U.S., the U.N., and multilateral institutions.
Democracy promotion continues to be championed as the remedy to many of the world’s problems. The defenders gathered at the policy forum engaged in a vigorous debate on how the international community can effectively promote human rights and democracy. The key to ensuring true democratic progress, they determined, is strengthening of rule of law, democratic institutions, and a greater focus on implementing and upholding human rights in transitional societies.
In her final statement at the forum, Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First, echoed the concerns of the human rights defenders from Russia, calling for the U.S. and the rest of the Group of Eight (G-8) to use the opportunity they have during the July 2006 Summit in St. Petersburg to demand that Russia respect its human rights obligations and reverse the trend toward authoritarianism.