Former US president Jimmy Carter said Monday that the world is at a turning point in history and governments must choose policies of peace and human rights over war and human suffering.
Carter’s remarks opened a forum of human rights workers hosted by The Carter Center in Atlanta, attended by more than 60 global activists.
Carter, 91, said military actions, human rights violations and restrictions on freedom have inspired the spread of violent extremist groups. He said even the peace-focused mission of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights adopted by the UN in 1948 “have been abandoned by the world.”
“What is needed now, more than ever, is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity,” Carter said.
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Global leaders must decrease the use of what Carter called ‘state-sanctioned violence,’ he said, from drone attacks to the development or upgrading of nuclear weapons. The death penalty allows government to use violence as a punishment for crime, he said.
Carter also specifically criticized the use of religion and culture to justify violence against women and girls or exclusion of women from leadership of government or religions. The issue is a frequent concern for Carter, whose 2014 book A Call to Action focused on the subject.
Carter later referenced a Martin Luther King Jr. speech on the civil rights leader’s opposition to the Vietnam War. King argued that he must speak against all violence to continue urging nonviolence in the civil rights movement, Carter said.
“He called on us to reject violence and its cycle of destruction,” Carter said. “The world needs to heed his call today.”
The group meeting at The Carter Center plans to develop a document calling for governments worldwide to recommit to human rights. Carter said he will deliver copies to President Barack Obama, congressional leaders and US presidential candidates. He urged others to do the same in their home countries.
He said the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear deal with Iran and normalized relations with Cuba are hopeful examples to celebrate. But he called the US complicit in government oppression by providing financial support in Egypt, Honduras and other places.
“The United States is a world superpower, and we’re likely to maintain the strongest military and also an influential culture as well as one of the dominant economies,” Carter said. “My prayer is that we also, the United States, become the undisputed champion of peace.”