How were the organizations and documents included in the database chosen? The documents included initially were compiled during two years of reviewing public international law sources relevant to elections. The determination of what constitutes international law was made with guidance from Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, which states that:

“1. The Court, whose function is to decide in accordance with international law such disputes as are submitted to it, shall apply: a. international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states; b. international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law; c. the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations; d. subject to the provisions of Article 59, judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.”

Although the list is not exhaustive, The Carter Center has taken every effort to include all relevant information. No organization or source has been purposely excluded. The Center continues to add new sources after subjecting them to expert review.

What is the significance of a document’s source type? The Carter Center’s division of source documents into four categories reflects recognition in Article 38 that obligations can be found in a variety of sources. Some documents (treaties) clearly codify obligations and are legally binding upon states that have officially ratified them. Interpretive documents, such as those issued by treaty monitoring mechanisms, seek to elaborate the intent of treaties and are persuasive upon states that have ratified the relevant treaty. Political commitments are non-binding but serve as evidence of customary law, and state practice sources, such as publications by election assistance organizations, provide additional, more detailed evidence of emerging norms and best practices. The Carter Center does not rank these categories and views all as valuable sources of international obligations and standards, reflecting their use as such in international courts. Filtering search results by source type enables users to know and better understand where their assessment criteria come from and thus construct the soundest argument possible.

How does The Carter Center determine which sources are relevant to a given country? EOS allows you to narrow your search results by country. If a country has signed or ratified a treaty or political commitment, it will appear in your results. Documents from relevant regional bodies which have entered into force, and are therefore persuasive on all member states, also will be included. For example, a search for Ghana would include United Nations, African Union, and ECOWAS sources, but would not include sources from the Organization of American States or the Southern African Development Community. For all countries, search results will include state practice sources, as non-binding best practices are equally applicable to everyone.

What is the purpose of the Ratification Status table? This table provides a quick reference guide for each state’s public international law obligations with regard to elections. The tool gives an overview of the instruments to which a state has and has not committed and is especially useful to observers in the field in ensuring that their assessments and recommendations are focused and relevant to the country where they are working. Please note that as new sources are added, the Carter Center team works to update the ratification status, but it may take some time. We appreciate your patience.

Why isn’t an exhaustive list of case decisions from relevant judicial bodies included in the database? While the findings and decisions of judicial bodies can be critical to a robust understanding of public international law obligations, the volume and nature of judicial source texts prevents us from including an exhaustive list in this database. However, the Center fully supports the use of such cases to provide additional evidence as relevant.

I think a human rights obligation is applicable to a certain part of the electoral process but don’t see it included. Why not? The decisions concerning application of a human rights obligation to a particular part of the process were made based on extensive review by Carter Center staff and expert consultants. As a public international law resource, this database is intended to provide users with the references necessary to develop a legal argument. Such decisions are not meant to be absolute and users are encouraged to apply sources to other areas of the electoral process where they contribute to a strong and well-constructed argument. In the case of the legal framework for elections, most material relevant to the legal framework’s handling of particular parts of the process was assigned to the relevant part to avoid repetition. As such, the Legal Framework election part here includes only the obligations directly relevant to the construction, not content, of electoral law.

What if I’m looking for a particular source or quote I don’t see included in my results? Try broadening your search criteria to find this source or other similar quotes. While the database includes over 300 sources of public international law, it is not an exhaustive list of all possible documents. The body of public international law is constantly growing and the database cannot be updated daily. If you would like to suggest a new source for inclusion, please email us.

Is the database content available in hardcopy? The Carter Center has published a companion handbook to the EOS database, Election Obligations and Standards: A Carter Center Assessment Manual. The handbook outlines criteria for assessing specific electoral issues throughout the cycle and links them with the obligations and election parts found in this database. It is available in PDF in both English and Spanish. Please note that this handbook was published in 2014 and so does not reflect newer sources that have been added to the database in the intervening years.

I found an error. How do I report it to The Carter Center? Please email us, indicating the nature of the error and a copy of the link if possible. The Center will make every effort to reply and rectify the mistake as soon as possible.

Can I still view the original Database of Obligations? If you need to view the original Database of Obligations, please inquire at the email address listed below.

Why is EOS pronounced [ee-yOSS]?
We thought that the reference to the Greek goddess of the dawn was appropriate for our human rights-based project.

For any additional questions, concerns, or feedback regarding EOS, please feel free to contact applied.research@cartercenter.org.