Introduction to Obligations

Through a close review of close to 200 public international law documents, The Carter Center has identified 21 fundamental rights and obligations that are relevant to the electoral process. These obligations include those commonly associated with elections, such as the right and opportunity for every citizen to vote or be elected or the right to a secret ballot, as well as others that, while always applicable, take on special relevance during an elections. These obligations are outlined in the following chart.


Overarching Obligation

Genuine Elections That Reflect the Free Expression of the Will of the People

Foundational Obligations

State Must Take Necessary Steps to Give Effect to Rights

Rule of Law

Process-Focused Obligations

Periodic Elections

Universal Suffrage

Equal Suffrage

Secret Ballot

Prevention of Corruption

Individual Rights and Freedoms

Right and Opportunity to Participate in Public Affairs

Right and Opportunity to Vote

Right and Opportunity to Be Elected

Equality Between Men and Women

Freedom From Discrimination and Equality Before the Law

Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of Association

Freedom of Movement

Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Transparency and Access to Information

Right to Security of the Person

Right to an Effective Remedy

Right to a Fair and Public Hearing