(ARA) – On a recent trip to Africa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter saw a toddler about the same age as his youngest grandson, and he quickly thought how different the quality of each childs life would be. One would lack adequate food, medical care, and the right to live in freedom.
The destiny of the young African boy is much bleaker than that of a child in a developed country, Carter says. There is no doubt that the most serious challenge to the world today is the growing chasm between rich people and poor people.
Carter, last years Nobel Peace Prize laureate, made the trip with his wife, Rosalynn, on behalf of The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization they founded in 1982 to foster peace and prevent disease around the world.
Most of us never visit places where people really have nothing, Mrs. Carter says. We wanted to use our influence to make a difference and decided to build The Carter Center, at first to resolve conflicts. But we soon realized you cannot have peace when stomachs are empty, children suffer from easily preventable diseases, and people have no say in determining their own futures. The Center helps people acquire knowledge and tools to improve their own lives, so changes will be permanent.”
To date, with a staff of 150, the Center has made a difference in more than 65 nations:
* Observing 45 multiparty elections;
* Reducing Guinea worm disease by 98 percent worldwide;
* Creating new avenues for peace in Sudan, Uganda, the Korean Peninsula, Haiti, Liberia, and Ethiopia;
* Helping 4 million farmers in Africa to double or triple grain crops;
* Building coalitions to improve mental health care policies;
* Working to prevent and correct human rights violations.
Our definition of human rights is very broad, says President Carter. It involves not only civil and political rights, but rights to adequate food, shelter, education, health care, and economic opportunity. These are all interrelated, and you cannot have permanent peace without addressing them all.
Today, the Center has eight health programs and four peace programs. Recent projects have included resolving conflict between the government and opposition in Venezuela, observing elections in Kenya and Jamaica, bringing mental health professionals together to examine the psychological aftermath of September 11, and working to eradicate river blindness in the Americas.
One example of why we work in both peace and health is that of Sudan, Carter says. The Center has led the effort to make Guinea worm disease the next disease to be eradicated. Sudan has more cases than any country, but without an end to the civil war there, we cannot get access to key areas to prevent it. So our conflict resolution experts have worked to help the Sudanese government and rebels seek an end to the fighting.
The Center has been established as a permanent legacy to the vision of Carter and his wife, a vision of what it takes to create a world where everyone can live in peace, explains Center Executive Director John Hardman.
The Carters have built a strong international institution that will continue to implement their vision. We have a superb staff of experts and a strong partnership with Emory University, and we are creating an endowment to continue the work of the Center indefinitely, says Dr. Hardman. Most of all, there is a 20-year track record of achievement inspired by the Carters vision.
Says Nobel Laureate Carter, Peace is more than just the absence of war. There is an inner peace that comes from a mother knowing that she can raise her children with adequate food, education, and health care, that they will grow with dignity and self-respect, and have hope for a better future.
For more information, visit: www.cartercenter.org.
Courtesy of ARA Content