Jimmy Carter to step down from ‘front-line’ work with rights group
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Jimmy Carter to step down from ‘front-line’ work with rights group

The former US president led a 2015 delegation of The Elders, retired world leaders, to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank

Former US president Jimmy Carter waves as he arrives for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as part of a delegation of The Elders group of retired prominent world figures, May 2, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Former US president Jimmy Carter waves as he arrives for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as part of a delegation of The Elders group of retired prominent world figures, May 2, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

ATLANTA (AP) — Jimmy Carter is stepping away from his “front-line role” as a member of The Elders, the global human rights group announced Wednesday.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela founded the small group of former global leaders in 2007, and the former US president participated in its first mission later that year in Sudan, focusing on Darfur.

The organization said Carter has “played a key role” in every delegation in the Middle East, including trips last spring to Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The statement gave no specific reason for the change in Carter’s status. The group also announced that former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso will step down and become an honorary member with Carter on June 1. The Elders already list Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who stepped down in 2013, as an emeritus member.

“From the Middle East to climate change, women’s rights to superpower diplomacy, Jimmy has brought the gravitas of his presidential office but also the passion of an activist who believes the world can, and must, be changed for the better,” Kofi Annan, chair of the London-based organization, said in a statement. “The Elders would not be the organization it is today without his drive and vision, and he will stay an inspiration for all of us for many years ahead.”

A spokeswoman for Carter declined further comment on Wednesday.

Jimmy Carter, left, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah (photo credit: Mati Milstein/The Elders)
Jimmy Carter with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah as part of a delegation of The Elders group of retired prominent world figures, May 2, 2015. (Mati Milstein/The Elders)

Carter, 91, announced in August that he had skin cancer that had spread to his brain. At the time, he said he would begin receiving a cancer-fighting drug. In March, Carter said that he had stopped treatment after several scans found no cancer in his body.

He has showed no signs of slowing down, including work at The Carter Center, the human rights organization he founded after leaving the White House, and other projects.

Carter told The Associated Press earlier this week that he’s lost some strength but is feeling better. He said his doctors continue to closely monitor him for signs of cancer. He also detailed plans for a stronger focus on fighting racism by the New Baptist Covenant, an effort he announced in 2007 to unite Baptists.

Former President Jimmy Carter discusses his cancer diagnosis during a press conference at the Carter Center on August 20, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images/AFP)
Former President Jimmy Carter discusses his cancer diagnosis during a press conference at the Carter Center on August 20, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images/AFP)

The project has so far brought together black and white churches in a few communities to build relationships and address social issues, including discrimination. The next meeting of the New Baptist Covenant will be a summit in Atlanta on September 14 through September 16, and will feature a keynote speech by Carter, along with training for a new group of churches joining the program.

Carter said that after the successes of the civil rights movement, in the 1960s and 1970s, “we kind of breathed a sigh of relief in this country that we found a way to solve the racial issue that has blighted society. Most recently, we’ve seen that was an overly optimistic assessment.”

Among the problems he cited are the high rate of incarceration for blacks, police shootings of unarmed blacks and poor public education in black communities.

“These kinds of things are vividly in the minds of the American people than more than five years ago,” Carter said.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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