As a nation consisting of 196 inhabited islands and spread across 35,000 square miles, the Maldives is one of the most dispersed countries in the world, presenting many unique challenges to good governance. In 2018, the Maldives had an unexpected return to democracy with the election of President Ibrahim Solih, defeating the authoritarian-leaning incumbent Abdulla Yameen. After observing that election, IRI has worked with local partners in government and civil society to enhance inclusivity, responsiveness, and resilience of institutions in support of unlocking democratic potential in the Maldives.

Woman speaking at Maldives Decentralization Symposium

In 2019, the government in Malé granted greater fiscal and administrative powers to local councils. This shift in decision-making power improved local representation, political responsiveness, and citizen engagement in the political process.  

IRI’s current program, the Strong and Inclusive Maldivian Democracy program (SIMD), began in 2020 through funding from USAID. Under this five-year program, IRI is working to strengthen the capacity and resilience of democratic institutions in the Maldives by enhancing the capacity of local councils to support good governance practices and supporting civil society actors and Women’s Development Committees (WDCs) to develop sustainable management, advocacy and funding mechanisms nationwide.

IRI is committed to working with local stakeholders through every step of program design and implementation and works closely with numerous Maldivian organizations, including the Local Government Authority (LGA), the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, the Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure and the independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). After the first year of the SIMD program, IRI, in partnership with the LGA, has directly impacted over 3,400 local government and independent institution officials and 50 civil society representatives.

Government and independent institution officials are now equipped with the skills required to effectively fulfill their roles in the decentralization process. Further, a government official informed USAID that decentralization in the Maldives would not be happening without IRI’s support. Ongoing work by IRI includes a decentralization policy coordination conference, an orientation program for newly elected councilors and WDC members following the 2020 municipal elections and a workshop on the development of local Land Use Plans. IRI’s assistance is equipping local government officials to effectively represent citizens and govern with transparent fiscal management.

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