The Movement Towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS) party has returned to power with Luis Arce’s 2020 presidential win—amplifying long-simmering social tensions and providing new grievances for actors across the political spectrum. In response, IRI works in Bolivia to support free and fair elections, democratic institutions and local government, civil society capacity building, and efforts to promote peacebuilding and reconciliation.

An indigenous woman signs after casting her vote

The events surrounding the fraudulent October 2019 elections, coupled with the pandemic and the 2020-2021 electoral cycle, amplified long-simmering social tensions and provided new grievances for actors on all sides of the conflict. To respond to inter-cultural, political, urban-rural, and regional cleavages in “identity politics,” and to reduce and reverse causes of marginalization and discrimination, IRI supports a nationwide campaign promoting peaceful coexistence and working with local civic, economic, and political leaders in high-conflict regions to foster dialogue and mediate conflicts. In doing so, IRI promotes inclusive participation, especially in youth, women, and indigenous communities in these processes.

A range of programs have been implemented that focus on improving local governments’ ability to develop tools that serve citizens’ needs and bridging the communication gap between governments and their constituents through issue-based alliances. Other programs have included strengthening government capacity in the areas of transparency, citizen participation, and organizational structure. Further, IRI assists municipal governments in identifying solutions to critical issues in Bolivian society.

In doing so, IRI has forged alliances with democracy and human rights NGOs that have helped stake out a critical space for civil society in the areas of electoral integrity, conflict resolution, and democratic reform. Today, IRI fosters a new generation of grassroots civic groups (GCGs), which have developed around issues beyond traditional civil society, including gender and reproductive rights, local environmental issues, education, and healthcare. Throughout this process and with these alliances, IRI works with municipal governments to advocate for improved accountability and responsiveness from the national government.

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