After the fall of the Noriega military dictatorship, IRI was one of the first international non-governmental organizations to visit Panama as a part of a 22-member international delegation to observe the 1989 national elections.

CSO Training IRI Panama

In 2014, IRI returned to Panama as part of an electoral observation mission for the presidential election. The Institute established a physical presence in Panama in 2016 and has since been working on citizen-centered governance, local governance, transparency, and open government with the Asamblea Nacional de Panamá (National Assembly of Panama, NA), and citizen participation with youth from across the country.

IRI began working with the NA in 2018 supporting their work on Open Parliament, access to information, talent management, and sustainable development through parliamentary exchanges with counterparts in Latin America, Spain, and the U.S., and developing institutional strengthening tools. This work is being done in Panama City and in non-urban areas, such as Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro, Herrera-Los Santos, Penonomé, and Veraguas, with the NA’s Regional Offices to bring knowledge and resources on the topics to these communities.

The Institute is also collaborating with the national government on furthering open government commitments, particularly through open data, open justice, and open contracting, and supporting them with how to create sustainable working relationships with civil society organizations (CSOs). A major outcome of this work has been that IRI supported the Judicial Branch with publishing information on an open data portal for public usage—a feat that had not been done to date—which they did with the support of a wide range of CSOs.

Before working with the national government, IRI focused on citizen security programming with at-risk youth in San Miguelito, La Chorrera, and Colón where they worked with these youth, CSOs, local municipalities, and community members on implementing citizen security projects through a Youth Engagement Incubator Program.[1] These projects included Cambio de Cultura, Cambio de Vida (Change of Culture, Change of Life) and El Onceavo Arte (The Eleventh Art) centered on music and arts outreach and Vale Estudiar (It’s Worth Studying), an after-school support and retention program.

As Panama and the region continue to battle COVID-19, IRI remains committed to fostering a deeper and more meaningful collaboration between citizens and the government by encouraging more responsive and sustainable institutions. Through facilitating peer-to-peer network exchanges, providing technical assistance, and developing innovative tools and initiatives, IRI helps create more resilient democracies in Latin America capable of delivering a better future for their citizens.

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