IRI’s 40th Anniversary Year: Highlights of 2023

  • Hannah Balash, Savannah Simpson

Marking the 40th anniversary of the International Republican Institute (IRI), 2023 provided many key moments in our fight to advance democracy worldwide. From Ukraine to Nigeria and beyond, IRI continued to empower individuals, civil society organizations, political parties, and all those seeking a democratic future. As our 40th year comes to a close, here are some important highlights from 2023:  

Women of Iran Presented with the John S. McCain Freedom Award 

In May, the International Republican Institute (IRI) honored the women of Iran for standing up against the brutal regime in Tehran with the John S. McCain Freedom Award in a celebration at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.  The event featured remarks from IRI Chairman U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan and IRI Board Member U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, who presented the award to Nazanin Boniadia, Mehrangiz Kar, and Masih Alinejad. Former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, and Congresswoman Lisa McClain were also in attendance and engaged in a panel discussion on women and their role in the fight for democracy.  

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas & Women of Iran and Afghanistan Honored with Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award 

This year IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) honored Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and the women of Afghanistan and Iran with the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award for their remarkable contributions to the advancement of women in politics and civil society. In March, former Ambassador to the U.N. Adela Raz received the award on behalf of the women of Afghanistan and Miriam Memarsedeghi and Lily Pourzand on behalf of Iranian women. They were recognized for their bravery and their contributions to the advancement of women in politics while facing oppressive governments in Kabul and Tehran. In November, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas received the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award for “standing on the frontlines of freedom and pushing back against foreign malign influence,” said IRI President Dan Twining. Kallas is the first female Prime Minister of Estonia, a former Soviet Republic that has flourished as a democracy since gaining its independence in 1991 at the end of the Cold War. IRI was honored to present the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award to these deserving women  and remains devoted to amplifying women’s voices in the political arena around the globe.  

Election Observation Mission in Nigeria   

In February, IRI and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) joined a 40-member election observation delegation comprised of political and civic leaders, election experts, and regional specialists. The Nigerian Election Observation Mission deployed across six geopolitical regions of the country and observed all stages of the voting process. These observations informed preliminary findings and practical recommendations to improve future elections. The delegation observed late openings of polling locations and logistical failures creating tension amongst voters. Despite obstacles, Nigerian voters once again displayed their commitment to the democratic process and their determination to have their voices heard. The delegation’s work was possible thanks to the support from USAID.  

Ukraine Public Opinion Survey 

In March, the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research (CISR) released a public opinion survey showing sustained confidence in President Zelensky, a surge in support for NATO membership, and an overwhelming desire for Russia to pay for post-war reconstruction. When asked about the activities of President Zelensky, 91% approved of his performance, 97% believe Ukraine will win the war against Russia, and 74% believe Ukraine will maintain all territories from within its internationally recognized 1991 borders. IRI continues to stand with Ukraine in their fight for democracy in the face of Putin’s evil aggression.  

Inaugural Moldova Women’s Forum 

The inaugural Moldova Women’s Forum, hosted by IRI, was held in October at Castel Mimi outside of Chisinau, Moldova. The forum brought together more than 200 participants to showcase women’s ability to shape Moldova’s democratic and European future. The forum came to Moldova as the country received EU candidate status this year and seeks to implement reforms necessary to for European accession. Domestic and international speakers spoke about their experiences in politics, unique challenges women face as politicians, and how to navigate them. As opportunities for women in politics arise, IRI will continues to support political parties to increase their female member participation rates through specialized trainings and strengthening political parties’ established women’s organizations. IRI plans to host a second Women’s Forum in 2024 to maintain the momentum for supporting women’s engagement in Moldovan politics and a future in the European Union.  

IRI Launches a New Monthly Podcast: “By the People” 

Join the International Republican Institute for a new monthly podcast, “By the People.”  We’ll give you an insider’s look at the challenges and possibilities facing democracies around the world as we dive into the issues of the day and discuss new ideas in governance, elections, and democracy. In our first two episodes, Antonia Ferrier, IRI’s Vice President of External Affairs, sits down with special guests Kaja Kallas, Estonian Prime Minister, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of the Democratic Forces of Belarus, for insights on the future of Estonia and Belarus.

Thought Leadership:  

Congressional Testimonies: 

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