Ineffective governance and weak institutions are at the root of global threats to democracy, including entrenched corruption, the rise of authoritarianism, and protracted conflict. The International Republican Institute (IRI) combats these trends and strengthens democracy worldwide by deploying approaches that enhance citizens’ ability to meaningfully participate in government planning and decision-making, while helping those in office respond to citizen needs with accountability and transparency.
Governance must deliver at all levels for democracy to remain strong. IRI promotes citizen-centered governance by supporting the development of institutions and processes that are informed by citizens’ views and address peoples’ needs. The Institute has implemented hundreds of governance programs in more than 100 countries, assisting government officials and civil society alike in bolstering transparency and promoting accountability.
IRI’s citizen-centered governance portfolio includes work on fighting corruption and kleptocracy; promoting open governing systems; strengthening independent legislatures; and improving subnational governance.
Corruption hinders citizen-centered governance by reducing trust in government and inhibiting its ability to efficiently respond to the needs of constituents. In addition, kleptocrats taking undue control of valuable public resources undermine democracy by amassing vast sums of influence and wealth. Because of this, IRI takes a “whole of society” approach to anti-corruption and fighting kleptocracy that combines long-standing in-country partnerships with evidence-based tools to promote sustainable accountability mechanisms. Working with governmental and non-governmental partners, IRI leverages its political expertise and regional knowledge to devise and execute actionable solutions that reduce vulnerabilities to corruption and foster participation, collaboration, and improved service delivery. IRI also equips activists, civil society organizations (CSOs), and journalists with practical guides and tools that enable them to understand and respond to global trends in corruption and kleptocratic tactics.
Through programming designed to work with governments and civil society, IRI emphasizes the key principles of open government: transparency, accountability, and participation, with a focus on accessibility, equity, and inclusiveness. IRI works with public officials to implement measures that make their respective governments more open and their processes more transparent as well as trains elected representatives to respond to citizens’ needs and improve service delivery. The Institute enables citizens to have a direct say in government through participatory budgeting and other social accountability and deliberative democracy mechanisms.
IRI’s legislative strengthening work enhances the ability of legislatures and legislators to act on their constituents’ needs by bolstering institutional resources, building political party capabilities, and increasing the technical competence of legislators and staff. The Institute increases connectivity between legislatures and citizens and deepens the inclusion of citizens in the decision-making process. When needed, our programs build political will to align incentives to strengthen democratic practices within government bodies.
Anti-Corruption and Kleptocracy
IRI addresses corruption through a three-step process. First, we conduct rigorous analysis of the local context, based on proven methodologies. Second, through the Vulnerabilities to Corruption Approach (VCA), the Institute assesses weaknesses in local governance and supports public officials and civil society in the design and implementation of context-specific responses to improve transparency. Third, IRI then leverages our extensive relationships with stakeholders to build trust and receptiveness to anti-corruption reforms.
Constant innovation is essential to staying ahead of kleptocrats and combatting corruption. To address this gap and equip local partners, the Institute conducts original research on tactics used by corrupt actors and tests and scales proven approaches to counter them. Through this work, IRI produces cutting-edge research products and tools aimed at development practitioners and stakeholders on the ground.
IRI’s Kleptocrat’s Playbook systematically catalogues tactics that kleptocrats deploy to strategically expand opportunities for public resource theft and to suppress civil society efforts to expose and counter kleptocracy. It helps activists, journalists, CSOs, and policy makers to better anticipate, identify, and counter kleptocrats at home and abroad. Our Anti-Corruption Toolkit for Civic Activists is designed to further increase their capacity to conduct anti-corruption research, build alliances, develop a successful reform agenda, and leverage relationships with the media.
Open Government, Transparency, and Accountability
Democratic governance distinguishes a system of government in which citizens meaningfully participate in planning and decision-making, while those in office exercise accountable responsiveness to citizen needs. IRI programs provide technical expertise and facilitate initiatives, led by the government and civil society, aimed at establishing and improving open government practices. In Panama, for example, IRI is helping improve the quality of and use of data in public procurement. Recently, IRI trained the Armenian government to improve its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, IRI works with demand side actors and trains CSOs and citizens to effectively engage with the government offices and elected representatives to channel public demands and demand accountability, including through citizen budgets and participatory budgeting.
IRI works with partner organizations, including the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and leverages support to governments and hundreds of CSOs in their efforts to create transparent, participatory, inclusive, and accountable governments. For example, in the Middle East and North Africa region, IRI is working to build stronger links between local and national governments through boosting public awareness about open government reforms, including access to government data and helping with peer-to-peer engagement of CSOs.
Legislative strengthening provides tools and resources for legislatures in any stage of their democratic journey and delivers resources for all levels, from local to national. As co-implementer of the House Democracy Partnership (HDP) and the Institute for Representative Government (IRG), IRI is one of the leading organizations in supporting legislative strengthening. Since its creation more than 15 years ago, HDP has contributed to the legislative institutional development of 22 partner parliaments and trained thousands of legislators and legislative staff, while IRG has conducted almost 100 programs for nearly 1,000 foreign legislators and officials from all over the world.
IRI bolsters the abilities, capacities, and independence of legislatures through technical assistance that supports legislators in fulfilling their policymaking, budgetary, oversight, and representational roles for the benefit of their constituents. At its core, legislative strengthening encourages and enables legislatures to take their rightful place as a co-equal branch of government providing a check on the executive branch. Through a partnership model, IRI’s programs create a network of partners committed to emphasizing the role of parliament in democratic governance.
IRI builds the capacity of local government officials and CSOs to generate more accessible, accountable, effective, equitable, responsive, and transparent subnational governments. Through extensive research on capacities of local governments and officials, from North Macedonia to Ukraine to Tunisia, IRI implements customized programs that address the capacity development needs of subnational institutions. IRI then supports civil society efforts to demand accountability from subnational governments by carrying out civic awareness campaigns, developing context-tailored toolkits to improve the understanding and functioning of local governments, and connecting citizens with their immediate representatives to better engage in conversations related to improving service delivery.