The Carter Center worked in Bolivia from 2003 to 2011 with the overall aim of supporting a democratic transformation process that was peaceful, inclusive, and respectful of human rights. From 2003–2007, the Center helped Bolivia establish access to information legislation. Beginning in 2007, The Carter Center helped build capacity for conflict management by providing comprehensive training to government officials, particularly those in the National Institute for Agrarian Reform. In 2009, a Center mission focused on long-term observation of Bolivia's new biometric voter registration process. Also in 2009, the Center began a project to strengthen Bolivian democracy by fostering the practice of professional journalism and strengthening the role of media in the promotion of peace and stability.
The attempt by Bolivia to transform its democracy was one of the most important sociopolitical processes seen in Latin America. Though steps toward power sharing and changing relations were made, many challenges remained, including issues of regional autonomy and decentralization, indigenous autonomy, decriminalization of coca leaves, presidential influence on democratic institutions, and government-media relations.
Bolivia is a multiethnic and pluricultural country with various worldviews, at times leading to conflicts over economic integration, globalization, and control of natural resources. These problems were exacerbated by a political culture that often took political and social demands to the brink of conflict.
The Bolivian government requested the Carter Center's assistance to create mechanisms, develop skills, and generate spaces needed to increase tolerance, inclusion, and, ultimately consensus between social groups, and construct an inclusive political system.
In January 2009, a new constitution was approved through a national referendum. The Carter Center accompanied the process through a small mission of short-term observers who monitored overall transparency, impartiality, and integrity.
Leading up to December 2009 general elections, the country created a new biometric voter registry. The Carter Center reported that the biometric registry had large and enthusiastic voter participation and was conducted in accordance with Bolivia's international commitments. The biometric registry contributed to greater confidence in the voting process and acceptance of election results.
The Carter Center also deployed a short-term observation mission to monitor the Dec. 6 election process, which was found to be peaceful, with high levels of citizen participation in all stages. More than 90 percent of eligible citizens voted, a record turnout even though voting is obligatory in Bolivia.
The Carter Center and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance initiated a dialogue forum among the five Andean countries (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia) and the United States in 2010. The purpose of the 18-month Andean-U.S. Dialogue Forum was to:
-Identify a common agenda for the six countries;
-Address misperceptions and misunderstandings between countries;
-Propose innovative solutions to problematic issues; and
-Explore the possibility of bilateral dialogues between pairs of countries with tense relations within the forum.
The Center started working 2007 to build capacity for conflict management by providing comprehensive training to government officials and other social and political actors and to increase political will for dialogue and tolerance.
In January 2008, the Center signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA) to provide technical assistance to establish and strengthen a conflict transformation unit and institutional policies to be applied during daily activities.
The Carter Center also established cooperative alliances with various social organizations, government, and multilateral agencies and is a founding member of the Community of Practice on Deliberation and Dialogue. The Carter Center provided training in conflict management tools to approximately 3,000 participants from different civic organizations, social groups, departmental authorities, and young political leaders across the country.
The relationship between Bolivian President Evo Morales and the media grew increasingly tense after his election in 2005, exacerbated by the enactment of an anti-racism law that proposed controversial sanctions if material deemed racist were published or disseminated. The media often reported sensationalized versions of political developments, interpreting statistics with a bias.
To help the media improve its practices and to prevent the emergence and escalation of conflicts, between November 2009 and November 2010 The Carter Center established a network of media associations and helped foster professionalization in the field. Supported by funding from the European Union, the project consisted of three stages. In the first stage, the Center, in partnership with Gallup International, conducted a baseline survey to determine the status of the Bolivian media at the start of the project and to determine the development needs of journalists. The second stage consisted of capacity building through training workshops once a month for 11 months. The final stage appraised the results and impact of the project within the Bolivian media sector.
Following the final workshop, representatives from all of the Bolivian media associations affiliated with the project broadly expressed their satisfaction, underscored their desire to continue working with The Carter Center, and highlighted the need for Bolivia to continue to professionalize its journalism sector and strengthen promotion of peace and stability.
In response, The Carter Center implemented, with the financial support of the government of Denmark, a second phase of the project, "The Role of Media in Promoting Peace and Stability in Bolivia," in June 2011. Continuing through March 2012, workshops were held for media representatives from secondary cities in an effort to go beyond main urban centers and reach a broader number of journalists. This allowed for the inclusion of journalists from community radio stations, which have the deepest and most multilayered and multilingual reach in rural areas.
Beginning in 2003, The Carter Center supported the establishment of an access to information culture in Bolivia by collaborating with the government to enhance archiving and records management and by training civil servants on access-to-information best practices. The Center supported the establishment and implementation of a voluntary openness strategy, which allowed the government to demonstrate its commitment to transparency more immediately and to learn valuable lessons to be applied once the comprehensive law was passed.
Additionally, The Carter Center worked with Bolivia's government, congress, and civil society to support the drafting of an access-to-information law that met emerging international standards, sharing the Center's international experiences and exchanging ideas with local actors while recognizing that access to information law must be formulated and disseminated appropriate to local circumstances.
To support a healthy relationship between governments, the media, and journalists, as well as to promote policies and practices to strengthen freedom of expression, democratic governance, and the prevention and escalation of socio-political conflicts, The Carter Center held a series of discussions across the Latin American region from January 2013 to November 2014 through the Contentious Issues in the Americas project.
Freedom of expression, the rights to communication and information, and media-government relations have become crucial areas for the strengthening of democratic governance and human rights in the Americas. The coexistence of competing models of government organization and the regulation of specific rights have produced conflict within countries in the region. Conflict is particularly keen in regard to whether or to what extent governments should regulate the media sector and the practice of journalism as well as to the role and rights of independent news media. Seminars facilitated by The Carter Center in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela allowed experts on both sides of each debate to lay out competing models for citizens to consider and address.
Through the series of conversations, The Carter Center desired to foster compliance with the essential elements of a representative democracy, the defense and practice of human rights, and a better understanding of the values and principles of the American Convention of Human Rights, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
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Size: 1,098,581 square kilometers
Population: 10,800,882 (July 2015 est.)
Population below poverty line: 45 percent
Life expectancy: 69 years
Ethnic groups: Quechua, mixed ancestry, Aymara, white
Religions: Roman Catholic; Protestant (Evangelical Methodist)
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official), foreign languages, Guarani (official) other
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2015