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Bolivia, still the poorest country in South America, has observed positive economic growth in the last few years.

Since the inauguration of Evo Morales in 2006, as first indigenous president in nearly two hundred years of colonial independence, the GDP has doubled. High world market prices for raw materials (natural gas, mining) have lead to a economic boom. Data from the UN´s CEPAL shows, that between 2002 and 2009 relative poverty in Bolivia decreased from 62.4% to 54%, absolute poverty from 37.1% to 31.2%. The UNDP Human Developent Report confirms this trend but points to the growing soical inequality. In the HDI-Ranking Bolivia takes position 108 out of 187 countries.

During Morales' presidency, Bolivia has approved a new constitution. The rights of the indigenous population have been expanded and policies of redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the poor are being implemented.
In terms of foreign policy, Bolivia has become a member of the ALBA countries. However, the Morales government has been criticised for its authoritarianism and disregard of fundamental human rights as well as democratic rules. Social conflicts have increased, e.g. with the indigenous population or the trade unions. Morales' government controles parliament as well as justice and election autority. Voices critical of the government in the media or NGOs find themselves increasingly in the cross fire. In October 2014 the next presidential elections will take place. After clearing out constitutional objections Evo Morales will run for office again and his chances to be reelected for a new presidency till 2019 are intact.

Bolivia is in the process of political transformation and is faced with the great challenge of building a democratic, multi-ethnic society and establishing a sound balance between collective and individual human rights while improving the living conditions of marginalised parts of the population.


Young people for a democratic future

Solidar Switzerland has been active in Bolivia since 1985. Most of its partners are civil society organisations such as trade unions and grassroots organisations. Solidar Switzerland supports political and material participation of underprivileged groups of the population. Its programmes promote basic democratic rights, human rights, social justice, respect for different-minded people and for the state's accountability to all its citizens. In this context, working with young people is particularly relevant: Cultural events such as theatre and films help them address social issues and encourage active involvement in politics. On behalf of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, Solidar Switzerland implements a programme promoting a democratic political culture, strengthening participation and co-responsibility at municipal level and ensuring compliance with human rights.


Fair working conditions – a key in the fight against poverty

More than half of all Bolivians still live in poverty. Creating jobs as well as fair and decent working conditions are key to reducing poverty. Moreover, democratic participation requires a minimum of material security. Solidar Switzerland therefore cooperates with people in precarious situations such as farmworkers, cane cutters and domestic workers. Solidar Switzerland assists vulnerable workers in their struggle for their rights by providing training, supporting campaigns as well as social dialogue with employers and relevant authorities.

Link to Solidar Switzerlands office in Bolivia (in Spanish)

 Joachim Merz is Solidar Switzerland's desk officer for Bolivia.