Programme to support dialoguing capacity and the rule of law

Programme description

Title: Programme to support dialoguing capacity and the rule of law
Commissioned by: Federal Foreign Office
Country: Bolivia
Lead executing agency: Vice-President’s Office
Overall term: 2009 to 2010


In 2005, Evo Morales Ayma was elected by an absolute majority to become Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Since then, the country has been in a phase of political and social transformation. The aims of Morales’ government, supported by the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), include greater political participation and social inclusion for the indigenous majority of the population as well as other disadvantaged groups. It is pursuing income redistribution through a state-controlled economic policy characterised by higher import duties and the nationalisation of strategic mineral resources, industries and services. The economically strong elites of the resource-rich lowlands oppose this policy strongly, and are calling for extensive autonomy from central government.

In order to realise the government’s ambition of ‘re-founding Bolivia’, a constituent assembly was convened. The results of this were confirmed in a referendum in January 2009 after long debates that were fraught with conflict. The implementation of the new constitution now presents the country with great challenges. The political system is being restructured in a tug-of-war between decentralising processes and efforts to strengthen central government. New autonomies are being established and indigenous legal practices are to be integrated into the existing judicial system. In many cases, the redistribution of resources and political competences has not yet been clearly defined, which causes severe conflicts between the interest groups concerned.

As part of this development, lines of conflict have increasingly hardened between the different social interest groups, and they are irreconcilably opposed in their ongoing conflicts for economic and political power. While violent conflicts are now less frequent than in past years, all parties retain their basic preparedness to resort to violence. In addition, the political culture is characterised by the attempt of all the groups involved to achieve their own maximum demands. Peaceful and consensus-based forms of social and political debate are poorly developed in Bolivian society. As a result of the conflicts, there are repeated infringements of constitutional principles. Important constitutional institutions are suffering the effects of the high level of political polarisation. The Bolivian Constitutional Court, for instance, has been unable to operate for some time because the conflicting political parties have prevented the appointment of judges to fill vacant positions.

The social added value of democratically orientated dialogue processes has been little recognised to date, and is also not imparted in the education and training of children and young people. Government bodies for conflict resolution are either too weak or they are themselves strongly politicised. Thus it is a great challenge for Bolivian politicians and society to implement the new constitution peacefully and in accordance with the normal rules of democracy.


Bolivian institutions and organisations implement the new constitution on a consensual basis. The capacity for dialogue between the different players has grown, and the constitutional state has been strengthened.


The project consists of five components through which it is carrying out targeted measures to support dialogue processes and improve the rule of law.

  • Strengthening the acceptance of the Constitutional Court
    An efficient Constitutional Court is essential for the new constitution to be implemented according to the rule of law. It is the only body that is able to ensure the legality of the autonomy process and to clarify the contradictory provisions in the new constitution. At the same time, it is the most important body of appeal for Bolivia’s citizens when their fundamental rights are infringed. The Constitutional Court’s current incapacity is thus a great weakness of the constitutional state.
    The project supports international exchanges of experience in order to enhance the acceptance of the Constitutional Court among political decision-makers and within the judicial scene. National and international experts draw up joint recommendations on the Constitutional Court’s role and modus operandi in the context of the new Bolivian Constitution. An international conference will draw attention to the issue. Experiences of multi-ethnic constitutional courts and of the role of constitutional courts in social transformation processes will also be included in the dialogue whenever political decision-makers and important players from the Bolivian judiciary go on official visits to other countries (e.g. South Africa).
  • Imparting constitutional values as peace-building measures among young people
    The communication of constitutional and democratic values to young people is an important prerequisite when creating a culture of dialogue for the common good. These values are imparted to young people using innovative, intercultural teaching methods as part of a civic education campaign. This educational work is targeted primarily at students because they will play an important role as social and political players in the future.
    As a first step, young people from the universities of La Paz and El Alto will be sensitised and taught about the rule of law; this will particularly focus on the elections taking place in December. Students from other regions will then be included in the awareness-raising and training work during 2010. As well as facilitating exchanges between different groups of young Bolivians, an important focus of this work is on promoting a culture of peace and constructive conflict resolution.
  • Promoting the capacity for dialoguing among political decision-makers
    Targeted measures will be used to enhance the capacity of players in the political, parliamentary, social, business and institutional judicial fields to participate in dialogue. The project will thus support the achievement of consensual decisions. This will particularly focus on areas were conflicts arise during the implementation of the new constitution. For example, dialogue is being facilitated as part of the process to distribute competences between the autonomous regions. Constructive solutions will be drawn up, which can later be applied to other regions as examples of best practice. To this end, the project supports networks in which those committed to democratic dialogue processes can exchange experiences, particularly when this increases the involvement of indigenous groups in political decision-making processes.
    Training and awareness-raising events will also be held for selected political decision-makers, to promote constructive dialogue and negotiation skills that adhere to constitutional principles.
  • Conflict resolution mechanisms within the context of a decentral government structure
    As Bolivia lacks historical experience for its new, decentralised government structure, it needs to benefit from exchanges of experience at policy level with countries that use models of autonomy which are federally structured. The project therefore supports the development of political contacts between Bolivia and countries such as Germany and Switzerland, but also with countries that have recently included multiethnic aspects in their government reform.
    Establishing constructive conflict-resolution mechanisms in the context of the redistribution of political competence and economic resources is of particular interest. This provides the topic for a number of international exchanges and seminars being planned, at which different models for decentralised government will be assessed from the point of view of the Bolivian example.
  • Strengthening legal security and confidence in the formal judiciary by repealing obsolete statutes
    The new constitution also requires the adaptation and revision of the legal framework. Even before the constitutional reform there was great uncertainty as to which laws were still valid, as no method has yet been established in the Bolivian legislative process for the systematic elimination or adaptation of previous laws when revising areas of legislation. Old laws frequently remained in force although the subject of the law had already been updated. This results in a high degree of legal insecurity since the judicial basis can be interpreted in different ways. Repealing obsolete statutes is therefore an important factor in raising legal security, which in turn is an essential element of a constitutional state. Such security boosts citizens’ confidence in the formal judiciary and contributes to social peace.
    The project is financing and supervising a team of legal experts, which is repealing obsolete statutes in cooperation with the Bolivian Vice-President’s Office. The team is also setting up a government department that will continue to repeal obsolete statutes in the future.