Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and one of the poorest in the western hemisphere. Although classified as a middle income country, it is at the lower end of that scale, and owes its position to high natural gas prices (Bolivia’s main export earner) over the last decade. Indeed, since 2006, the Government of Bolivia has introduced economic and social reforms designed to meet the basic needs of the poorest people. As a result, moderate poverty has dropped from 59% to 39%, and extreme poverty has dropped from 39% to 17% (World Bank). Women have not benefitted as much as men from the sustained economic growth. They are still too often marginalized, victims of violence, and have limited access to and control over productive resources.

Bolivia ranks 119 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2015 human development index. Expanding and diversifying the economy and creating jobs while reducing inequality are fundamental priorities for the Government of Bolivia. The reduction of maternal and infant mortality, both amongst the highest in the hemisphere, are also priority challenges. Adolescent pregnancies account for a high proportion of those deaths. Malnutrition is a contributing factor in many of these deaths, as are disparity between rural and urban areas and between indigenous and non-indigenous people, lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Indigenous people represent approximately 65% of the country’s 10 million people. The country’s diverse and fragile ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change.

Bolivia has maintained a fairly peaceful democracy since 1982, although work remains to be done to improve the professionalism, accountability, and transparency of its democratic processes and institutions and to strengthen the rule of law.

Canadian development assistance has been active in Bolivia since 1977. Its development program has received a strongly positive evaluation for its 2005-2010 results by the Global Affairs Canada's External Evaluation Committee in 2013.

Find out what Canada is doing to support development in Bolivia.

Thematic focus

Canada's international development programming in Bolivia is closely aligned with the principles of Bolivia's national development plan, which promotes the Government of Bolivia's goals of constructing a new, equitable, more just, and economically vigorous society by addressing the social, democratic, and economic dimensions of development.

The overall goal of the program is to support a more equitable society in which poverty is reduced and the quality of life of vulnerable and marginalized populations is improved. More specifically, Canada focuses on providing the means for a better future for children and youth, especially through promoting the health and rights of women and children, and creating the conditions for sustainable economic growth. Canada puts a strong emphasis on promoting gender equality in all the initiatives it supports.

Children and youth

Canada continues to improve maternal health and reduce child mortality by improving access to essential health care, combatting malnutrition, and increasing sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services.

From 2007-2015, Canada participated in a basket fund with France and Belgium in support to the national Zero Malnutrition Program led by Bolivia’s Ministry of Health. Working in support of over 155 municipalities throughout the country, this program contributed to an accelerated rate of reduction of chronic malnutrition in young children.

Economic growth

Canada encourages sustainable economic growth by supporting training in market-driven skills for employment programs (technical and vocational training) and promoting local economic development for the sustainable well-being of communities through diversification of economic activities, linking to markets and the empowering of women as economic actors by increasing their access to markets, property, credit, and technology.

From 2003-2013, Canada provided technical assistance to strengthen Bolivia’s hydrocarbons sector. This assistance is credited for having contributed to establishing the institutional basis from which Bolivia has successfully harnessed significant state revenues that fueled the country’s development over the last decade, since the nationalization of the sector.

Progress on aid effectiveness

Bolivia adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 317 KB)Footnote * and to the Sustainable Development Objectives agreed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2015. There is a Donor Coordination Group (GruS) aligned with Bolivia’s National Development Plan, which Canada has presided (2010 and 2015) and in which it continues to actively participate. The GruS counts sectoral coordination groups, to which Canada participates in its priority areas.

In addition to the bilateral program, over 20 Canadian Non-governmental organizations with diverse development expertise are active in Bolivia. They have created a joint platform, the Coordination of Canadian Civil Society Organizations in Bolivia (COCAB) [Spanish only], to work together and generate synergies.



Achievements 2011-2012

Children and youth

  • Increased by approximately one-third the number of children receiving multiple micronutrient powders containing vitamins and minerals essential to optimal health and development between 2010 and 2011
  • Provided a third dose of Pentavalent vaccine to 100 percent of children in three targeted regions, protecting them from life-threatening childhood diseases such as measles and whooping cough

Economic growth

  • Trained 6,527 women to work in non-traditional occupations such as carpentry, plumbing and electrical installation
  • Provided leadership and management training to 640 women elected to local and national government
  • Helped 180 family coffee producers access the international market, exporting 16,000 kilograms of coffee to Canada thereby increasing their gross income
  • Helped smallholder farmers, including women, plant more than 8 million trees and build more than 800,000 hectares of terraces to reduce erosion and desertification

Achievements 2010-2011

Children and youth

  • Helped reduce deaths due to severe malnutrition in the country by 53 percent in children under the age of five, decreasing from 749 in 2008 to 350 in 2010
  • Helped increase the number of children receiving micronutrient supplements by 33 percent from 145,000 in 2009 to 192,000 in 2010
  • Helped increase by 73 percent the number of children receiving zinc for treatment of diarrhea from 166,739 in 2009 to 288,455 in 2010
  • Increased national capacity to produce key micronutrient supplements such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc required to keep children healthy and well nourished, and contributed to reducing the costs of these supplements and diversifying the economy
  • In three targeted regions of Bolivia, 550 community health workers were trained and are now providing improved health services contributing to these 2010 results:
    • a 33 percent improvement in third-dose coverage of pentavalent vaccine from 72 percent in 2005 to 96 percent in 2010
    • increased percentage of children between six months and two years of age receiving iron supplements — key to preventing mental impairment — to 91 percent compared to 52 percent in 2009
    • helped 10,205 girls and boys gain access to water and sanitation services in primary schools

Economic growth

  • Helped increase annual government revenues fourfold between 2005 and 2010 to $2.2 billion through the Hydrocarbon Regulatory Assistance Project — which has funded important social programs such as old age security pensions now received by 775,000 people; the School Retention Bonus, covering some of the education costs of 1.8 million school-aged children; a national literacy program in which 800,000 adults learned to read; increased electricity coverage in rural areas from 33 percent in 2005 to 51 percent in 2010 and contributed to overall economic growth and the diversification of the economy
  • Helped increase the number of female high school students pursuing post-secondary diplomas in the hydrocarbon sector and assisted 14 female interns in finding permanent employment in this sector
  • Helped improve the skills of 559 women in commercialization strategies, technical trades, and non-traditional occupations such as construction

Achievements 2009-2010

Children and youth

  • Helped the health services in Beni, Pando and Oruro to implement the national norms for planning, managing and providing health services
  • Helped achieve a significant increase in the numbers of births in health facilities (up to 74 percent in Beni, and 86 percent in Pando and Oruro)
  • Assisted mobile health brigades to increase service in targeted communities, from 65 percent in 2008 to the current 90 percent
  • Improved the number of children receiving a full set of vaccinations (up to 80 percent in Oruro, 87 percent in Beni, and 77 percent in Pando)
  • Provided 24 percent of infants with a nutritional supplement (up from 18 percent in 2008)
  • Provided 71 percent of pregnant women with at least four prenatal consultations (up from 63 percent in 2008)

Economic growth

  • Supported new cooperative industry in the production, transformation and commercialization of herbs and spices, notably oregano and essential oils

Map of international development projects in the Americas

Map of international development projects in the Americas

2014-2015 international assistance disbursements to Bolivia (in millions of dollars)

Global Affairs Canada14.63
Other departments and sources1.09


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