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.

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

Global Affairs Canada14.63
Other departments and sources1.09


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