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Landlocked in South America, Bolivia is located in the mountainous Andean region of the continent. Despite the country’s rich mineral and energy resources, it remains among the poorest nations in South America, and the majority of the country are low-income subsistence farmers, miners, small traders or artisans. Little progress has been made to address human rights abuses committed before the re-establishment of democracy in 1982, and has been criticised for investigating these abuses through the military justice system.


Bolivia is a landlocked country in South America. It borders with Argentina and Paraguay to the south, Peru to the north west, Chile to the south west, and Brazil to the north and east. Despite being a landlocked country, it shares with Peru the highest navigable body of water on Earth, Lake Titicaca, which is located at 3,821 metres above sea level, and is also the largest lake in South America by volume of water. The city of La Paz is home of the executive, legislative and electoral powers, whereas the judiciary is based in Sucre.

Population and Language

According to the last census, which took place in 2012, the population of Bolivia stands at 10,389,903 inhabitants, which shows a growth in the population of 2.115.578 since the previous census in 2001.

Bolivia is a multicultural country, where indigenous populations are still well represented compared to other countries in the region. Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní are the most widely used languages. In view of its cultural variety, Bolivia has recognised 37 official languages, as established on Art. 5 paragraph I of the Constitution, and Art. 2 of the General Law of Linguistic Rights and Policies


Bolivia is a state organised into nine departments (Beni, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, La Paz, Oruro, Pando, Potosí, Tarija y Santa Cruz), which are subdivided into 112 provinces and these into 339 autonomous municipalities.

Given its cultural diversity, there is a high level of participation of different groups that represent indigenous people, which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

After a difficult start to the decade, in which the then president left the country among popular unrest, Bolivia has achieved political stability. Many changes in its organisation are quite recent. On 22 January 2010, the government became multinational, abandoning the republican model of organisation. This change, according to the preamble of the Bolivian Constitution, aims at turning the Bolivian society into a more plural one, in order to recognise as citizens all members of society including every indigenous group.

The government is still organised under a three power pillar, in which the president is in charge of the Executive Power. Elections are held to appoint the head of the State for a mandate of five years. President Evo Morales is on the way to finish his second consecutive term.


Bolivia was historically considered one of the poorest countries in South America, with an economy based on mining and agriculture, being sugar and chestnut its most widely grown crops, and also quinoa in recent years. Still, recent UNDP reports show an improvement in lowering poverty levels through different policies.

According to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Bolivia is one of the countries with the highest levels of growth in the manufacturing sector. Also due to its increasing participation in the oil and gas, and mineral extraction sectors, among others, the ECLAC has forecasted Bolivia will be one of the countries with the highest levels of growth in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Media and Civil Society

Civil society organisations play a most relevant part in today´s Bolivia and traditionally most of their work focused on health, education and agriculture. In order to have a better knowledge of how many organisations are currently working in Bolivia, their activities and source of financing, the Bolivian government has created in recent years a Registry for CSOs, which is now mandatory. A 2010 study states that 13 per cent of CSOs were able to capture annual funding to the amount of US$130,000, suggesting a high level of organisation and voluntary work to be able to sustain themselves efficiently. Indigenous organisations are among the most active and within recent years they have achieved greater recognition of their rights. Working children are also active in civil society, having formed Bolivia’s largest union of child workers, UNATSBO, which has become a strong lobbying body.

Human Rights and Children's Rights

Bolivia, as with most countries in the region, experienced repression under a number of military regimes. From 1964 to 1982, several coup d´etat disrupted democratic order, which were accompanied by violent repression and forced disappearances. Justice and accountability for past crimes remains an ongoing human rights issue. Despite some recent progress through the trial of members of the military for incidents of repression that took place in recent years, especially those that lead to the resignation of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003, the advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch considers this insufficient[1] since the military is still able to impose its own jurisdiction in cases alleging human rights abuses against civilians. Quite often, proceedings against members of the military end in absolutions, even in civilian courts.

In regards to children’s rights, child labour in mining and agriculture is a principle concern. According to UNICEF, children represent 46 per cent of workers in the mining industry. Violence against children is another pressing matter. A report issued by the Bolivian ombudsman stated that 83 per cent of children are victims of physical and/or psychological violence which is mainly perpetrated in the home, while sexual violence affects 34 per cent of girls and 23 per cent of boys before the age of 18.



Quick Facts

  • Population under 18: 3,723,444 (UNICEF, 2001)
  • Human Development Index: 108 (UNDP, 2012)