International Republican Institute
|Motto||Advancing Democracy Worldwide|
The International Republican Institute (IRI) is a Washington, DC nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to advancing freedom and democracy worldwide by helping political parties to become more issue-based and responsive, assisting citizens to participate in government planning, and working to increase the role of marginalized groups in the political process – including women and youth.
Founded in 1983, and initially known as the National Republican Institute for International Affairs, the IRI's stated mission is to "advance democracy and freedom. We link people with their governments, guide politicians to be responsive to citizens, and motivate people to engage in the political process."
The Institute's activities include assisting political parties and candidates develop their values and institutional structures, good governance practices, civil society development, civic education, women's and youth leadership development, electoral reform and election monitoring, and political expression in closed societies. In 2018, U.S. Senator John McCain informed the board of his intention to step down as chair of IRI after 25 years in the role and recommended that U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan succeed him. Senator McCain remained a member of the board.
IRI has been active in Haiti, Honduras, the Middle East, Poland and Georgia.
The IRI is a non-partisan organization founded in 1983 after U.S. President Ronald Reagan's 1982 speech before the British Parliament in Westminster in which he proposed a broad objective of helping countries build the infrastructure of democracy. Quoting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he stated: "we must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings."
The IRI operates as a political organization abroad, providing training and assistance to favoured political parties. As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, it plays no part in domestic U.S. politics. However, the majority of its board, staff and consultants are drawn from the Republican Party. Its sister organization, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, draws mainly from the Democratic Party.
2004 Haitian coup
IRI was accused by former US Ambassador Brian Dean Curran of undermining his efforts to hold peaceful negotiations between Aristide and his opposition after contested senatorial elections in 2000. According to Curran, Stanley Lucas, then IRI's representative in Haiti, advised opposition leaders not to compromise with Aristide, who would soon be driven from power. Curran also alleged that Lucas represented himself to the opposition as the true envoy of Washington, and his advice—which was contrary to that of the State Department—as advice from the American government. IRI responded to Ambassador Curran's allegations in a letter to the New York Times.
2009 Honduran constitutional crisis
The IRI received $550,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy in 2009 in order to "promote and enhance the participation of think tanks in Mexico and Honduras as 'pressure groups' to impel political parties to develop concrete positions on key issues", and to "support initiatives to implement political positions during the campaigns in 2009" following the 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis.
According to an April 2011 New York Times article, the IRI, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and other groups were credited for training activists in the Middle East, specifically Egypt and Tunisia, who were advocating for reform in authoritarian regimes.
A ministry of justice's report on foreign funding of NGOs in Egypt has revealed that IRI in Egypt has received funding of about 7 million dollars by USAID for the Egyptian 2011–12 elections. The military rulers who gained control of the country following the January 2011 revolution consider this foreign funding interference in internal affairs.
The IRI program in Poland began in 1991 and has said that it united and organised a diverse range of "center and center right-wing" political parties together to create the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), which was in government in Poland, together with its coalition partner the Freedom Union (UW) party, from 1997 to 2001. It also said that it provided training in political campaigning, communications training and research which helped organise and create the AWS.
- The New York Times, 28 July 2008, Democracy Group Gives Donors Access to McCain
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