Photo: UNDP Perú

Latin America and the Caribbean is experiencing its longest period of democratic regimes. Electoral democracy has spread and consolidated since the early ’90s. But the quality of these democracies is still a concern.

Gender inequality in Latin American society is also reflected in local polls and general elections— and even in women’s basic electoral rights. Even though the region continues to have the highest percentage of women in Parliaments among developing regions (23 percent average), only five countries have elected women Head of States or Government: Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago.

Moreover, Indigenous peoples and afro-descendants have lower levels of political participation in certain countries. And young Latin Americans show less willingness to vote, according to UNDP studies. There is growing evidence of low levels of youth participation not only in elections, political parties and traditional social organizations, but also in public policy formulation.

What are we doing?


UNDP advocates for a democracy of citizenship –a rights-based and citizen-centered approach- and the promotion of inclusive participation. Therefore the inclusion of traditionally excluded social groups is a key developmental objective, aiming to strengthen democratic governance. We work with our Country Offices in support of national actors’ efforts to improve the quality of democracy in our region.

UNDP works to build the capacity of civil society organizations and electoral institutions to foster electoral participation of indigenous peoples in six countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. More than 350 indigenous leaders were trained to exercise political rights and foster electoral participation in YEAR. Initiatives to boost traditionally marginalized groups involvement in politics included the Regional School of Political Leadership for indigenous women and youth, and training of 300 indigenous women holding elected positions in local governments in 2012.

UNDP contributed to foster gender equality and women’s political rights by working with different state institutions to advance on women’s political rights particularly through political and electoral reforms; regional networks; capacity development initiatives for gender equality in Parliaments; gender mainstreaming in public policies and development programs, and training of political women at the subnational level to prepare them for the electoral campaigns.

UNDP has been focusing on advancing Youth Empowerment and boosting young Latin Americans political participation. Some highlights include the gathering on Youth Participation and Democratic Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Mexico October, 2012 with more than 30 youth organizations young leaders and governmental counterparts and  UNDP´s joint publication with the International Youth Organization (OIJ) on 20 Good Youth Policies. In the Caribbean UNDP has also been training young leaders and encouraging them to monitor government expenditure. The web-platform  (managed by youth for the youth) provides a regional common space for youth debates, information, knowledge sharing and capacity building.

In order to contribute to more efficient and transparent government institutions at the national and sub-national levels, the management system for Governance, SIGOB (in the Spanish acronym) has significantly expanded its work in several countries. In 2012, UNDP developed a new governance methodology for supporting presidential transitions  which was piloted at the 2012 Dominican Republic presidential transition. The methodology helps elected presidents and their cabinet members taking office and rolling out key programs in the first 100-days.

 UNDP is also working on business for development with a human-rights approach. In 2013 in collaboration with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and a consortium of regional partners, UNDP is organizing a Regional Forum on Business, Development and Human Rights to review the implementation of guiding principles and to identify experiences and innovations.

Featured Publications
Understanding Social Conflict in Latin America

This study argues that the recent social conflicts in Latin America arose within a given historical context and that they were influenced by the region’s relative success in resisting the global crisis. The region has experienced significant economic growth rates, has reduced poverty levels, and maintained the public’s largely positive view of democracy as a political system and framework for coexistence.

THE PAPEP EXPERIENCE: Strengthening Political Capacities for Development

This paper presents and describes the Political Analysis and Prospective Scenarios Project (PAPEP, for its Spanish acronym), which is being implemented by the UNDP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the  Caribbean (RBLAC) in a considerable number of LAC countries. 

A practical guide to social audit as a participatory tool strenthen democratic governance, transparency, and accosuntability
  A practical guide to social audit as a participatory tool strenthen democratic governance, transparency, and accosuntability