Hoja Informativa de Bolivia Bolivia: Progress and setbacks on Indigenous Rights

What is the national questionnaire?

The national questionnaire is aimed at creating national profiles by which to systematically analyse the level of recognition of and the State’s efforts to comply with the UNDRIP in each country. It is based on structural indicators of process that consider the country’s legal and political framework and the States’ efforts to comply with human rights commitments through programmes and budgetary allocations.

The Indigenous Navigator includes a national questionnaire aimed at creating national profiles which will enable an analysis of the level of recognition of and the State’s efforts to comply with the UNDRIP in each country.

In Bolivia’s case, national and international indigenous organisations, together with key civil society actors, answered the questionnaire on 13 areas of rights established in the UNDRIP, based on their knowledge, specialisms and perceptions. The results of this have been summarised in graph form to demonstrate the broad outlines of Bolivia’s national situation in relation to indigenous rights.

According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 5,457,033 people self-identify as indigenous in Bolivia, or 49.68% of the national population (10,985,049). There are 34 indigenous peoples and nations in the Lowlands and 16 nationalities from two linguistic branches (Quechua and Aymara) in the Highlands.

2,573,571 indigenous people live in urban areas, or 43.52% of the total, while the remaining 56.48% lives in rural areas.

What is their socioeconomic situation?


National data shows a notable reduction in this indicator – down from 32% to 12% over the 2006-2015 period. The State notes that poverty in Bolivia more generally has declined from 59.6% to 38.6% over the same period.

Although INE has no disaggregated statistics, the World Bank* notes that over the 2000-2010 period, the proportion of indigenous people living in moderate poverty in Bolivia (i.e. on less than US$4 a day) fell by 32% and those in extreme poverty (less than US$2.50 a day) by 38%, although the poverty gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people increased by 32%.

There are no financial resources allocated specifically to poverty reduction programmes for indigenous peoples. There used to be the Development Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Native Nations and Peasant Communities (FONDIOC), which the government initiated by means of Supreme Decree 2493/15. It was funded from the indirect tax on hydrocarbons (IDH) and it still has billions of Bolivianos (USD 150 million) awaiting State implementation through the municipalities, although these projects will have no indigenous involvement in their design.


According to the most recent data available (2014), a total of 118 students have graduated from the three indigenous universities recognised by the Plurinational Education System: 42 from Tupac Katari University (Aymara), 41 from Casimiro Huanca University (Quechua) and 35 from Apiguaiki Tumpa University (Guaraní). Specialists and organisations consulted believe that the recognition and implementation of programmes to promote culturally appropriate language and education is, however, deficient. According to INE data from 2001, there was a 34% difference in primary school completion between indigenous children living in rural and urban areas.

Drawing on INE data from 2011, the same World Bank study (2015:80) indicates that the rate of completion of primary schooling among rural indigenous women is 25.6%, compared to 52.5% among rural indigenous men. For secondary education, the equivalent percentages are 9.8% for women and 22.9% for men.


Traditional medicine is recognised in the State Political Constitution and there are community health programmes such as SAFCI, although this is facing difficulties in its gender approach, its financing and its training of staff, all of which is preventing it from having a national impact. There are no disaggregated data on neonatal mortality rates other than the national rate of 250 deaths per 1,000 births, nor on the indigenous maternal mortality rate, which in Bolivia averages 190 deaths per 100,000 live births.


Law No. 045/10 criminalises racism and all forms of discrimination generally, including discrimination in the labour market. Bolivia does not have any affirmative policies promoting indigenous youth employment apart from the Law on Youth No. 342/13. There is no information on official rates of employment of indigenous youth in the formal sector. The World Bank report (2015:68) indicates, however, that 74% of indigenous workers are in the informal sector, in a very precarious condition, as opposed to 64% of non-indigenous people. In the case of women, indigenous women earn 60% less than non-indigenous women in similar jobs.

Forced labour and all forms of slavery are expressly criminalised in the State Political Constitution, the Community-based Agrarian Reform Law and Law No. 263 on People Trafficking, especially in relation to indigenous peoples.

Participation in public affairs

Indigenous peoples have seven national representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, representing 4.2% of the 166 representatives in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly. Given that these indigenous representatives are members of and were elected by a political party, however, the indigenous organisations question what impact they actually have on the decisions taken by the legislative body.

Indigenous peoples have 23 representatives at regional (departmental) level. Despite being an open political space, representation at local (municipal) level is conditional upon approval of the Municipal Organic Charters.

This graph shows that although indigenous peoples make up 49.8% of the population, their representation in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly is only 7.8% and in the departmental councils only 4.2%.


Recognition of self-government and the implementation of Peasant Native Indigenous Autonomy (AIOC) has resulted in 36 indigenous autonomous processes: 21 working towards consolidating their autonomy via municipal conversion and 15 via obtaining a Titled Peasant Native Indigenous Territory (TIOC), i.e. on a territorial basis. Of the 21 opting for municipal conversion, 15 are in the Highlands and six in the Lowlands. Of those choosing TIOC, nine are in the Andes and six in eastern Bolivia.

Source: OEP 2017
Charagua Lyambae, the first indigenous autonomy in Bolivia

There is wide legal recognition of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consultation and Consent within the Constitution and international instruments to which Bolivia is a signatory (ILO C169 and the UNDRIP) but there have been complaints that an energy development policy has been adopted, backed up in laws and decrees, and that nothing related to indigenous peoples is generally ever achieved. FPIC has become a formal administrative procedure in which indigenous peoples’ opinions count for very little and opposition to the State’s decision results in political, judicial and personal persecution for indigenous defenders and leaders.

Land and territory

Indigenous peoples in Bolivia have gained title to approximately 23,000,000 hectares and some 2,000,000 people have self-identified as indigenous on a collective basis. However, a set of measures has been adopted that seriously threatens the exercise of that territoriality, and which permits mineral and oil exploitation on indigenous territories without legitimate consultation and with questionable environmental protections. Although the figures for consolidated territories are impressive, there are now serious threats to their future.

Fundamental rights and freedoms

There are no armed conflicts and no systematic violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights in Bolivia; preventive detention, torture and repression are, however, used and have resulted in deaths, injuries and the unlawful detention of individuals:

Repression of the 8th March in Defence of TIPNIS, Chaparina 25/09/11

A total of 23 deaths have been recorded across the four major protests organised by indigenous peoples, in addition to 184 people injured and an unknown number arrested. This gives an average of 5.75 indigenous deaths and 46 injuries per conflict.

19 peasants died in the Pando Massacre, 11/09/08

Is there a legal framework for recognition of indigenous rights?

Ratification of / support for Convention 169 and UNDRIP (Yes!)

BOLIVIA ratified the UNDRIP on 7 November 2007 via Law No. 3760/07

Bolivia has also ratified 11 of the most important human rights conventions

Bolivia’s National Congress approved the UNDRIP unanimously

Laws 1257/91 and 3760/06 transposed ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into domestic law, and these form the international legal framework for other specific provisions that are established in the State Political Constitution, legislation developing the Constitution and other related standards.

Despite this broad framework of protection and recognition of indigenous rights, it was the opinion of the specialists consulted and the perception of the indigenous organisations that the State is not meeting its obligations.

This project made possible with support from the European Union
Created By
CEJIS Bolivia


Photos: CEJIS Bolivia & IWGIA