The International Republican Institute (IRI) is an American 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. The IRI has been active in Haiti, Honduras, the Middle East, Poland and Georgia.
This year, the John McCain Freedom Award International was awarded to Lithuania, as well as democratic leaders in Burma, Belarus and Cuba. Award ceremonies will take place in Washington, DC, on October 19. Although Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė will be unable to attend, a video of her acceptance speech will be shown.
Freedom Awards have been given since 1995. Among recipients were Pope John Paul II, US President Ronald Reagan, US Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Colin Luther Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemcov (posthumously), the Maidan movement in Ukraine, and freedom fighters in Belarus, Venezuela and Hong Kong.
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