The International Republican Institute (IRI) describes itself as "a 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."  Its critics say that it has helped to overthrow popularly-elected governments, such as the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, and replaced them with unpopular dictatorships.
Founded in 1983 and initially known as the National Republican Institute for International Affairs, the IRI's stated mission is to "expand freedom throughout the world". Its 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. It has been chaired by Arizona Senator John McCain since January 1993.
IRI has dramatically increased its efforts to bring institutional structure to Arab countries whose social and political fabric was frayed by the Arab Spring. IRI controversially was helping organize Haitian workers and farmers in Haiti prior to the 2004 Haitian coup d'état, organized conservative political parties in Poland, and has been involved in organizing women in Egypt during and after the Arab Spring.
|Motto||Advancing Democracy Worldwide|
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 Westminster speech led to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy by Congress in 1983. The endowment is a mechanism to channel congressional funds to the IRI and three other institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. These organizations provide technical assistance to political bodies worldwide.
The majority of the IRI's funding comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
At first, IRI focused on democratic institutions and processes in Latin America but has expanded its focus worldwide since the end of the Cold War. IRI has conducted programs in more than 100 countries and is currently active in 70 countries.
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.
IRI works with the following organizations:
In Europe, IRI has established a partnership with the European People's Party (EPP).
It has pursued a nominally neutral agenda, which puts emphasis on promoting the involvement of Indigenous people in the electoral process.
The IRI is accused of training some of the leaders of the 2004 Haitian coup d'état, as well as funding Farmer's groups in the country in an opposition campaign in the months leading up the removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide by a coalition of Canada, the US and France.
The now defunct website http://www.haitigetinvolved.com/ was displaying the IRI logo together with the title "Haiti Get Involved!" from about 2003 until mid-2005, and to be offering news, analysis, reports, documents and training manuals as well as information on the upcoming election and a list of political parties.
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, stating:
"'Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos' (front page, Jan. 29) found support for some of former Ambassador Brian Dean Curran's charges among only a few Haitians, most of them former associates of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. All have obvious motivation to impugn the International Republican Institute's work, and none presented any evidence to back their accusations." 
Otto Reich, who was the State Department's top official on Latin America under Colin Powell, described a change in US policy toward Haiti with the arrival of the Bush administration. According to Reich, Aristide fell somewhat out of favor with the change of US executive, though Powell continued to publicly profess U.S. support for the democratically elected leader. Curran's allegations were corroborated by Luigi R. Einaudi of the Organization of American States.
The Cuban government accuses former Congressional staffer Caleb McCarry of orchestrating the 2004 Haitian coup and attempting to provoke a coup d'état in Cuba. An anonymous State Department source told a Salon.com journalist that the funds McCarry allegedly used in Haiti came from the IRI.
The IRI has been accused of supporting the 2009 Honduran coup d'état. The IRI refuses to term the event as such and calls it a "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 coup.
The IRI claims credit for having 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 claims having provided training in political campaigning, communications training and research which helped organise and create the AWS. It also claims that once the AWS was in government, it organised an advertising campaign for the Polish government in order to stop the AWS splitting up over internal tensions:
IRI initiated a post-election program that emphasized media and communications training for Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's chancellory and cabinet.— IRI
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.
"The money spent on these programs was minute compared with efforts led by the Pentagon. But as American officials and others look back at the uprisings of the Arab Spring, they are seeing that the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.
"A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.” 
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.
IRI's current president, Mark Green, assumed leadership in February 2014. Its former president, Lorne Craner, assumed leadership on August 2, 2004. From 2001 to 2004, Craner served as Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the US State Department.
Board of Directors