The State Department on Thursday announced that it is seeking ideas for new democracy promotion projects in Cuba.
U.S. officials are looking for creative new ways to promote “civil, political, religious, and labor rights.”
Selected organizations will receive from $500,000 to $2 million to carry out their projects, which are illegal under Cuban law.
The State Department’s announcement states:
Projects should demonstrate consultative dialogue with local Cuban partners and present sound strategies to develop organizational capacity and foster collaboration among diverse segments of Cuba’s independent civil society. Proposals should also include concrete initiatives that reflect recent developments on the island and have the potential to generate short-term impacts leading to long-term sustainable change.
The application deadline is March 22. Non-profit groups are preferred, but for-profit companies are also allowed to apply.
The full announcement is below:
Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Statements of Interest Title: DRL FY18/19 Cuba RSOI
Funding Opportunity Number: SFOP0005583
Due Date: 11:30 PM ET on Friday, March 22, 2019
I. Requested Objectives for Statements of Interest
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI) from organizations interested in submitting Statements of Interest (SOI) for programs that support the policy objective to foster civil, political, religious, and labor rights in Cuba.
PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly encourages applicants to immediately access SAMS Domestic or www.grants.gov in order to obtain a username and password. For instructions on how to register with SAMS Domestic for the first time, please refer to the Proposal Submission Instructions for Statements of Interest at: https://www.state.gov/j/drl/p/285904.htm.
The submission of a SOI is the first step in a two-part process. Applicants must first submit a SOI, which is a concise, 3-page concept note designed to clearly communicate a program idea and its objectives before the development of a full proposal application. The purpose of the SOI process is to allow applicants the opportunity to submit program ideas for DRL to evaluate prior to requiring the development of full proposal applications. Upon review of eligible SOIs, DRL will invite selected applicants to expand their ideas into full proposal applications.
The Cuban government fails to respect and uphold the human rights of the Cuban people. The government stifles genuine political debate and civic participation among its citizens by implementing flawed and undemocratic electoral processes, resulting in a one-party system that prohibits diversity of thought or political pluralism. The government limits civic participation by blocking the registration of independent civic and political organizations; harassing, intimidating, and threatening citizens who engage in independent civic activism; and imprisoning political activists under false or grossly exaggerated charges. Additionally, the government censors independent journalists, bloggers, artists, and other individuals who seek to exercise their freedom of opinion and expression, particularly when their views are deemed critical of government policies. The government prevents communities of faith and independent labor unions from organizing outside of officially-sanctioned structures and subjects many individuals who engage in these activities to unlawful acts of violence, arbitrary detention, sham trials, raids, confiscation of personal property, and restrictions on freedom of movement both domestically and abroad, all with no possibility of legal recourse.
These authoritarian measures inhibit constructive dialogue between citizens and their government regarding solutions to the country’s social, political, and economic problems, resulting in a failed system that leaves little hope for the Cuban people to enjoy true economic prosperity or personal liberty. This failed political system leads most Cubans to experience scarcity of basic food and medicines, crumbling electrical and transportation infrastructures, precarious housing, outbreaks of easily controlled diseases, and limited connectivity to other Cubans on-island or to the international community. Tight control of the nascent private sector and the criminalization of independent civil society organizations prevent most individuals in Cuba from organizing to enact the social, political, and economic solutions to improve their personal circumstances or realize their full potential, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and dependence on the State.
DRL seeks Statements of Interest (SOIs) that support independent civil society organizations and Cuban individuals in their efforts toward the realization of the liberties enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the denial of which has resulted in the above-mentioned systemic failures.
DRL’s programmatic emphasis advances the U.S. government policy to promote human rights in Cuba as stated in the June 16, 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum entitled “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.” Specifically, DRL programs in Cuba aim to strengthen the capabilities of on-island, independent civil society to advance the above-mentioned rights and interests of all individuals in Cuba, and to overcome the limitations imposed by the Cuban government on the exercise of these civil, political, labor, and religious rights. DRL strives to ensure its projects also advance principles of non-discrimination with respect to race, religion, gender, disability, and other individual characteristics.
DRL seeks SOIs that inform, educate, and build support among the Cuban people for Cuban-led initiatives on-island that promote the civil and political rights of all Cuban citizens- particularly the freedoms of association, expression, and religion and belief- and strengthen and expand the reach of those initiatives in Cuba by focusing on issues that resonate with Cuban citizens. Competitive SOIs may also support the documentation of human rights abuses, including for use in domestic and international advocacy, and increase the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. SOIs should offer a specific vision for contributing to change while acknowledging obstacles that would have to be overcome. Projects should demonstrate consultative dialogue with local Cuban partners and present sound strategies to develop organizational capacity and foster collaboration among diverse segments of Cuba’s independent civil society. Proposals should also include concrete initiatives that reflect recent developments on the island and have the potential to generate short-term impacts leading to long-term sustainable change.
DRL prefers innovative approaches rather than projects that simply duplicate or add to ongoing efforts by other entities. This does not exclude projects that clearly build off existing successful projects in a new way. DRL encourages applicants to foster collaborative partnerships with each other and submit a combined SOI in which one organization is designated as the lead applicant. The applicant should also demonstrate experience programming effectively within Cuba and/or within other closed society environments. Most importantly, the applicant should clearly demonstrate that the proposed activities emanate directly from needs expressed by Cuban civil society organizations.
Successful applications in the past have proposed activities reflective of the skills, knowledge, and linguistic capabilities of target beneficiaries. Successful applications have also considered practical limitations of groups and individuals’ ability to participate in project activities and strive to ensure the beneficiary organizations will continue to function while certain members are participating in off-island activities.
To maximize the impact and sustainability of the award(s) that result(s) from this solicitation, DRL reserves the right to execute a non-competitive continuation amendment(s). Any non- competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds. A non- competitive continuation is not guaranteed; the Department of State reserves the right to exercise or not exercise the option to issue non-competitive continuation amendment(s).
Activities that are typically funded include, but are not limited to:
- Organizational assistance to Cuban civil society to improve management, strategic planning, sustainability, and collaboration of local civil society groups such as labor groups, civil and political rights groups, youth groups, and religious freedom advocates, and assistance that encourages the participation of marginalized groups;
- Assistance to independent Cuban civil society organizations to facilitate community- based, participatory problem solving approaches to generate concrete solutions to specific problems, thereby creating a democratic alternative to dependence on the State;
- Capacity building on and off the island. Off-island activities sometimes include short- term fellowships;
- Access to software that would be easily accessible in an open society, or the adaptation of said software for the Cuban technological environment;
- Assistance mechanisms designed to provide independent Cuban civil society with tools, opportunities, and trainings that civil society counterparts in open societies can access;
- Incorporation of independent Cuban civil society into initiatives, fora, and coalitions led by their regional and global civil society counterparts; and
- Activities that increase access to uncensored information within the island.
Activities that typically are NOT considered competitive include:
- The provision of large amounts of humanitarian assistance;
- English language instruction;
- Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware;
- Purely academic research, exchanges, or fellowships;
- External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
- Off-island activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary for security concerns;
- Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed
primarily at research and evaluation for publication that do not incorporate training or
- capacity-building for local civil society;
- Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;
- Activities that go beyond an organization’s demonstrated competence, or fail to provide clear evidence that activities will achieve the stated impact;
- Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of Cuba;
- Activities that are a duplication of other ongoing USG-funded projects in Cuba.
Programs that are NOT funded:
- DRL does not fund programs for Cuba that support the Cuban government, including Cuban government institutions, individuals employed by those institutions, or organizations controlled by government institutions.
II. Eligibility Information
Organizations submitting SOIs must meet the following criteria:
- Be a U.S.- or foreign-based non-profit/non-governmental organization (NGO), or a
public international organization; or
- Be a private, public, or state institution of higher education; or
- Be a for-profit organization or business (noting there are restrictions on payment of fees
and/or profits under grants and cooperative agreements, including those outlined in 48 CFR 30, “Cost Accounting Standards Administration”, and 48 CFR 31, “Contract Cost Principles and Procedures”); and
- Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with thematic or in-country partners, entities, and relevant stakeholders including private sector partner and NGOs; and
- Have demonstrable experience administering successful and preferably similar programs. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal awards. These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.
Applicants may form consortia and submit a combined SOI. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant with the other members as sub-award partners.
DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited. For-profit entities should be aware that their applications may be subject to additional review following the panel selection process, and that the Department of State generally prohibits profit under its assistance awards to for-profit or commercial organizations. Profit is defined as any amount in excess of allowable direct and indirect costs. The allowability of costs incurred by commercial organizations is determined in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) at 48 CFR 30, Cost Accounting Standards Administration, and 48 CFR 31 Contract Cost Principles and Procedures. Program income earned by the recipient must be deducted from the program’s total allowable costs in determining the net allowable costs on which the federal share of costs is based.
The total duration of any award, including a potential non-competitive continuation amendment(s), shall not exceed 60 months or five years. Any non-competitive continuation is contingent on performance and availability of funds.