The U.S. Agency for International Development plans to award up to $2 million for human rights projects targeting Cuba.
USAID says it will advance human rights through:
1) support to Cuban political prisoners and their family members, and
2) increased domestic and international awareness about the realities faced by Cuban citizens and failures of the Cuban Revolution.
U.S. or foreign-based organizations are invited to submit concept papers saying how they’d accomplish these goals by July 18.
USAID expects to award the initial grants under the program by Sept. 30. Organizations are eligible for up to $500,000 each.
A June 27 document says the agency “invites all qualified organizations and entities to identify and suggest ways we can work together to address key challenges in Cuba that are aligned with the United States Government’s foreign assistance objectives.”
The document states:
USAID LAC/Cuba is requesting concept papers in the following areas of strategic interest. While USAID reserves the right to fund activities outside of these specific areas, priority will be given to those concept papers and applications that are most responsive to the program areas detailed below. Applicants are encouraged to submit innovative ideas that are not a duplication of current U.S. Government (USG)-funded activities, as USAID seeks to expand the network of on-island individuals and groups receiving assistance.
Program Area 1: Humanitarian Assistance for Political Prisoners
The Cuban regime holds more than 100 political prisoners, imprisoned simply for attempting to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression. Those arrested are subjected to lengthy prison terms and to prison conditions that are harsh and often life threatening. The regime denies holding any political prisoners — those imprisoned for political reasons are often convicted on false or trumped-up charges, or arbitrary offenses such as “pre-criminal dangerousness.”
Prisoners are placed in overcrowded prisons, often at great distances from family members, and are beaten or placed in solitary confinement for voicing their concerns. Prisoners also lack access to proper medical care and water, and food provided by the Cuban government is not sufficient for basic subsistence needs. In addition, former political prisoners who remain in Cuba are heavily surveilled and intimidated by the Cuban regime for political activism activities and are often prohibited from job opportunities because of dissident activities, affecting not only their own livelihood but that of other family members as well.
Partnership Objective: USAID LAC/Cuba seeks partners with experience in Cuba and similarly closed countries that can provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to Cuban political prisoners and their family members. Program activities should be designed to alleviate the hardships of people who have lost some or all of their ability to support themselves and their families because of their political or religious beliefs, or efforts to promote and push for democratic freedoms in Cuba. USAID will prioritize partners that have a demonstrated ability to distribute humanitarian assistance to Cuban political prisoners. Partners should also demonstrate an ability to work with local partners to identify and address the most important and urgent needs of political prisoners.
Program Area 2: Exposing Cuba’s Realities Through Independent Information
The Cuban regime holds a tight control over all information flowing to, from, and within Cuba. In addition, through an intense public relations campaign that includes sending thousands of ill- paid medical professionals and teachers abroad, the regime has been able to manipulate its image in the international community and spread a false message that the Cuban Revolution has been successful in guaranteeing free health care and education. In reality, on-island services barely meet the basic needs of Cuban citizens. With gradual access to the internet through WiFi hotspots and 3G cell phone services, Cuban independent journalists and other independent civil society networks have increasingly been able to document the realities of everyday life in Cuba and the Cuban regime’s violation of political, social, religious, and economic rights of its citizens.
Partnership Objective: Programming under this area aims to build and support a democratic culture in Cuba through greater access to independent, legitimate and uncensored information about the realities faced by Cuba’s citizens. Activities may include support to Cuban independent civil society groups, including independent journalists, civil society activists, faith-based groups, and others, as they create and disseminate information not readily available through the Cuban regime’s tightly-controlled press.
The program seeks to garner greater respect for human rights in Cuba by helping to dispel the myths about the successes of the Cuban Revolution and exposing information about the realities of Cuba’s institutions — including its education and healthcare systems, and treatment of Cuban workers and corrupt economy. Partners would be encouraged to make use of communications technology to disseminate information both domestically and internationally about the everyday challenges faced by Cuban citizens as a result of 60 years of living under a dictatorship.
USAID says it will waive its usual branding requirements so it’s not readily apparent that the agency is funding the projects.
USAID also says partners will be operating at their own risk.
Certain activities under this Cooperative Agreement will be performed in Cuba. Working in a closed society, such as Cuba, presents particular challenges and risks to the Recipient (including its subrecipients, consultants, etc.). The U.S. government cannot ensure the safety and security of Recipient assets and personnel, particularly as relates to individuals traveling to Cuba under USAID funding, or project staff based in Cuba. Implementation of USAID programs in Cuba requires Recipient awareness of political sensitivities and assumption of risks associated with hostile actions of the Cuban government.
The Recipient will not serve as an agent or act under the direction of USAID and will be responsible for the efficient and effective administration of its own programs with sound business judgment, including any precautions inherent therein. USAID will reimburse costs to the extent allowable (i.e., reasonable and allocable to the grant) up to the stated amount of the grant. To the extent not prohibited or contradicted elsewhere by Federal law, regulation, or policy, the Recipient shall not hold USAID liable for injury, death, detainment, incarceration, kidnapping, property loss, damages, or expenses incidental to those liabilities, suffered by, or attributable to the acts, omissions or negligence of, the Recipient, its agents, or its employees implementing programs in Cuba under this APS.
Special thought and consideration should be given to the selection of consultants and other individuals who may be required to travel to Cuba. It is preferable for these travelers to speak Spanish fluently, possess a solid understanding of the cultural context, and have prior experience on the island, in order to maximize their effectiveness in this unique operating environment. To the extent possible, travel by U.S. citizens should be avoided.